When we were camping at a state park two weeks ago, we had a pretty miserable time. Unbeknownst to us, the site we’d reserved was adjacent to the cramped park’s little playground. As in, our motorhome’s door was 30 feet from the slides and jungle gym. Now, we go camping to get peace and quiet, to escape from what has become the ’hood in which we live. Therefore, the incessant screaming and shrieking coming from the playground almost had us jumping out of our skins. But….our bad for booking that spot. However, the site on the other side of us housed a group of people, probably more than are allowed on one site, and they were with another group of people across the road. To their credit, they were mostly quiet when they all gathered. However, all the adults and children saw fit to traipse through our site throughout the day and evening to get to the playground. What’s more, they spread out their tables and lawn chairs well beyond their invisible boundaries, so that some of them were parked literally under our windows. They also intruded on the site to their left. The row of sites borders a lake shore, and by mid-morning on the Saturday, the teenaged boys had put up a tent that was technically at the back of our site, blocking part of our view of the lake. They proceeded to cart coolers and chairs back there, and tied a hammock between two of “our” trees. When we went to carry our kayaks around their tent and onto the small dock to launch them, lo and behold, they had a row of their own boats completely obstructing access to the dock. As we were contemplating how to navigate a path through their boats, one of the women hurried over to move the offending craft, mumbling a brief, worthless apology. That afternoon, when we stopped by the camp office, we mentioned in passing that our neighbors had pretty much commandeered much more than their paid-for spaces. The young woman at the office sympathized and suggested alternate sites, should we choose to make a return visit. Throughout our stay, Rick and I just seethed silently, not saying anything for the sake of keeping the peace. On the Sunday, the horde packed up all their mountains of paraphernalia and left about an hour before we did. That last hour of our stay was the best part of the weekend.
Rick and I had quietly discussed on the Friday evening whether we should say anything to the neighbors, but as someone had advised me years ago, “If they’re rude and ignorant enough to do such inconsiderate, stupid stuff in the first place, they aren’t gonna care if you say something to them. It’ll either go right over their heads, or they’ll be offended and give you even more grief.”
Fast forward to this morning. I got a call from the woman who heads up the office of the private campground where we’re booked for this weekend. We happened upon it years ago when we needed a base of operations for a nearby art show where we were exhibiting. It’s the only private place we stay, because we love the pond and our perennial spot beside the creek, under the willows, away from the crowded front part of the establishment. The woman from the office wanted to make us aware of the fact that there is a family booked in the site next to ours, with friends in the site behind ours. The group has been there for several days and has proved to be loud, obnoxious, and intrusive, with children running everywhere and so on. There must have been complaints from other campers. It seems they’ve been using our reserved site as well as theirs, and their pack of dogs has left piles of effluvia. The woman wanted to let us know the situation, and ask if we’d like to be moved to another site. My immediate reaction was gratitude at her thoughtfulness. I mean, they could have just let us get there and walk into a very unpleasant situation, as happened two weekends ago. This woman noted that we’ve stayed there for years, always in that spot, and they wouldn’t want us to have a bad experience. I told her I appreciated the call, and emphasized that that IS our favorite site. We discussed options for a few minutes, and she stated flat-out that she wouldn’t hesitate to ask the group to vacate the campground if they get too far out of line. Whether or not the boss (her father, I think) would agree to that, I have no idea. She said that one of the male staff members would go back and make sure our site is tidied up, and let the rowdy group know that there will be campers on it as of tomorrow evening. I suggested that the person in charge might want to firmly advise these people that they need to behave, or else. We left it at that, with our having an out to move elsewhere if we get fed up.
As today wore on, and I talked to Rick about the possible situation tomorrow, I got more indignant over the whole thing. After all, we reserved our site very early in the year, and paid the full fee, as required. We stay at this place every August and October, and have done so for probably the last seven years. We’re scrupulous about policing the site, we never move the picnic table or the fire ring, and we keep to ourselves, the combination of which is fairly rare among campers. Given that history, why in the world should we have to be anxious about what we might encounter when we get there? Why should there even be a question of our having to move because the people in the next site are loud and obnoxious? Because the campground is family-owned, the rules can be even stricter than they are in state parks; that is, the owners have more leeway to evict offenders. I understand that the owners might not want to refund possibly two nights’ camping fees to the group (to avoid an even uglier outcome), but if we’re obeying the rules, why should we be penalized? It could be that if the staff imparts a pointed word to the wise, the neighbors will clean up their act and the anticipated misery will never materialize, but it goes without saying that we’re now not exactly thrilled at the thought of going down there. That definitely should NOT be the case.
I was raised to toe the line and never cause trouble. I’d guess that most of my contemporaries had the same upbringing, and even now, it’s probably the norm, although it’s been my observation that children are allowed to get away with a LOT more these days than they were when I was a kid, back before the dinosaurs were oil. They seem to be singularly lacking in manners and any sort of restraint. But the wider picture is what alarms me. Has it become endemic in our country that nice is for suckers? Is it now a question of having to force people to abide by the rules, and in so doing, have consideration for others? The general code of conduct we were taught to follow seems to have completely disappeared, along with women’s hats and giving up one’s seat on the bus to an elderly person. We’ve seen in the last 18 months that in uncountable cases, individual preferences supersede the good [and the rights] of the whole, and militantly so. It has become normalized to not only indulge in public rudeness and hatred, but to be proud of it. This is the new freedom, or as I’m now seen it written, “freedumb.” When it gets to the point that restaurant patrons are so vicious to waitstaff that the servers are in tears, there’s something seriously wrong.
And ya know what? I’m angry about this epidemic of nastiness and total lack of consideration. In fact, I’m MAD AS HELL about it, and rightfully so! We who’ve lived our lives showing concern for the rights and feelings of others are increasingly being not only disregarded, but actively kicked to the curb. If it comes to a choice between knuckling under to someone who’s going to kick up a fuss or making the nice person shut up and deal, the nice person is going to lose every time. We who are nice — and I still believe we’re in the majority — find it almost impossible to violate the mores of considerate behavior that were instilled in us. Confronting a mean person is just not how we’re wired.
We know the country is suffering, not only because of the explosion of incivility and selfishness, but also because of the passivity of those of us who are repulsed by the thought of actually protesting hurtful, brutish, or even supremely self-centered conduct. We see a government deadlocked by a deluded devotion to “bipartisanship;” apparently, elected representatives should all agree before anything moves forward. This, despite the GOP’s continual demonstration of utter lack of concern for anyone other than themselves. The Dems are certainly no angels, but they quail at the thought of marching into the sacred halls of Congress, holding a line, and kicking ass. This aversion to standing up for themselves is ensuring that we the people lose out every day, across the board. It’s looking as if the days of everyone’s acting like a civilized adult are over. I sigh as I say this, but I think we’ve reached the stage when steely resolve and unemotional implacability must become the armor of the “nice” segment of the population, because the, “why can’t we all just get along,” meme only seems to work at Girl Scout jamborees these days.
In short, the selfish, freedumb-loving bullies are winning, and shame on us if we go down without a fight.