How To Camp Anywhere
Imagine yourself in
the following situation: You have been traveling a week or more on your
heavily loaded bicycle with romantic pictures in your mind of camping in
Rinky Dink National Forest. However, when you arrive, you see some
alterations have occurred in the years since you were last there.
Then, you were on a lightly paved back road with only occasional vehicles;
now, fleets of cars and trucks crowd past you on the new highway.
Then, the trees came right up to the road; now, houses and "no trespassing"
signs block every access to the barely visible woods. Then, you could camp
anywhere; now, the last remaining campground has been closed to keep out
"the disreputable element." Then, a muddy trail led to a canoe launching
site; now, large signs indicate the presence of large marinas, full of
40-foot boats. Welcome to the age of user fees! In our rush
to ensure that giant corporations would no longer be able to cut the giant
trees at tax-payer expense (not a likely situation any more, since no marketable
timber has been left standing), we failed to notice that user fees would
attract other corporations and wealthy individuals who would even more
thoroughly disfranchise the poor and humble (us) of our natural heritage.
But, politics is
politics and finding a place to sleep for the night is a necessity.
Then, an evil idea grips your mind, and you realize how to revenge yourself
and have a good camping place as well.
Riding along, you
see the perfect spot: a beautiful little pond, some lawn furniture and
a picnic table, a freshly mowed yard, and in the background, a $150,000
"cottage" with no car in the driveway.
Pulling off the
road, you begin to make camp. You pitch your tent in the choicest
spot, rearranging the lawn chairs and tables to your liking around it.
You also break up some of the wooden furniture and the "no trespassing"
sign to fuel your fire. From the rock garden, you remove the choicest
stones for your fire ring, and you also behead all the day lilies (an excellent
vegetable) and place the pods and flowers in your pot. After starting
the fire, you entice the ducks out of the pond with a little bread, snap
the neck of the slowest bird (apologies to all vegetarians), clean the
bird, mount it on a spit, and use the entrails to begin fishing in the
pond while the carcass roasts.
At some point,
after you are comfortably settled, a pickup roars into the driveway.
The driver gets out shouting curses and threats which you ignore as if
deaf and blind, while his wife and kids try to control him. Finally,
he approaches close enough that even a blind man could see him and shouts
in your face, "What in the hell do you think you are doing?" And
you very calmly reply, "Excusez moi, monsieur, mais je ne peut pas comprendre
anglais." (Substitute some other language if you don't know or can't
speak or fake French.)
All of a sudden,
the wind is out of his sails, but he will continue to try to communicate
for a while. Perhaps, he will start speaking in broken English, saying
something like, "Me no want that you camp here!" To which you can
very splendidly respond, "Pardonnez, monsieur, mais je suis très
fatigue et je ne préfére pas parler longtemps." Or
he might try yelling very slowly. (Respond with gentle words in French:
"Es possible que vous êtes mal a la tète?") Or he might
even resort to writing on paper. You might try drawing a picture
of you and him fishing together in return.
At some point,
he is going to want to go get that gun of his. When he starts waving
that at your face or nose, produce some French or Canadian currency and
act as if you think he is offering to sell the weapon and you wish to purchase
the same, while his family will fight to keep him from becoming a murderer.
Show no fear and not the slightest suggestion that you understand his intent,
and you are absolutely safe.
At this point,
his only remaining option is to call the police. If he is smart,
he will mention on the phone that he is dealing with a Frenchman and not
a madman, and it is just barely possible that the sheriff will bring someone
with some French ability to the scene, but do not worry.
The police will
arrive after you have eaten the duck and your meal and while you are cleaning
your pots in the pond (with lots of suds). The sheriff will approach
you in much the same way as the property owner (less the gun and the frustration),
and you will answer every statement with another one in French. Finally,
he will produce a deputy with a Gomer Pyle ability at French, "Parlay-vouz
French?" Reply with great enthusiasm and joy, as if he were your
long lost cousin, using long, complex, and rapid sentences and jumping
from one idea to another. When you pause, if he seems ready to speak
again, hit him with another burst or two.
The others will
crowd around him wanting to know what you said, and he will reply, "Well,
this cyclist is French, is glad to see me, and had a lot to say."
But then they will want to know what that was, and your new comrade will
find himself at a complete lost and very possibly the focus of much criticism
and ridicule. A long discussion on the merits of teaching foreign
languages in the schools is very likely to ensue before they get back to
The owner of the
late duck will then suggest, "Well, it doesn't really matter if you understand
all that was said or not; tell that person that camping here is trespassing."
But the deputy will only point out that he does not know how to say "trespassing"
in French. "Then just say that no one can camp on my land."
But the deputy will look baffled there too. Finally, he will be instructed
to just tell you to go away. But the deputy will most likely sadly
shake his head, and then they will finally realize that his first question
to you was the limit to his ability. Then there will be some more
insulting statements about the deputy or the school system, depending on
the deputy's previously success at dodging the blame.
However, if he
does manage to say anything at all in French, in fact, even if he explains
the situation to you in perfect French, look at him blankly and ask him,
"Quelle langue est-ce-que que vous employez? Je ne peut pas comprendre
un mot." And the result, whether he understands you or not, will
be the same as before. As long as you refuse to understand the translator,
you are home free, unless the translator turns out to be a bona fide French
speaker, something as rare in the US as icebergs in the Sahara.
Finally, the property
owner will insist that the sheriff arrest you anyway. But then the
sheriff will point out that the "damn liberals" voted down the "English
only" law that would have made such a simple resolution possible.
"In fact," he will add, "with such a law, I could shoot that Frenchie down
for just failing to understand my orders. But as it is," he would continue
mournfully, "I can't even read out the rights, so I can do nothing."
unwilling host would shout in astonishment. "Absolutely nothing,"
the sheriff would reply, "If we end up in court with this joker -- for
any reason -- our county will have to pay heavy costs for a translator
and for making transcripts of the translations. In any event, there is
no evidence that this person has committed any crime or infraction of the
What about trespassing?" "Where's your 'no trespassing sign' and
could a French speaker properly read and understand it? Besides,
you leased this land from the national forest service, which would have
to agree with your suit."
"Well, what about
killing the duck?" "Did you see the duck killed? Could it have
been hit by a car? And is the duck really your property?"
"Can't you at least
prosecute for trashing my yard?" "I don't see any trash strewn about,
and there's no law against moving furniture and rocks around. No,
your best bet is just to pretend the cyclist isn't here."
"But, what will
I tell the neighbors?" "You better tell them that you were visited
by an eccentric relative, or they will laugh about this for years."
And so, the police
leave, the owner retreats, and you enjoy a peaceful night.
The next morning,
the sheriff gets a call from the mayor's wife, and he answers, "You say
there's a naked person in your swimming pool? We'll be over right
away. -- Wait a minute, is this person a French cyclist who doesn't seem
to understand English? My advice then is for you to close your drapes
and pretend you don't see anything, and maybe the cyclist will eventually
Camping can be
a really pleasurable experience if you just have the appropriate negotiating