Living Retired — ‘Camping Tent-sion’
Living Retired — ‘Camping Tent-sion’
By Gary Chalk.
Camping is a seven letter word. So is divorce. Just saying.
I am not sure why but many couples try their luck camping shortly after they get married. That is what Jan and I did. We were living in an apartment surrounded by boxes for furniture. I figured since we were used to living among boxes why not stuff our groceries in them and head to the great outdoors. Easy-peasy.
We packed our car with the necessary gear: a Coleman stove, two Woods sleeping bags, and air mattresses that leaked. Before Jan could say, “Gary, where will I plug my curling iron?” we were off to a campground — which is another word for ‘uneven ground intended for Yak farming.’
When we reached the park it was dark and pouring rain. This was the first time we ever pitched a tent, and it was pitch dark! Here is how it went down — okay a bad choice of words…
First, I stretched my mouth open as wide as I possibly could while Jan jammed the end of a flashlight between my teeth so I could see what I was doing. Then, I got the tent ‘sort of upright’ and held a tent rope tight and hollered, “Ahhn, it ahh egg itt ahh ahhmah!” Jan threw her arms up in the air. So I screamed louder: “AHHN, IT AHH EGG ITT AHH AHHMAH!!!” She still didn’t know what I was saying! My mouth was losing its grip on the flashlight. I drooled my command a third time but even slower: “AHHN … IT… AHH… EGG… ITT… AHH… AHHMAH!!!!”
Jan was drenched. Her hair stuck to her head. Black mascara streamed down her cheeks. “Gary, it is pouring rain in the pitch dark and I haven’t a clue what you’re trying to tell me. Please speak clearly. What on earth does, “Ahhn, it ahh egg itt ahh ahhmah” mean?”
I was frustrated. The flashlight fell from my mouth and smashed down onto the ground. “What I said was, “Jan, hit the peg with the hammer!” What’s not to understand!”
“Well, if that’s what you want me to do why didn’t you just say it!”
We went our separate ways. I continued setting up the tent while Jan set up the rest of our campsite. “Gary, you forgot to pack your deodorant.” “Jan, I didn’t forget my deodorant. We don’t need it — we’re camping.”
“Well, if we are camping why did you pack cans of pork and beans, cans of spaghetti, cans of tuna, cans of soup, cans of tomato sauce… AND an electric can opener. Gary we are roughing it in the middle of the woods. What were you thinking?”
“I saw you packed your electric makeup mirror so I thought you knew something I didn’t!”
For the next few days Jan and I experienced all about camping in the great outdoors and being at peace with nature. For all in-tents and purposes it was a disaster. Our midsummer nights dream became a midsummer nightmare!
“Gary, I have had it spending every waking moment walking around holding a green OFF! mosquito coil in my hand. If you ever wondered what DEET must smell like take a whiff of my hair!”
“Well consider yourself lucky Dear. I am trying to chop firewood swinging a sharp axe through a cloud of bugs the size of Volkswagen Beetles.”
We didn’t find cooking over an open fire romantic; and we found eating to be, well, a handful. Jan ate holding her OFF! mosquito coil in one hand and a fork in the other. Me? I held a fork in my hand with a flyswatter in the other.
At the time we didn’t know that midsummer in southern Ontario is monsoon season! So, trying to keep our spirits up I said, “Jan instead of building a campfire tonight how about I build an arc? Ha! Ha!”
Jan rolled her eyes and lit another OFF! mosquito coil.
“In all seriousness Dear, I will dig a ditch around the tent so the water will flow away from our campsite. Okay?”
“Got it Gary. I will gather in all the soggy clothes as they sweep past me.”
As it turned out we only managed to sleep in the tent the first night. The second night we slept in our car: Jan stretched out across the back seat; I weaved myself in and around the front bucket seats and overtop the centre console and my head on the armrest with both my feet tangled in the steering wheel. From the backseat Jan said I looked I was playing the in-car version of Twister. Jan slept like a baby. I slept like crap!
The next morning Jan woke up, opened the back door, and stepped out of the car. Me? I finally extricated myself by sliding through the drivers door window — but not before I nearly strangled myself when my hoodie got wrapped around the gearshift and I fell onto the steering wheel and whacked the horn and woke up everybody in the camp park!
As I pumped the naphtha gas stove container to boil water for coffee, Jan took one look at me and said, “Gary, you are hunched over like you slept in your clothes in the car. Ha. Ha!”
Driving home the sun came out. Go figure. We stunk like our campfire, we scratched our mosquito bites, and we itched — for a Four Seasons Hotel.