I just got back from six days of camping in our state’s picturesque southwest region (photos coming soon). I went with my wife and daughter, my father-in-law and his second wife and her daughter, as well as an older couple who are friends with my in-laws. I had never been camping before (though my mother maintains that I have, at least twice, when I was eight or nine but I have little recollection of it), and never professed any burning desire to change this. But my wife and daughter wanted to go, and I figured a change of scenery might do some good. It didn’t. At first it felt liberating to unplug from the headaches, hassle and horseshit (TM Stone Cold Steve Austin) of everyday living and break free for the country, just like in my debut novel Canswer, currently available on Amazon for the low low price of $3.59. In this case I did not escape my family with a cancer diagnosis as per the aforementioned tome. No, I was in relatively good health, and good spirits to boot. We packed up the 2011 Ford Focus and headed over to my in-laws house, where they were putting the finishing touches on packing their brand spanking new caravan. We exchanged greetings and dull pleasantries and made our move. The freeway was busy, though not as crazy as I had anticipated. We had to pass through the city to get to where we needed to go, all roads lead to Rome as they say, or in this case Perth.
Four and a half hours later, we were at our destination: Pemberton, a sleepy little town which was once a timber hub but now more known for its wineries. The surrounding forest is truly spectacular, it’s just that I don’t care. I fear that my cynicism is now at Beast level, and it is very difficult for me to ever really enjoy anything anymore. I think it’s a genuine problem in my life, and I need to peg this back somehow. We set up our tent and headed into town for some supplies. Later on, we all reconvened around a campfire and shot the breeze. I remarked that it felt great to be disconnected from the world, as there was no unsecured wifi within range, and my fellow campdwellers agreed. And I meant what I said: it really did feel quite liberating to unplug from the world and get back to basics. No email, no internet, no noise. It did wonders for my soul, and for the first two days I was refreshed in almost every sense of the word. And then something happened: I started to desperately miss technology, and nature was starting to play with my mind. Plus, the people in the caravan park were disgusting slobs. Is this common to all caravan parks, or just this one? The level of humanity on display was in the gutter as overweight bearded men and overweight tattooed women dragged their snotty nosed little shits with them around the park. They were loud, they were rude, they were obnoxious. They swore and spat and coughed, showing little regard for their surrounding campers. I watched in horror as one of the aforementioned little shits rode with all her might into a gaggle of ducks. Fortunately, they were able to scatter before becoming roadkill, but I couldn’t believe that, not only did her parents not particularly mind that she was potentially going to kill some harmless animals, they appeared visibly delighted and amused that she was doing so! I wanted to grab her by the scruff of the neck, pull her over by the creek and drown the little shit. Then I would’ve needed to douse myself in Purell.
It got worse at night. It was like there was a full moon and I was surrounded by were-dickheads. Where were my silver bullets? They plowed themselves full of cheap alcohol and cackled long into the night. I swear one of them sounded just like a witch when she laughed, and whoever was making her laugh was extremely good at it. I started to wonder if Dave Attell or Louis CK had managed to find their way into the camping grounds. And the creatures make a racket at night. I heard a guttural screech that had me rise up from my inflatable mattress like I was spring loaded. I inquired about it the next morning and was informed that it was two possums fighting. Those fuckers should try conflict resolution. At this juncture I should mention that I am afflicted with a most debilitating phobia: the phenomenon known as ranidaphobia, or fear of frogs. It’s a genuine phobia of mine, and I freeze up at the mere mention of the slimy fuckers. People like to make fun of said affliction, and because it isn’t one of the popular phobias like spiders, snakes or death this apparently gives license to mock and tease as and when it suits them. This camping trip was one such event. Everyone around the campfire took great delight in fear, especially given the location we were in, ie. a forest that backed onto a swamp. Strangely though, the green amphibians surrounding us were no match for the subhumans trying to pass off for people in terms of inspiring fear and annoyance.
My tension and anxiety were rising and I was having trouble containing it. By the third day I was a powderkeg waiting to explode. All it took was my wife and daughter having a minor disagreement over something involving food to set me off. I stormed off, declared that I was heading into the town to watch the football. It took three beers for me to even begin to cool off. I’d gotten sick and tired of being a centre of attention for all the wrong reasons: because of my fear of frogs and my aversion to the great outdoors. Why did it matter that I wasn’t a “camping guy”? Could I not just try something different and be left alone? Unfortunately though, my in-laws and their friends found my shortcomings a little too amusing for my taste. I headed back to the camp a couple of hours later fuming. I took it all out on my wife, who didn’t deserve it. She just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I unloaded everything on her and that was unfair. She wasn’t to blame. I often wonder how many more times I can do this to her before she decides that it just isn’t worth the bother.
I behaved like a bratty child for pretty much the rest of the trip. Mainly silence on my part, and when I was asked something all anyone got was monosyllabic responses. I was uncomfortable on the trip and couldn’t hide it. I’ve always been a heart on my sleeve type, I find it almost impossible to not show exactly how I’m feeling at any given moment. It’s a blessing and mainly a curse.
We arrived home six days later to a house full of cat shit. Evidently, the people that we had asked to come in and feed the cats and empty the kitty litter tray only did it once. Our cats pooped and pissed in every room in what we believe was a form of protest for us being away from them for so long. Could they not have staged a less disgusting form of protest, perhaps staying in bed like John Lennon and Yoko Ono when they protested against the Vietnam war? After almost six hours on the road, it was not a welcome sight (or smell) to behold upon arriving home. We spent the next few hours cleaning up and opening up the house and try to eradicate the stench. It took almost a week for the smell to dissipate. We had to throw out our daughter’s beanbag and one of my wife’s favorite dresses that was in a hamper.