Every year, the Man and I look around the living room and cringe. The piles of paperwork and laundry and books and toys and the crap the Maiden left in the entryway again are lurking in the shadows. The garbage needs to be taken out and the fridge cleaned and the leftovers frozen before they turn moldy, but first the dishwasher has to be emptied because the sink is so full of dishes and dang it, I need to make the Maiden’s lunch for tomorrow and the whole process of living feels backed up like traffic on I-95.
And so we get two stupid ideas. First, that the solution is to abandon it all and experience the simplicity of nature by taking a camping trip. Second, that this time it’s going to go much, much better.
In theory, camping is the ultimate simple life.
In theory, it is simple for the turtle to carry its home with it. In practice, it is simple for the turtle to carry its home with it. In theory, it is simple for humans to do the same.
However, humans are not turtles. And carrying our house, or a canvas approximation thereof, around in the back of the SUV is definitely, definitely, complicated.
Because we can’t just have a tent. We have a tent, plus a smaller tent for the Maiden so the Man and I can commune with nature, wink wink, plus three sleeping bags, plus three pillows, plus a little broom to sweep the dirt out of the tent (it doesn’t work, by the way), plus the crappy air mattress which–like some sort of low-tech time keeper–slowly loses air as the night progresses. Not to mention millions of layers of clothing because temperatures in our camping experience have varied from 34 to 105 and we are not freezing/burning our behinds off again, and firewood (which we need to haul 1,000 miles instead of buying it locally, for some reason). Add to that the lighters and fire starters and cooking spray and salt and pepper and random ingredients and aluminum foil and paper plates and cups and napkins and a whole bunch of random $^@& that clearly proves the point that we are city people and only do the tenting thing because it lets us pretend we are a Real Camping Family.
A hotel is sounding pretty darn simple right about now.
So we get to the campsite, which we inevitably hate because it’s not, well, a Holiday Inn. But we’re being outdoorsy, so we make the best of it and unload all our simple paraphernalia onto the ground and start setting up the tent.
What ensues is not especially simple, unless you count four-letter words. They, however, are complicated by hissing, yelling, whining, and much rumination (both silent and voiced) over why the bleepity bleep we do this to ourselves each year.
Anyways, now it’s dinnertime. Which is good, right? Feed the hungry and thou shalt stop being cranky about camping, right?
First, we need to start the fire. Also, the Maiden is whining, so we decide to solve both problems by telling her to go find kindling. Our suggestion is met with a few feeble shuffles in the direction of the wooded area and the sticks never are forthcoming, so we move to Plan B.
The lighter fluid.
In theory, it is “simpler” to prepare food in the open, in that I can’t flip a convenient switch of my nice oven and let a bunch of criss-crossing wires that are someone else’s problem start crisping up my dinner.
Somewhat less simple is the fire lighting ordeal, which inevitably involves lighter fluid and the “magic lighting packs” that the con artist by the gate was selling. Also the three twigs gathered by our begrudging daughter, and toilet paper and matches when none of the above will actually create enough fire to cook dinner.
While the Man is doing the Manly Fire Making Thing and the Maiden is doing the Spoiled Whiny Brat When Are We Going to Leave Thing, I’m preparing dinner. This means that instead of using a food processor or a cutting board to slice zucchini, I have to overlap three paper plates side by side to create a cutting surface strong enough to hold the zucchini without allowing deep gashes to form in my $2 plastic tablecloth, bought so that we didn’t have to experience the simple diseases caused by eating directly off a table lovingly decorated by simple birds.
The zucchini rolls off onto the tablecloth, which despite my best efforts is a dirt and insect magnet, and from thence to the ground beneath. From there, it becomes fire fuel, which means I just wasted several steps. Also, for the record: zucchini is not nearly as good a fire starter as is toilet paper.
Then I repeat the same scenario with the meat, with the additional task of ensuring that the bloody spatter doesn’t bathe our tablecloth in parasites and/or spray invitingly onto branches and leaves like some kind of “Free samples!” sign to predators.
THEN we try to cook the food, and by “cook” I mean singe our faces off as we hover over the flames, trying unsuccessfully to figure out how to make the chicken not turn out blackened on the outside and bleeding on the inside.
Also, trying to keep the vegetable products away from the meat so that the vegetarians aren’t offended, which means the tofu does not end up near the actual flaming portion of the grill, which means it doesn’t do much more than heat, which means the vegetarians are increasingly cranky and that dinner will obviously not be a solution.
After dinner, it’s still not simpler than at home because you have to clean up. Specifically, you must carefully collect every drop and scrap of food just in case a hungry bear is attracted to the blackened shell that was supposed to be steak. Then you bag it up and, if you’re really lucky and the bear-proof trash is a mile away, you stow it in your car, where it will merrily rot and greet you with a putrid “good morning” when you open the car door the next day.
To be continued . . .