August 15, 2012

If it was easy and fun, we wouldn’t be paying you to do it.

Filed under: 35 Minutes from Home — Laura Moncur @ 8:00 am

“If it was easy and fun, we wouldn’t be paying you to do it.” Samson sighed, repeating the phrase he had repeated to himself over and over when he was shivering in that tent in the camp host site. Joey complained some more, “I know, but they’re so sloppy! They leave garbage all over the campsites and the BATHROOMS!”

Samson nodded at him. To that day, he’d never forget the toilet in the women’s room that looked like a murder scene had taken place. “Yeah, I know what you mean. You’d think they would be a little embarrassed and clean up after themselves.” He saw Joey’s thin frame relax a little. He ate small bites from his steak that Joey had freshly barbecued on the camp grill. It seemed like Joey was always eating or talking about eating. The scent of the meat was what had enticed Samson to the Wildwood Campground.

“I don’t mean to complain, and heck knows I’m so glad you let me shower at your place every couple of days. It beats payin’ the Flying J for it.” Samson smiled as Joey continued venting, “The HORNETS! My God, they are unstoppable!” He pointed at the aluminum shade over their heads. “They build their nests IN these things! I can’t spray ‘em, ‘cause they are so protected!”

Samson followed his line of site and watched several hornets buzzing around the sun shade. One by one, they crawled into the structure, safe from the sun, other animals and hornet spray. Samson had only been the camp host during the colder months and had never been bothered by it. Joey picked up his rant where he left off, “I wouldn’t be so bothered, but I’m pretty allergic to hornets.”

What did that old couple who were camp hosts for so long do? Samson couldn’t even remember their names, but he missed them so much. They had never complained. He tried to remember them, but all he could bring to his mind was their campsite, decorated with funny little signs and hanging lanterns. In his mind’s eye, he saw a solution.

“What about hornet traps. I think the previous camp hosts had hornet traps everywhere.” Joey nodded while Samson finished his thought, “How about I buy hornet traps for EVERY campsite. I’ll even empty them, so you don’t have to worry about it. Would that help you?” Joey chewed his own steak, thoughtfully. “You’d do that? Last I heard we had no money in the budget for that sort of thing.”

Samson laughed. “No, not the rangers. I will buy the hornet traps for YOU. Just a personal favor to make things just a tiny bit easier for you.” Joey looked at him with awe and Samson felt uncomfortable. Joey replied, “You’d do that for me?” Samson felt the red mark on his forehead start to burn. “Yeah, of course.” Joey answered, “Dude, that’s forty sites times five dollars apiece! That’s like eighty bucks!” Samson laughed, “Man, you need to go back to grade school! That’s about 200 dollars plus tax.” He smiled, trying to lighten the mood.

“You’d just drop that kind of cash just for me?” Joey asked incredulously. Samson smiled, “I’ll do it if you promise to stay the rest of the season.” Joey nodded and offered Samson another hunk of meat. Samson put his hand over his plate to indicate that he was full. Joey replied, “Sure, I’ll stay. It’s mostly the hornets that I was worried about. I can clean those bathrooms.”

As the two of them finished their meal, Samson realized how happy he was to be a park ranger. He had never once thought that a job like this would make him so content. He was grateful that he didn’t have to worry about money, either, of course. Since the TSO Tech had built up his savings to the point that he could retire, he never had to worry about how he would pay for anything. Spending $200 on hornet traps was not even an expense in his mind. It was something he could do on a whim.

The only nagging thought he had was of his family back in San Francisco. They never truly understood his job as a computer programmer, but they had been proud of him. A park ranger’s job was completely unfathomable to them. He had tried to explain it to his grandmother in Cantonese over the phone last weekend, but the closest he could get her to understand was that he was a gardener. She railed at him for taking such a downgrade in profession, but her biggest complaints were about the fact that he was not married.

“You should be married now, even if you’re just a gardener,” she scolded him. Samson bit his tongue. There had been a woman whom he wanted to marry, but she had not approved because she wasn’t Chinese. The fact that his grandmother had disagreed so strongly with his choice filled him with regret. Had she been even the slightest bit positive, he would have proposed to Mira on the spot. Instead, he delayed, thinking he could turn his grandmother around. That delay lost her. Lost her to that stupid doctor. He gritted his teeth with regret.

“Why didn’t you marry that kwai lo so long ago? You liked her, no?” Her change in rant shocked him, but he couldn’t respond. “Remember? You dated her a long time. What was her name? Miwa? Mila?” Samson held back his tears at hearing his grandmother mention her name. “Mira, Lao Lao.” He could hear her nod on the other end of the phone line. “Yes, she was a nice girl, lawyer, right?” Samson sniffled at the memory of Random and Sierra introducing her to him. “Yes, she’s still a lawyer, I think.”

“Why don’t you marry her? A kwai lo wife is better than no wife.” Samson felt the red mark flare up on his forehead at the memory of her. “She’s married to someone else, Lao Lao.” His grandmother hissed at the news. “Who? Who would she marry who is better than my Kai Shek?” He sighed and answered, “She married a doctor.”

At his words, his grandmother blew out a rude sound from her lips. “See?! See?! That’s why you need to be something more than just a gardener! How are you going to get a wife if you spend all your days digging in the ground?”

Joey snapped Samson out of his memory of his last phone call with his grandmother and back to the camp host’s site. “Hey man, you think we oughtta plant some flowers or somethin’ at the Wildwood sign to make it more visible from the freeway? Nothin’ too flashy. Maybe somethin’ indigenous?” Samson took his paper plate and fork to the kitchen at the back of Joey’s trailer. “No, Joey. I don’t think I’m up for planting any flowers.”


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