RV People: An Essay

The man inside the stall was humming. Loudly.

It wasn’t just a casual kind of hum, either — something to distract from the awkward silence of two men using the restroom, one of whom was brushing his teeth and the other of whom was dropping some kids off at the pool. No, this was a bright, boisterous humming that struggled to break out into a full musical number. If a brass section had kicked in from one stall down, I wouldn’t have been surprised.

I casually mentioned this washroom warbler to my companions upon returning to our campsite:

“I mean, he was really going for it,” I told them, providing my own wild, rhythm-less rendition of his song, adding impolite noises where appropriate.

“I guess he was just a happy guy,” Amy suggested, but I could tell from the uncertain look in her eye what she was thinking because I had been thinking it, too. We all had.

RV People.

We watched them come and go throughout our stay, unpacking and repacking, settling down and settling up. Like modern day nomads, the RV People would arrive one after another, traveling in vehicles the size of dinosaurs. Once parked, these mammoth machines would transform, growing new rooms from their tops and sides like spontaneous tumors. All manner of items would spill from their innards —tents and grills and LCD televisions and folding chairs and little porcelain figurines — transforming the landscape into an upper-class hobo camp of sorts. A day later, they would be gone, the only evidence of their presence — the tread marks in the gravel.

“Have you noticed these RV People all have dogs?” Mandy asked me one afternoon.

I had. And not just the tiny froufrou puff dogs that you can fold and carry in your wallet, either. I’m talking about big, lanky creatures with slobber dangling from their jowls like stalactites along the roof of some monstrous cavern. One evening, I had seen a woman walking three of these beasts at once.

“I can’t imagine being cooped up in a motor home with LP,” Mandy said, and I pictured our dog bouncing from wall to wall to wall inside a 30×8 foot space like a hyperactive kindergartener hopped up on pixie sticks. Shudder.

One morning, I parked myself in a pop-up chair next to Tina and Amy, who were staring at a huge camper across from our cabin. A man was sitting inside of it near a window, his face awash in the orange-yellow glow of an unseen light. Tina said he had been sitting there in that same spot late into the night and was there when she had gotten up in the morning. She had apparently been watching him, off and on, for several hours.

“He never moves,” she said, meaning it literally. She had never seen him physically shift at all. And we never did, either; not for the duration of our stay.

“I just saw a guy walking along balancing a box on his head,” Amy popped in. “I said ‘hi’ to him, but he didn’t say anything back.”

She offered a baffled expression.

“If I had been drinking, I would have assumed I had hallucinated the whole thing,” she said.

Things got even stranger at night. By 8 p.m., the RV People were nowhere to be seen, their movable homes dark and still. Casual observers might have thought the park deserted. But if you looked carefully, you might see the occasional shadowy figure shifting in the gloom: A woman walking a fistful of pocket-sized dogs; an older man standing near his camper, smoke billowing from a pipe between his lips; or a man riding what can only be described as an adult tricycle, a melon of some sort rolling haphazardly in a basket positioned between its back wheels.

One morning, the water went out. I was in the bathroom at the time, and one of the RV People cam storming in mumbling about it.

“Shower’s out,” he told me. He turned handle on the sink faucet but no water came.

“Fuck it,” he told me, moving across the room and entering a stall. “I’ll just take a whore’s bath.” This, as evidenced by the splashing that followed, apparently meant bathing in toilet water.

Part of this strange behavior, I realize, was only noticeable because we were able to observe a group of people behaving comfortably for an extended period of time. I can’t imagine what people would think of me if they were to take a peek inside my home when I was at my most relaxed. Likely, they’d be completely appalled by the number of times I broke into profanity-laden versions of popular 80s radio hits.

On our final morning, I encountered the bathroom hummer again. As I finished brushing my teeth, he emerged from his stall shirtless, his big belly bouncing ahead of the rest of him. He greeted me pleasantly and asked where I was from.

“Mississippi,” I told him and returned the question.

“Indiana,” he said. “Came down for the reenactment. Heading out for home this morning. No rush to get back, of course.”

I smiled at him in the mirror as he wiped the pits of his arms with a wet paper towel.

“Us, too,” I said. “Heading for home, I mean. We’ve got work in the morning.”

He shook his head sympathetically.

“That’s the great thing about being retired and owning an RV,” he told me. “You just get to go where you want, when you want. You’re free.”

He smiled and pulled his shirt over his head, nodded and wished our group safe travels. I wished him the same.

The door closed behind him and I stood looking at my reflection in the mirror. My toothbrush was still in hand, the rest of my toiletries scattered in front of me on the counter, waiting to be packed, carried home and returned to their normal places.

At that moment, I was more than a little envious of the RV People.

Unfortunately for me, even something as sketchy as this cost somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty billion dollars.  It seems RV People aren't just strange, they're wealthy.

Unfortunately for me, even something as sketchy as this costs somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty billion dollars. It seems RV People aren’t just strange, they’re wealthy.

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7 thoughts on “RV People: An Essay

  1. Yes, we’re strange. No, we’re not all wealthy. Apart from that you’ve summed us up pretty well. Loved the comment about the “whore’s bath.” Haven’t heard that before. Think I’d rather stay dirty. lol

    • I had never heard the expression, either. I can’t imagine that water being super-clean, but to each his own.

      If I’m being honest with you, I know RV People aren’t all wealthy. [Looks both ways] … I grew up as an RV Person. We were certainly not wealthy. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.

      And thanks for the nice words. You’ve made my day.

  2. P.S. If you’re ever in Portland, check out City Repair, as well as the online calendar of SouthEast UpLift (SEUL) — th&7y#821e;re a neighborhood association, and many community events that get posted to their calendar are a great way to meet some really cool people.

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