Old Man Dodge


When we were staying in Olympic National Park, we spent time at a few of the campgrounds. One of the early spots we stayed was Sol Duc, in the northwest corner of the park. While we were there, a couple came up to our site to talk with Dave. The woman didn’t say much and kept walking along after the man said hello. That’s how I like my strangers, friendly but impermanent. The man, however, didn’t have the same courtesy. He talked with Dave about our strange camper van, about how much his home had grown in value, and about nailing copper into trees. That part seemed particularly aggressive, but I guess people do it to keep trees from growing. Dave sent off a few typical end-of-conversation indicators, but this guy was not picking them up. He just kept on going and going. Eventually, I had to interrupt. I turned around (obviously my back was turned to them the whole time, because that’s how I roll in awkward social situations) and said a bit too loudly, “Ok, it’s time to go now.” Still, the guy didn’t stop talking. I repeated myself even louder. Nothing. Then Dave repeated what I said. That worked. I guess the guy couldn’t hear my little lady voice.

I was glad the interaction was over. We took a dip in the nearby hot springs to celebrate and I forgot about the stranger.

A few nights later, we pulled into a new campground—Kalaloch. Seven minutes after we pulled into the site, a face appeared on the other side of our car’s hood. It was his—his wrinkled, pale face under a flop of white hair. He said, “Looks like we’re following you.” He could not have said anything creepier. Yes, old man, I’d love to hear about how you’re stalking me in the woods. Please bring my nightmares to fruition by explaining how you have tracked me from place to place in a giant van.

After interrupting us, he pointed at his camper parked literally across the street. He could peek from his front window into our back window. Not something I wanted to happen. I also didn’t want to have to stand there and listen to him talk about nothing. I had macaroni and cheese to eat, so I had to pull out all the stops. And, by all the stops, I mean I had to turn around after he’d been talking for 56 seconds and pretend I had something really urgent to do. He persisted. I waited. Eventually he sighed and walked away.

I know I sound terrible. He wasn’t actually stalking us (I’m pretty sure). He was just on a nice vacation with his lady friend or wife or mistress. Probably not that last one because, as much as he chatted with us, he didn’t seem to say a word to her. We just happened to be in the same place too many times in a row. He also just happened to not understand reasonable social cues and be totally indifferent to other people’s feelings.

Don’t feel bad for the guy though. On my walk to the bathroom, I saw him accosting another couple on the path. And a different guy was stopped by his chatter on my way back. He was fine. I was also fine because after my masterful dodge, he didn’t try again. I guess not everyone escapes to the woods to get away from all of humanity.

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