June 27, 2005

Santa Cruz, part 2

(scroll down for part 1)

The seven of us left at 5:00pm, in our two cars. There was my wife and I, our two children, and three neighborhood teenagers who are in our church youth group and who often hang out at my house. The ride down was uneventful; we stopped at In-N-Out in Fairfield, and then later, as the summer sun was setting, arrived at Santa Cruz Ranch RV Park in Scotts Valley, where we had a reservation for a one-night stay. (We had tried to get into the nearby state park, but it was full.) We checked in at the office, and were given a map to tent campsite no. 2.

The map was terrible. I had to drive around twice, making several u-turns, carefully avoiding numerous children riding bikes with training wheels in the darkening twilight. Eventually, I had to park the car on the road and walk through the tent area, looking at each site until I noticed a ragged towel hanging over a fence. I lifted the towel, and underneath was a small sign with a number two. The site itself was small, smaller even than my living room, and I thought to myself, we‘re paying $35 for this?

I walked back up to the road, and discovered that our teenagers were walking about, checking out the park. The promotional material had promised a pool and a game room, but the teenagers quickly reported that the pool water was “piss-green,” and the game room had one video game and several beaten-up board games. I think that the pool water only appeared green because of the underwater light illuminating it, but the kids weren’t impressed.

Meanwhile, the park manager came out of the office and hobbled over to me. Great, I thought, he can help me make sure I found the right site. He appeared to be about 50-60, with some gray hair left on his head that was cut short. His face was serious. I said hello, but he neither smiled nor offered a word of welcome. “This is a family park,” he grumbled. “Come in a little easier next time.”

I wasn’t sure what he meant, since I had made a special effort to drive slowly and watch for the children who were playing in the road. “Excuse me?” I said.

“Our quiet hours are at 10:00. Please try and be more respectful of others.”

I looked at my watch. It was 8:35.

I was upset, and in a state of disbelief. I walked over to where my wife and the three teenagers were standing. The younger boys were still in the car. “The owner just bitched me out!” I said.

One of the teenagers looked at me. He doesn’t often hear the pastor use that kind of language. “Did you just say ‘bitch?’”

I tried to make a joke, to lighten my mood. “No,” I said. “I never say ‘bitch.’” But it didn’t come out right; he misinterpreted my weak attempt at sarcastic humor, and for the next hour the poor kid thought I was mad at him.

I told my wife that, with the sort of welcome we just got, the last thing I wanted to do is give $35 to this place. She’s the one who made the reservation, using a credit card, so she walked over to the manager and asked if he would not charge our credit card if we left and went somewhere else. “Fine,” he said. “Leave.”

We made a quick phone call to the state park. They had had a few cancellations, and had one site remaining. We hopped in the cars and left. After several u-turns and about 15 minutes of driving on dark roads through unfamiliar forests, we pulled into the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, where a female ranger greeted us with a smile and a friendly “hello.” Right away, I knew that we had made the right choice. We found our campsite in the dark, no problem, and even successfully erected a brand-new 8-person tent, despite not being able to see the instructions that came with it, or much of anything, really.

Looking back, I honestly don’t know what got that manager so upset. For a “family park,” he sure didn’t like our “family.” It didn’t occur to me at the time, but now I wonder if he looked at our three teenage boys, and the only thing he noticed was that one was blonde, one was black, and one was Japanese, and decided that this wasn’t his idea of a family. Having blue eyes and light hair myself, I’ve not experienced this sort of discrimination, and probably wouldn’t recognize it if I did. I don’t know if that is what happened to me and my family last Friday night or not. I wonder what the teenagers think happened that night; they have, I’m sure, experienced such discrimination before. Ever hopeful and optimistic, I’d like to think it wasn’t discrimination. But still I wonder.


PPB said...

what an experience.

Steve F. said...

Oh, brother - I'm so sorry...(a) that your "sabbath time" became a mixture of drama and comedy, and that (b) your group got such a lousy reaction from your first camping site.

Back when I was involved with a non-church-based youth group, an older man and I (he was 44 and I was 30) showed up at a Dunkin' Donuts shop with 13 teenagers, between 13-20 years old, including a couple Hispanics and one tall athletic black youth. The waitress surveyed our brood, the two portly white men shepherding them, and said almost in horror, "These aren't all yours, are they?"

mark said...

Well, okay... so it wasn't what you had hoped it to be. And you ran into a big jerkface. And you didn't get the restful time that you had been hoping for. But you got to spend time with your family (both the biological and nonbiological kind), and I'm sure there were parts of the evening that were fun, right????
I hope you are greatly aware of what a huge blessing you are in the lives of those boys.

Meg said...

Never trust a man with a green pool and quiet hours. That's all I'm saying.