Ask Me No Questions, and I’ll Give You No Sarcasm
I’ve never mentioned it on the blog but I do, in fact, have a job. This summer I am happily employed at Mt. Rainier National Park. During my working hours I am a park ranger, from the bottom of my official dress hiking boots to the tippy top of my regulation summer wear straw hat. Specifically I’m the kind of ranger who sits in a booth all day and takes your money when you arrive.
It’s a good job, and I’m very happy to have it. I get to work in one of the most beautiful places on earth, I get paid an excellent wage for someone who’s still working on his bachelor’s degree, and the work isn’t too strenuous. Really the job has only one downside: I have to deal with people all day.
It’s not that I hate people. The vast majority of visitors to the park are nice, decent, hardworking folks who just want to relax and spend some time in Mt. Rainier’s serene and majestic beauty. I don’t even mind when the rare visitor shows up who’s a jerk; they just remind me how good everyone else is. There is one thing that drives me up the wall though. You know how they say there are no such things as stupid questions? Maybe so. But there are definitely such things as annoying, frustrating, and ridiculous questions. So for your reading pleasure I’ve compiled a list of five questions I get asked on a regular (usually daily) basis that make me want to eat my own straw hat in exasperation.
NUMBER FIVE: “Can we have a map?”
Why it drives me crazy: “Can we have a map?” sounds like a very reasonable question, and really it is. But here’s what you have to know: everyone who enters the park gets a map. As soon as you hand me your money, I’m already grabbing you a map. I’m going to hand it to you in about three seconds. You can probably see me holding the map in my hands as you ask the question. It’s not a stupid question, but boy is it frustrating to have someone ask you to give you something that you’re already in the process of getting for them. The question would be tolerable if it weren’t for the fact that I’m asked it over, and over, and over, and over again throughout the entire day. I should set up a sign: FREE MAPS TO PEOPLE WHO DON’T ASK ME ABOUT MAPS.
How I usually answer: “Yes sir, I’ve got one right here.”
How I wish I could answer: “Sorry sir, where you’re going there are no maps; you just have to believe.”
NUMBER FOUR: What’s the weather like up top?
Why it drives me crazy: How the heck am I supposed to know? Do they think that I have a live camera feed of the weather up there pumped into my booth? All I can tell you is what the weather is like here. And hey, guess what? Is it sunny here? Then it’s probably sunny up there. Cloudy? Chances are good it’s cloudy up there too. It’s a half hour’s drive away, not in another time zone.
How I usually answer: “Probably about the same as it is down here sir.”
How I wish I could answer them: “Well if my readings are right, flaming hail and locusts.”
NUMBER THREE: How much farther until we get to the top of the mountain?
Why it drives me crazy: Mt. Rainier is 14,409 feet tall. That’s almost three miles, straight up. When it’s about 75 degrees down here, it’s usually 22 degrees at the summit. Between the entrance and the peak are miles of thick forest, dozens of glaciers, and treacherous, unstable precipices. Every year around 6,000 or more hikers attempt to climb the mountain; only half actually make it to the top. It’s a harrowing two day journey through freezing winds, over ice crevasses hundreds of feet deep, and across cliffs of crumbling volcanic rock. I’M SURE YOU’LL MAKE IT JUST FINE IN YOUR RENTED MAZDA, SIR. To be clear: there are no roads to the top of the mountain. The concept is ridiculous.
How I usually answer: “The closest you can drive to the summit is Paradise, just 19 miles up the road.”
How I wish I could answer: “Just a couple more miles. Don’t worry we plowed all the glaciers off the road this morning and they’ll be serving hot cocoa up there at nine!”
NUMBER TWO: Where do you keep the animals at?
Why it drives me crazy: Seriously? This is a National Park, not a zoo. The animals are wild. They go where they want, when they want. We don’t keep them locked up for people to gawk at. Imagine if I went to your house and asked you where you kept the squirrels.
How I usually answer: “The animals roam freely, we don’t keep them in a certain location.”
How I wish I could answer them: “They’re mostly up at Longmire but watch out when you leave your vehicle, we keep all the bears in the parking lot.”
NUMBER ONE: So what is there to do in here anyway?
Why it drives me crazy: ….Why? Why did you come here if you didn’t have any clue what you were going to do when you arrived? Did you just randomly say “Hey, Mt. Rainier is a thing, let’s hop in the car and go” when you woke up this morning? It’s a two hour drive from most places: did you never stop to think about what you’d do when you got there? And what kind of question is that anyway? It’s a National Park; you know….nature! Trees! Squirrels! Waterfalls and mountains and scenic vistas! Mt. Rainier National Park is a gigantic place, with over seventy hiking trails, dozens of waterfalls, four visitor centers, two historic lodges, and a GIANT FREAKING MOUNTAIN IN THE MIDDLE. That’s what there is to do! It’s not Disneyland for crying out loud, we don’t have a roller coaster or anything.
How I usually answer: Either a long spiel about everything there is to do in the park, or “Most people go up to Paradise, our main visitor center is there.”
How I wish I could answer them: “I’m sorry, are you lost? Were you expecting to be somewhere else and ended up here by accident? Because that’s the only explanation I can think of for why you’d show up here so completely clueless and unprepared.”
Whew. It felt good to get that off my chest. If I get any particularly stupefying questions I’ll be sure to post them here for your amazement. Also, what, if anything, is the most frustrating question you’ve ever been asked at your job? Post in the comments.