Category Archives: Humor
Summer’s over and so is my job at Mt.Ranier. I am a park ranger no more. Now I’m working part-time in my school’s computer lab. I set up equipment for presentations and classes, but mostly my job involves sitting behind a desk and solving people’s problems.
Here is some actual dialogue from about a week ago. I didn’t make this up; this is one hundred percent genuine. The setting: the computer lab, early morning. The place was close to empty. A woman gets up from a computer, walks across the room, and gets on another computer. She tells me that the computer kicked her off while she was in the middle of researching a project. What follows is my attempt to get some more information.
ME: So did the computer turn off or did it just boot you off?
ME: Which one?
HER: *points vaguely at a row of computers across the room* That one.
ME: No, I mean did the computer itself turn off or did it just log you off?
HER:Yes that computer itself did it.
ME: I mean did the computer shut down?
HER:Yes. It put me back on the login screen.
You can’t write this stuff people.
And now, a little anecdote from my job as a Visitor Use Assistant (cashier) at Mt. Rainier National park
It was a Saturday, and that means busy. If you’re the kind of person who likes to visit National Parks (or would like to become the kind of person who likes National Parks) let me give you a bit of advice from an insider: never go to a National Park on a weekend. Just don’t. I don’t care how tough it is to get a Tuesday or Thursday off; if you can’t come on a weekday you should probably just forget the whole. Especially if the weather is going to be nice. Today’s forecast was sunny, which meant that from 9:30 onward the line of cars would be stretched out of sight.
Normally in my line of work we take time with each individual visitor, answer their questions, give them useful information, and laugh politely at their terrible jokes. On a sunny Saturday, however, we have one priority: get these people through as quickly as possible. Rush them through. Work efficiently so that no movement is wasted. Know the buttons on the register so well that you can ring people up without having to think. Sure some people might feel slighted but trust me; they’d feel worse if they had to wait in line for a half hour.
It was about 3:30 PM when it happened. Traffic had peaked at noon but cars were still piling up. If I didn’t keep an eye on maintaining traffic flow I could end up with a massive line to plow through. Still I was keeping thing moving nicely until a very small and sweet old lady pulled up the window. She was wearing a wide brimmed straw hat to block off the sun and was appeared to be ready for a wonderful time in the park. She opened her purse and removed her Senior Interagency Lifetime Pass. I was glad. The Senior Pass gets you in free of charge, so all I had to do was hand her a map and she’d be on her way.
“Would you like a map?” I asked for the 147th time that day (while somehow still maintaining a chipper tone and broad smile).
“Oh yes.” She said. I held out the map. She took it, smiled gratefully, and said “Can you get to the reflection lakes from here?”
“Yes ma’am, they’re about twenty miles straight up this road. They’ll be on your left.”
“They’re straight up this road here?”
She nodded slowly. “Are they on the map?”
“Yes indeed. They’re right after Paradise; you’ll be able to see them from the road when you get there.”
She nodded again. I glanced out the window and saw that the line was beginning to lengthen behind her, and more were coming to join them.
“Are there any signs for the reflection lakes?” She was oblivious to the growing line.
“Yes, there are several signs, you can’t miss them.” Surely she would leave after that. I gave her my biggest smile.
Then she looked me straight in the face and said “Do the signs say ‘Reflection Lakes’?”
So many sarcastic remarks came to my mind at the same time that they managed to become trapped on their way out, like the Three Stooges trying to go through a door at the same time. No, they say “Grand Canyon”. No, they’re blank because we think everyone deserves a little mystery in their lives. No, we wrote the complete “Declaration of Independence” on both sides because it’s more patriotic. No, each sign has a puzzle that you must solve to unlock the secret of the lake’s location. This wave of sarcasm caused my mind to go almost completely blank, which was good because that prevented me from being rude to a sweet old lady. Instead all I said was “Yes, they say ‘Reflection Lakes’. Have a nice day!” The “have a nice day” was important. It’s the kindest way I have to say “Goodbye, this conversation is over.”
She smiled, thanked me, and went on her merry way. I sighed and got ready for the next visitor. It was a husky man in his thirties with a black goatee and gelled hair.
“Hey, the sign out front says that all the campgrounds are full.”
“Yes sir, we’re all full up. We get pretty busy on the weekends so you should come early if you want to camp.”
He looked straight in the eyes. “So do you think I’ll be able to find a camping spot?”
This was going to be a long afternoon.
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.