Monday, January 3, 2011

Single Finger Salutation

You're driving down the road in New Mexico. Any road. Or you're taking your daily walk along the side of the road in New Mexico. Any road. And you notice that every driver that sports New Mexico plates is passing you, almost without exception, and raising a single finger, an index finger (important to the story), as though in some sort of "point" skyward. Two hands on the wheel; one finger waves "howdy." It's a New Mexico thing...and it's much more universal than you might think. No one takes the hand off the wheel and waves. No one tips a hat. No flash of the headlights. Just that single finger salutation.

If that makes New Mexico sound like a pretty gosh darn friendly place, well then so be it. But, then, that's a surface thing. I mean, I never did meet any of those individuals expressing their greeting with that single finger gesture. They might be very nice. They might not. I just assume they are because, after all, they took the time to raise their finger as they drove by. It's a nice thing to do, regardless of whatever may be behind the idea. In Honduras, when we lived there, if someone gestured to you while passing each other on a winding road, they called it "hailing" you. Same thing, different gesture, different place and time.

We had an excellent Christmas and New Year's eve with our friends in New Mexico while staying at Arrey RV Park and taking in the sights and sounds of the area. Best end-of-year holiday I've had in some time. Good friends. Good food. Good prospecting. Good campfires. Lots of laughter. Camaraderie. Everything you think will make for a good time anywhere, any time.

So when we got up early the morning of the 2nd of the new year, fought off the near zero temps to get ready to roll we felt pretty darn good. About our time in New Mexico. About the prospects for the new year. About life in general. We headed down the highway slowly so as to let the ice cold tire air warm slowly and safely. The early morning light on the mountains was beautiful. I took a sip of my coffee. Ahhhhhhh.

Back when we had first pulled into camp and Marilyn went in to get us registered and make any necessary arrangements, the older woman who owns the camp was working the desk, sucking cigarette smoke from the butt hanging out of her mouth and sucking oxygen from the plastic tubes shoved up her nostrils. Seemed like a poor combination, but to each his own. For whatever reason, and you can draw your own conclusions as you deem appropriate, the owner was literally unable to figure out the cost of a 10 day stay at her own camp. Repeatedly she asked Marilyn for what Marilyn knew was too little. Repeatedly Marilyn tried to help her reach an appropriate amount. Finally in frustration, the owner ventured that "just give me a hundred bucks and we won't have to charge you for the electricity- otherwise someone has to go out and read the meter...." In light of what others were paying (125 a month plus electricity) that seemed fair for a big rig so we wrote the check and that was that. We set up camp. The 30 amp service worked; the 110 did not. Oh, well. All right........

Or was it? Now nearly 10 miles down the road, cruising along with sunshine and smiles on our faces, two guys in a pickup truck are making like they are robbing a stagecoach and trying to push us, force us over to the side of the road. They were making a few gestures of their own. Haven't seen those gestures from the good folks of New Mexico!

Having few good options we pulled to the side when we were able. We steadfastly refused to open the door (had no idea who they were), instead telling the two hombres to come to the driver's window and talk to me...which they then did:

"You didn't pay your bill!" said a young man who we subsequently learned was the grandson of the huffing and puffing owner and had himself, if the story was true, just been released from jail for Christmas. What a nice gesture.

"What the heck are you talking about? We paid the bill when we arrived, before we even set up camp."

"Not the electric. You owe us for electric, and you're just trying to skip out early without paying."

Now since you already heard the beginning of this conversation in prose form, I'll skip ahead here. But we knew we had paid; the owner should have known we paid. So what was all this about anyway?

"Well, for discussion sake, even though we know we already paid what was asked in full, how much do you think we owe you?"

"Eighteen dollars," said Billy The Kid.

"And how do you figure that? May I ask...."

"It's the difference between the initial meter reading" (the one they said they didn't want to have to go take) "and the end reading."

Now all this seemed like a bunch of hooey to us, but for 18 dollars who wanted to drive all the way back there and get into this matter again and again. Certainly not us. We had already learned that dealing with these challenged folks was, well, challenging. So we reached for a twenty and as I was ready to hand it to The Kid, he came back to the window, this time on a cell phone. Now it seemed the manager, the owner's son and The Kid's dad (I know- it confuses me too) is on the phone and is demanding we return immediately to camp to pay him what has now become 68 dollars for the electric. Failure to return right here right now, he says "will result in my calling the sheriff and having you arrested."

How nice! Happy New Year to you too, Ratchet Rick. Needless to say we go back. Can't chance not resolving this and there-by making it worse. All we should have to do, really, is review the original conversation with Puff the Magic Dragon. We are no longer happy, smiling, feeling the sunshine of the fresh year on our faces.

But another twist. Puff either is lying that she didn't have that first conversation with us about paying up front including electricity in the first place... or she just plain can't remember, doesn't remember, and never told anyone else. Either way, this is not good. A matter of competence or a matter of design....can't really say for sure. But it felt a lot like the latter by this point.

"So how did we get up to 68 dollars here? Billy The Kid here told us you wanted 18 dollars..."

But before I could continue, The Kid says, "That was only a suggestion, Sir!"

"A suggestion? Really? You suggest I pay an additional 18 dollars and your papa here suggests I pay an extra 68 dollars or you will have us arrested? Really? A suggestion? Sounds more like an extortion to me, but whatever....."

Did I mention we did have a receipt? No matter; receipts mean nothing at this campground.

Since I have no idea about the relationship between Puff, The Kid, The Ratchet and the Sheriff, (although I had half a notion to find out), we paid our bill....again...and headed down the road. There are battles that must be fought. There are those that should be fought, but can't be won anyhow even if they are fought. Guess this was one of those.

We won't be going back to Arrey RV. Ever. I might suggest you don't go there either, unless of course you find pure joy in paying for your stay over and over. Your call! We learned subsequent to this experience that we are certainly not the only guests to be told one thing by the gang leader only to be way-laid by her posse. So enter these here parts with caution.

The rest of the trip to the border with Arizona was uneventful. Folks along the way continued their pleasant single finger salute, and as we have now become accustomed, we returned it more often than not. No one else tried to force us off the road. No sheriff cars appeared in the rear view mirror.

And as the dotted line on the GPS map that signals the border between states met the icon of the coach traveling that route, I offered up a symbolic single finger salute of my own to the "family feud" that owns Arrey RV Park..... only this time,................. I used a different finger.

PS: Yes. There is a PS to this accounting. The strip of highway 187 where Arrey RV Park is to be found is just dotted with very small RV Parks- all of which look pretty much alike. Some of the other parks have small stores, even a fuel station. And it seems, after speaking with several of the other owners that we MAY have actually wound up in the wrong park- not the one that was recommended by someone back East who had stayed here before. No matter. Aside from this episode- good times were had by all. And a good story is just that!

1 comment:

Kelly Steffen said...

Hi Greg and Marilyn!

First let me say that it’s truly remarkable how much the two of you are able to experience in your full-timing journey. I loved the post on the single finger salutation! It’s exactly the same here in the south as well. I love to travel and “Gundyville on Wheels” has been a great resource in seeing what interesting places there are to visit in the U.S.

The reason I’m contacting you today is to introduce you to a new program from Pilot Flying J, the Frequent Fueler Advantage, an enhanced loyalty program for professional drivers and RV customers. RV cardholders in the program will receive instant discounts on fuel, propane purchases and dumping fees. Coming soon, RV cardholders will receive discounts at the truck diesel islands in addition to the specified RV fueling lanes.

I know that a lot of your readers are fellow RVers so I wanted to reach out to you to see if you would be interested in learning more about the Frequent Fueler Advantage and writing an article about them? What do you think?

For more information, please see the online press release at Please let me know if you need any additional information.