You don't need a big flash motorhome to be happy!
As I have previously said, no doubt to the point of boring you all silly, the majority of people we meet on the road are absolutely lovely. We have made so many dear friends, of all ages and from all countries. On the whole, the people you meet in motorhomes are a lot like us - friendly, relaxed and will do anything for anyone. But like most things in life, you only need a few bad apples to spoil the barrel - or at least make it taste a bit sour for a while - and I had the misfortune recently to encounter some two days in a row. Why? For one reason only. I choose to live in a smaller vehicle than they do. In their eyes this naturally makes me poor, quite probably European and most definitely a lesser mortal. It's not the first time we have encountered this treatment and I'm sure it won't be the last, but I need to get this written down and out of my head so that I can hold it up again and move on.
The first instance was when a jaunty lady came marching up to Gareth and I as we pottered outside our van. 'My goodness, you have wings!' she said, referring to the NZMCA sticker which identifies us as being members of the national Motorhoming association. 'Yes, yes we do', we replied. 'We've been living on the road permanently for the past 15 months'. 'In this thing?' she said, 'You know, where we come from, people call them sliders', she nodded wryly towards the van. 'Yes, we know', we said, having heard the term many a time before, due to our vehicle having sliding doors. 'Normally we try to stay as far away as possible from people like you!' she smirked. 'Well we've been here a while now and we help out around the place', we said, smiling through gritted teeth. At this, she burst into peals of hysterical laughter. 'REALLY? You? Oh that's hilarious!' she said, barely able to contain herself, before carrying on her merry way. Gareth and I looked at each other and raised our eyebrows. We had no idea what was so funny, but it seemed we had encountered our first real snob. Still, at least she was a friendly snob.
I'm proud of my little garden!
The next day however I looked out of the window to see a large caravan had pulled up next to the water tap and a couple had got out. I had seen them a few minutes earlier and said hello but they didn't reply. The woman appeared to be very interested in my flourishing vegetable garden and walked around it repeatedly before helping herself to some parsley and returning to her car. I chuckled to myself at the sight of it but didn't really mind. Since taking over care of the vegie patch I've taken a real pride in looking after it and it does get a lot of comments. I'm happy to share our abundance of vegies with anyone if they're going to be here for a few days. However a few minutes later she got out of her vehicle again and started thumbing through my carrots, before then grabbing hold of my silverbeet and was about to pull some out. Bloody cheek of it! I hopped out of the van and strode over to the woman. 'Excuse me, do you want something?' I said, heart pounding. It's not like me to be assertive you see. 'No!' she replied glaring at me, dropping the silverbeet as if it burned her. 'It's OK, you can have some if you like. It's just mine after all', I shrugged. 'This is yours?' she replied, gesturing to the garden. 'How did you get this?' she asked, looking at me as if I was something nasty she'd just found under her shoe.
'I live here', I said. 'I'm an assistant caretaker. I help to look after the place'. 'That's a lie', she immediately jumped down my throat. 'The caretaker died a few days ago!' 'I assure you he's very much alive and well!' I replied. 'You are thinking of the caretaker at Mosgiel who did indeed recently pass away'. Who knows, maybe she thought the garden had been the deceased caretaker's and that it was perfectly acceptable to steal the poor man's vegetables!
At this point, the woman's husband joined in the conversation and thankfully he was friendly enough. 'What's all the writing on your van?' he asked. I explained that I was a writer for Motorhomes, Caravans & Destinations magazine and that often campers know who we are and go out of their way to introduce themselves. He shook my hand, introduced himself and his wife and she also grudgingly shook my hand before asking me, 'So how long have you had your wings?' From here I then had to explain that yes, these WERE my wings, they WERE the real thing, not pinched from anyone else, and I had been an NZMCA member the entire time I had owned this van and lived on the road. To end with, I asked if they had been to stay here before and on hearing they hadn't, told them where they could park and where to find everything, just as I do with all the other campers. The man thanked me and as they left I said to the woman, 'Honestly, feel free to take some lettuces or silverbeet before you go, there really is only so much we can eat ourselves!' 'No. No thank you', she replied loftily, before driving off to the other side of the ground. There she stayed and I never saw her again. She sure as heck didn't go anywhere near the garden after that either!
Now it may sound like a petty gripe to you but this nasty attitude regarding both young people and people who do not have $200,000 motor homes and CHOOSE to live in smaller vehicles quite happily, needs to stop. My case is a classic example of why you should never judge a book by its cover. In both cases Gareth and I were treated like dirt, yet we were the ones responsible for helping them to enjoy their stay. They were just lucky I was too embarrassed and shaken to ask them to leave. They were also extremely lucky in the second scenario that Gareth was not there to witness their treatment of me! Even so, it has affected me to the point that, even a couple of weeks later, I am still very wary of meeting and greeting people who display that same sticker. Fortunately everybody since has been lovely and have gone out of their way to introduce themselves first.
Us with John and Lynette. Hooray for good people!
As I said at the start of my post, I don't like writing about anything negative unless I have a positive to follow on with. And as luck would have it, around the same time we bumped into John and Lynette. When I say bumped into I mean quite literally! We were out for a walk and got talking, as happens a lot. Most people always want to know your story; where you come from, how long you've been on the road and what you do and I mentioned I was a writer for Motorhomes, Caravans & Destinations magazine. 'I got an message the other day from someone called Jackie about an article she's writing', the woman said. 'That's me!' I said in disbelief. 'No way! I'm Lynette!' we both burst out laughing. I had no idea where she was when I contacted her, she could have been anywhere and she didn't know where I was either! We chatted for a while and then they said 'We're going across the road to the Town & Country Club a bit later, feel free to join us!' So we did, and the warmth of these lovely people, not to mention Lynette's infectious laugh really restored my faith in humanity.
A few days later I received a message from her. We're moving on today. Will be pop in for a coffee after lunch before we go'. 'Lynette and John are coming over soon', I smiled to Gareth. 'Oh heck, hang on!' I quickly messaged back. 'Be great to see you - but we don't have any mugs or milk as we don't drink coffee!' 'No problem, we'll bring our house to yours!' came the reply. And sure enough, their 9 metre bus rolled alongside us shortly after. They've got that same sticker too; as do many of our favourite people who we've met on the road. And as they say, just because you find one bad apple doesn't mean you should give up the whole tree. I just appreciate the good ones I meet even more now!