Thursday, January 11, 2007

Trayler Livvin

 After years of ridiculing overweight, lazy, gas-guzzling, RV-ing Americans, here I am hauling around a 21-foot travel trailer and sleeping in it every night. I guess becoming a hypocrite is part of getting older. It’s kind of funny--ten years ago I would have been unable to do something so contradictory to my long-held bias. But now, it doesn’t even phase me. Go figger. Some things get easier with age. Maybe if I became a parent, I could lose even the awareness that I’m a hypocrite.

Living in a trailer is quite a learning experience. Space is LIMITED. Some of the little conveniences that come with living in a house are available, but they take focus, attention, and hands-on problem-solving. Running water: “how much is left in the tank? Is the pump on?” Heat: “do I have plenty of propane? How’s the battery level?” Hot water: all of those questions, plus “has the wind blown out the pilot light?” I need to go potty “oh my, is my poop tank getting too full? Will I have enough water to flush the poo?”

Living in one of these things, especially away from 110 hookups, changes your perspective.
There’s a funny joke about boats: What are the two happiest days in a man’s life? The day he buys his boat and the day he sells it. It’s sort of a truism. I’m thinking there are some things that become universally true of RV owners:

1. The guy who sold you your trailer is a fucking idiot. Most of the stuff he told you about it has turned out to be oversimplified or just plain wrong, and the stuff that was broken that he lived with for years turned out to be trivially easy to fix. Maybe you are the idiot for buying anything from a guy with a haircut like that. (If you bought your trailer new, it’s quite likely that you are the idiot. You spent more than you can afford. If you can afford what they charge for new trailers, you should be staying in hotels anyway.)

2. The guy that wired your trailer was drunk, or on crack, or both. When something isn’t working, and you go to investigate the cause, you find that there are wire junctions that were sloppily joined with electricians tape, barely twisted together, often hanging down under the undercarriage where anything you drive over on the road could pull them apart. Your trailer’s assembler was probably a toothless elementary school dropout wearing a stained t-shirt advertising NASCAR or Canadian Lord Calvert.

3. You never really noticed before, but now you know your vehicle is terribly underpowered. It’s shameful, really. And it really could use a larger fuel tank. Those noisy, smelly diesel pickup trucks you see everywhere now seem remarkably sophisticated.

For the last week, I’ve been a whirlwind Mister Fixit. For people who know me, this is really pretty funny. I’m the kind of guy who drives nails with a crescent wrench. But lately here I’ve been diving right in and figuring out how to fix the stuff on this trailer that is broke.
By the way, the world of RV livin’ is a world where you become embarrassed if your grammar is perfect. Yer not some smarty pants, yer not a vegetarian, yer hetero-goldam-sexual, and you Love America. Folks you meet in this world take these things for granted. They tend to be friendly, they’ll happily lend you a pair of pliers or sewage drain hose, and lots of them like to talk. But it probably isn’t wise to start bitching about Iraq or talking about the wisdom of Howard Dean with the guy you just met at the dump station.

As I spend time living in this thing, slowly resolving issues and figuring out how to run stuff, I’ve become quite attached to it. Kind of like the way you value your bike more after resolving a bottom bracket squeak or chain suck problem. Living like this makes you really get into touch with the magic that is civilized American infrastructure. Utterly reliable hot and cold running water, flush toilets, refrigerators and microwaves, always-on internet access… we don’t even notice these things anymore.


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