You know that by preference, Claire and I boondock in Turtle most of the time. To boondock means to park in a remote area overnight. We generally don’t need the services of RV parks, and so don’t see the point of spending the time to register, hook up water, electric and sewer each night, when we only need the water and sewer once a week, and electric hookup is a convenience, not a necessity. So why pay $30 or more for something we don’t need? We have done so three times since the middle of May.
Many times our overnight parking can’t be in our preferred wild country, but in urban areas, mostly at welcoming Wal*Marts. We simply park, eat dinner, go to sleep and leave in the morning. We don’t put out an awning (don’t have one) lawn chairs, grills, slide-outs (don’t have) or other signs of “camping”, and we discourage other RVers from doing the same; we have even put copies the Escapees overnight parking etiquette rules under a few windshield wipers of flagrant offenders. However generally RVers are considerate, park in a far corner of the lot and Wal*Mart has a very large traveling customer base; we all want to buy as much from them as we can in thanks. It works, and I think Wal*Mart has found the RVers to be a calming factor in late night shenanigans; sort of like piping Classical music into stores who don’t want teenagers hanging around. I mean, what self respecting teen or drug dealer wants to be seen around a bunch of old farts in RVs!
That is background, now to my point: Increasingly, we see small families sleeping in their cars in Wal*Mart lots. They, like us, are quiet and unobtrusive. There is the potential for a sanitation problem, but most stores are open 24 hours for toilet availability. It used to be that the cars were old and beat up looking, worth a few hundred bucks at best, and probably a down and out family heading back to Appalachia after falling on hard times in the big city where they went to work.
Now I see a new trend; late model cars, less than five years old, well kept. I slept in my VW when I was in college, but then I was young, frugal and adventurous and my back could take sleeping in a car seat. The PT Cruiser we have seen the last three nights in Wal*Mart sleeps three people: a mother, her pre-teen son, and grandfather; I can’t imagine the pain for the old man. As inexpensive as some motels are these days, there is something else going on here. They are, at least temporarily, homeless. I can think of a number of scenarios, and all involve a sudden decline in financial circumstances, since a late model PT Cruiser is not cheap. But our stocks are going up, how can this be?
Why do we say they are invisible? Only we RVers and store personnel know they are staying all night. Wal*Mart is not a destination shopping experience for most, and people are in and out quickly, and would assume the three people in the beige PT Cruiser are waiting for someone inside to finish shopping.
I am always a bit conflicted about invading their privacy to find out if we can help. They are proud, or they would be knocking at our door begging, and that has never happened. Being transients ourselves, we have nothing to offer in the way of knowledge of local social services, if any, and a little money is not the answer they seek. I can only hope they find a way to improve their circumstances soon, as I go to sleep in my comfortable, if small, RV home.
A few miles north of here, is a resort where the rooms begin at hundreds of dollars a night, and it appeared full for the leaf peeping season. It makes one wonder how some can be so wealthy, and others who’s struggles are invisible. Personal choices are always a factor I suppose. Fortune is probably a bigger factor: if you were born to wealthy parents, you will most likely be even better off than they; you were born with a native intelligence and bought a fine education. Some of the fortunate manage to blow it, and some born to disadvantage make good. But those are the poles, not the middle ones who do the best they can with what they were given, and who’s struggles are invisible to the rest of us. Oh, I can hear some say some sin brought this on, that they are being punished, taught a lesson by a vengeful god. Well I have an opinion about that which I will keep to myself, today.
We, and all of you who have the time and means to read this, have been very fortunate indeed. Be thankful, and keep your eyes open where you live, for the invisible ones.