When it comes to picking a campsite, he’d rather take the risk of a bad decision, than the angst of indecision, says Schalk Jonker.
Afriendly woman at reception pushes my proof of payment across the counter towards me, along with a photocopied map of the grounds. “You’re here,” she says, indicating “here” with an orange highlighter. “Drive through the gate and follow the road to the swimming pools,” she explains, dragging the broad orange line up and along the road on the map. “Here you’ll turn left, and drive over the little bridge and past the putt-putt course and kiosk until you get to the campsite. Because it’s so quiet at the moment, only the top bathrooms are open.”
“Which stand are we on?” I ask, as my misgivings grow. But I already know what her answer will be. “Sir, you’re welcome to choose any spot,” she says – and my stomach turns, and drops into my shoes.
FIRST, LET ME take a moment to explain something about my wife: you’d have to look far and wide to find a more organised person. Every little thing is planned, down to the finest detail. She flourishes on order, and is a chronic list-maker. (I recently caught her creating a list of all the lists she needs to make!)
Whether it’s our household budget, a grocery list or camping essentials, she will sit in front of the computer, or with a piece of paper and at least two pens (different colours) to carefully compose and organise the matter at hand. In our house, absolutely nothing is left to chance.
She takes a similar approach to any decision she has to make. The pros and cons are carefully thought through before she considers the possible outcomes.
All good and well, when – for example – you’re deciding to buy a new coffee machine; but this sort of indecision can be debilitating at a campsite.
THE AMERICAN WRITER Napoleon Hill once described indecision, doubt and fear as three closely related members of an unholy trinity. If you encounter one of them in a situation, the other two can’t be far behind.
While I’m standing here at reception, considering my options, my wife, daughter and niece are waiting in the car, and I know that I’m about to turn that triangle into a square – because I realise that in this situation, confrontation is unavoidable. The next hour or so is going to put our marriage to the test.
Under normal circumstances, it’s good news when you can pick your own camping spot, especially during the offseason. But not with us. Not if my wife has anything to say about it.
“We can pick our own stand,” I say as I climb back into the car. “That’s good news,” she says. I bite my lip, and resist the urge to mutter “No, it isn’t”.
We drive through the gate and follow the road to the swimming pools, just like the orange stripe on the map commands. We turn left, cross over the little bridge and go past the putt-putt course and the kiosk ahead of us to reach the camping grounds.
“Only the top ablution block is open – so we should probably park somewhere near here.” I fire the first volley in the unavoidable skirmish that threatens to break out between us.
“Why would you want to camp here,” she asks indignantly, “when all those spots near the river are still available?”
We drive at a snail’s pace, and nod our heads in greeting to those people already settled under their tent awnings. “Yay, there are trampolines!” the little ones alert us. “Can we climb out so long?”
I stop to let the innocents out and aim for a campsite with a fairly large tree, next to the river. “No, the wind is going to blow us away here. And this tree will give us hardly any shade in the afternoon,” she says. I completely agree with her: I’ve spotted the storm ties that other riverside-campers are already using against the strong late-afternoon breeze that’s blowing off the sea. But she wants to take a look; and so, we take a look.
“How about that one?” I ask. “It has grass, shade, and protection from the wind.” She looks at me, shaking her head. “You’re not serious?! That’s way too far from the ablutions and the playground. We have to keep an eye on the kids, and I don’t want to have to walk for miles when I need to go to the loo in the middle of the night.”
So I suggest the stands closer to the ablution block and play area; but these don’t have a lawn, and are too “cold” (I’m still not sure what this means). And she really doesn’t want to camp right here where the children will drive us crazy.
“Great,” I sigh. “We’ve been standing around here for half an hour already. That spot in the corner is now our last option.” She looks sideways at the indicated site – you’d swear it had insulted her mother. Then she shakes her head, and says: nope, not that one.
“What’s wrong with it?” I ask, exasperated. It’s pretty much between the ablution block and the playground, and there’s shade for tomorrow’s all-important midday nap; and while there’s little grass, I remembered to bring a ground cover, thanks to her comprehensive camping list. “I don’t know...” she says, “...it just doesn’t feel right.”
I WISH I COULD say we eventually reached a compromise based on carefully considered factors with a mutual acceptance of each other’s perspectives. But then I’d be lying. The stand we eventually chose basically came down to which of us first threatened to “turn around right now and drive home”.
So, I unpack the car – tables, chairs, crates, gazebo – and then I start pitching the dome tent. As I’m busy banging in the pegs (that firm breeze has since transformed into a south easter), she nonchalantly sidles over and asks why we don’t rather camp at one of those stands between the playground and the ablution block. And with her finger, she points out the exact spot that I suggested forty-five minutes ago.
That’s when you wish that the campground officials would always just assign you a stand, and be done with it. Though in the end, that’s not so easy either. Because in truth, there’ve been times when we’ve arrived at our designated spot
(in December, in the bush, in a jam-packed campground), and there’s not a shady tree in sight. Then she stomps around the area disapprovingly, looking at every possible gap before she says, “Go and tell them we’d rather camp there.”
BUT TONIGHT, WHEN the fire burns hot and we’re enjoying its cheerful flickering, listening to the children play on the trampolines or splash in the pool, it won’t matter where we’re camped. Because any spot out here is better than being at home; and despite the indecision, life is still more peaceful here than in the city.
Until tomorrow afternoon, when the baking sun spoils her afternoon nap.
Indecision, doubt and fear are three closely related members of an unholy trinity. If you encounter one of them, the other two can’t be far behind.