Dear RV Shrink:
I recently visited Big Bend National Park and discovered I may be a curmudgeon. There are a lot of fossils there, but I didn’t want to be one of them. I began to suspect I was getting old and crotchety when I asked a young ranger with a diamond in her nose about a location I wanted to hike to.
She pointed to an obvious location on the map as if I was directionally challenged, then kind of raised her eyebrows. Without saying a word, she was screaming “idiot” with those raised eyebrows reflecting in her nose jewelry.
When I pointed out the fact that I had already been to the area indicated on the map and that it wasn’t actually the historical location, she again pointed to the map as if I had missed it the first time. It was then I asked for a second opinion.
She disappeared into the back office and came back with the suggestion that I buy a book about the historical location I was inquiring about. I explained that I had already read the book and that is what prompted my question. I was trying, with all the patience I could muster, not to be a curmudgeon, but I think I failed.
I know these rangers get all kinds of stupid questions from the visiting public, but once they become shell-shocked the Park Service should give them a little R&R. Maybe with some time off they would actually get to know the area they are expected to be doling out accurate information.
This seems to work for the volunteers managing the visitor center desks. They seem to know everything and actually want to talk to people. They must all be a bunch of curmudgeons like me. —Burnt in Big Bend
You have to put everything in perspective. Maybe this person was having a bad day. Maybe she just had six people before you ask her why there wasn’t an escalator to the top of Emory Peak. Maybe she just came off a three-day search and rescue that didn’t turn out well.
Rangers wear many hats. I am not making excuses for those individuals who truly are rude from over-exposure to park visitors. They show no professionalism and are obviously in the wrong career field. If you could read the reports of things that go on that are generated every day in the Park Service system, you would appreciate more the task that rangers have to hold it all together to preserve and protect.
I agree with you about the volunteers. They have become an integral part of managing our National Parks.
There is nothing wrong with being a curmudgeon. It is a vital part of personal evolution. Just be careful you don’t get persnickety – that’s when you become a fossil. —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink
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