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Behest of the West: Bear with them and set the standard

Albertans don’t flummox people, their RV’s do.
Andrew Jr. looks for a crab to catch while his sisters Crimson and Clover patiently wait for him to show it to them.

Welcome to August. Here be anger.

Our small towns have been big cities for three months and we’ll all continue to be metropolis dwellers for at least two more.

Burn out is burrowing bees into our bonnets and we’re getting tired of this hit to our serenity.

They don’t do it intentionally.

Albertans don’t flummox people, their RV’s do. I’ve never driven one of the oversized tourist zeppelins currently overpopulating our highways but, if I ever try, I’m guaranteed to ruin commutes no matter how carefully I read the manual.

It can’t be easy. I’ve seen adults successful enough to afford family vacations to magnificent locations, and smart enough to choose ours as their destination, try their best and not succeed at maneuvering their monstrous wheeled-cabins without stoking the angst of every driver around them.

It’s an experiential knowledge I’m blessed to have. I live where they flock to and know the pain of spotting a looming end to progress on the horizon of the highway to paradise—the highway home—where Tom Cochrane becomes a prophet and we wind up riding that highway all night long.

It’s a good bet the driver is as crabbed at our frustration behind them as we are at the fortification in front of us.

There’s pull outs a plenty but, if you’re not from where those are, where do you learn how to use them? And, when you’re rolling in a recreational mammoth eight times the size of your daily drive, you’re not exactly primed to steer it smoothly off to the side.

My three-year-old son doesn’t drive and he naps too early and often to see time stand still on commutes. He loves tourists.

He has a genuine ball showing them every crab he captures at the beach and remains delightfully undeterred by obvious language barriers while enthusiastically explaining every aspect of the ocean to them.

He can do that because he’s being raised in a community of Dave Hurwitzes and Laura Griffith-Cochranes and a solid cast of other West Coasters whose whimsical curiousity for the sea is contagious.

He knows things because his town teaches him things and he wants tourists to know what he knows about the surroundings they’re visiting.

From his knee-deep oceanic pulpit, he waxes poetic on crabs and, after shouting out every biological detail he knows about the critter in his hand to anyone in earshot, he sums up his sermon by proclaiming the importance of letting them back in the ocean after taking a look.

It’s impossible for them to shirk his stoke and he doesn’t allow himself to be ignored. There are important things to know about our beaches and, to him, visiting us means signing up to learn them. Visitors don’t conjure up nightmarish images of pull-out-averse RV’s or summer’s endless grocery store lineups in his mind. All he sees are adorable, and valuable, teaching opportunities.

After roughly three months in the thick of it, we’re grumpy, but he captivates with a kindness that goes down smoother, and sinks in deeper, than angst would.

Bear with them.

The ones that come here to be around wildlife would stay home if there was wildlife there. The concrete jungles they’re coming from don’t have what we have. They want bears in their tents and on their cars as much as we want bears habituated and shot, but Yogi is a cartoon to them and they don’t understand the dangers within their picnic baskets.

We can’t assume they know what to do around animals eight times the size of the dogs and cats they’re used to.

I’ve never been to Seville but, if I ever get there, I’m guaranteed to make Flamenco look impossible.

Unique grains of culture make trips worth taking and places worth visiting. It’s not like we’re making bear management look easy either. They killed one out at the campgrounds, but we’ve put one on death row in town.

By setting a better example and offering enthusiastic educations, we could all be little less crabbed.

Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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