Saturday, November 17, 2018

“Don’t touch it!”

I have hesitated to tell this story because the circumstances were embarrassing and have disturbed me a great deal. So much so that I have long since adapted a few bars from Paul Simon’s “Me and Julio” lyrics to fit the “facts." Although completely out of context and rigorously rearranged, they are, The mama looked down and spit on the ground every time this thing gets mentioned.” The reason I have chosen to relate the incident at this time is that I am attempting to heal emotionally, and hopefully let the air out of Steve and Rick’s insistence on bringing it up every time an Airstream trailer is towed into the Twin Rocks parking lot. The following tale is the reason Airstream travel trailers, trout, and mean girls in coveralls make me anxious and why now, more than ever, I try to keep my hands to myself.

It was a midsummer morning. Steve, Rick, Priscilla, and I were standing around talking about the goings on in our little world and speculating what the day might bring. Just then a heavy-duty, silver Dodge Ram pickup truck with matching camper shell pulling a 30’ Airstream trailer rolled onto the gravel parking lot. The lower two-thirds of the trailer was graphically painted with a beautifully pastoral scene of a roiling, boulder-strewn mountain stream and gorgeous rainbow trout rising to a mayfly.

We talked about the attractive artwork for a while and watched as a slightly bent and frumpily dressed older man of maybe 80 years and a buff, 30-something woman with a distinctly military bearing emerged from the truck. She was dressed in a white tank top under Dickie overalls and black army boots. The woman moved with a swagger and wore her hair in a closely cropped crew cut. Just watching the pair make their way across the parking lot to the cafe was a lesson in contrast. He shuffled while she strutted. We all wondered at their connection.

It was getting busy at the cafe, so, thinking Miss Frances and the crew might need my help I headed out the Kokopelli doors. Walking outside, I was drawn down the porch steps and across the lot toward the rig. I was curious what might be painted on the other side. Walking close to the Airstream, I inspected the artwork and came around the front of the Dodge, passing near the front of the RV to the opposite side. As I did, I thought I noticed a break in the wind screen over the wrap around window. I raised my hand to inspect the crack, then realized the entire cover had a golden flecked and swirl pattern running inside and through the cover. Recognizing the illusion, I lowered my hand and continued circling the trailer.

As I came around the rear of the Airstream, I noticed the woman in overalls striding in my direction. By her aggressive body language, I figured there might be something amiss. I smiled as she came near and commented on how attractive the trailer was. The woman walked right up to me, placed her face within inches of mine and growled, “Is there a problem?” I looked into her angry blue eyes and wondered just what had caused the obvious animosity. As she leaned in and stared me down, I replied, “Not unless you have one.” 

The angry woman was literally frothing at the mouth. She unleashed a tirade about how I had touched her trailer, how it was protected by a German Sheppard, how it had a security system and a video camera which had captured me, “touching [her] property!” I stood there, amazed by her wrath, then came to the understanding that there was much more going on here than simple trespass. This woman had far greater issues disrupting her life than my simple indiscretion. Although I was beginning to understand that there was underlying pain in her actions, I did not appreciate her verbal assault and veiled threats at physical abuse. When she threatened to get the local sheriff involved, I lost patience. I had tolerated about as much as I intended.

When Miss Angry Pants stopped to breathe, I calmly said, “All right, how about this? I have the sheriff’s number right here in my phone. I am certain he will be interested in what you have to say. Let’s give him a holler.” Also, knowing Steve would not mind being left out of this sticky wicket, I continued, “I own the property you are parked on, from the highway to the byway in back of us. From those Twin Rocks to ten feet on the other side of the road there. Either call the cops or gather up your friend and pull out. Either way, that solves our problem!”

Miss Bad Attitude considered what I had said. Realizing I was calling her bluff, she reconsidered. “We just want to have a quiet breakfast!” she blurted out, then turned on her boot heels and hustled back toward the cafe. Wondering at her bad behavior and hasty retreat, I followed her up the steps of the restaurant and saw her re-seat herself next to her aged companion. Walking up to the table, I received a hostile look from the woman, which caused me to direct my comments to the elderly man. He bowed his head, turned away slightly and ignored my approach. I shrugged and turned away, it was time to let bygones be bygones. I was still agitated, but thought it best to cool down, so I went to the register to check on Toni, our cashier.

The next thing I knew the woman was sticking her phone in my face and taking my picture. Now, I was angry and told her it was time for her to leave, “Right Now!” The woman smiled smugly, gathered her hesitant companion and drove away. I thought not, but hoped that was the last I would see or hear from her. It wasn’t!

Since Steve knew how much the encounter had upset me, he withheld the fact that the Angry Woman was sending him e-mail messages threatening a lawsuit. She had a cousin who she claimed was a long-time and successful attorney who would bring us to our knees, and we had upset her uncle who had been a postal employee and was protected by the U.S. Government. The lawyer in Steve was not intimidated. He told her that he had a few years’ experience as well and that if she felt so strongly about it to file the suit. After a few days, when her anger abated, or she realized her hollow threats were falling on deaf ears, the Angry Woman faded away. I eventually discovered Steve's interaction with the woman when he and Rick began giving me grief every time an Airstream pulled into the parking lot. “Don’t touch it, Barry!” became their common and frequently repeated refrain.

Steve once said that because of the changing times, and our attempts to maintain local traditions, Twin Rocks Trading Post and Cafe sits at the crossroad between tradition and innovation, the future and the past. It seems to me it is much more than that. With our businesses, we attempt to maintain a consistent and positive presence and support our community, employees, artists, and guests.

Because of our expansive and open parking lot, we draw large groups of vehicles and people. It is not unusual to see it packed from end to end, front to back with everything from motor homes to motorcycles, collector cars of every description, and processions of floats and beauty queens gathering for celebration. We are pleased to meet people from every country in the world, and we do our best to accept them for who and what they are. Rarely do we get someone we don’t understand---a wounded warrior or a disagreeable sort with a prickly personality, but not often. Because we focus on the positive, our experiences are mostly good. With Steve and Rick, however, the verdict is still out.

(Editor’s Note: Barry’s family, friends, and co-workers have been so concerned they held a Crisis Intervention. We are pleased to report that Barry has entered a 12-step program designed to discourage random touching of other people’s Airstreams and he has advanced to the 5th Stage already. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.)

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