Disclaimer: The company we are working for this summer has a very specific media policy. I will not be mentioning them by name, or mentioning the specific names of anyone I am working with, except for Lee. Also, because it’s not really that difficult to figure out which company it is, I want to be clear: I in no way speak for the company or my co-workers, and am only recounting my personal experiences. Also, any details I get wrong in this or any other post are due to a misunderstanding on my part.
I started the week off with a firm mental commitment to myself to try and just focus on doing the job and stop analyzing everything so much. My friends are all going to smile when they read this. They know what I am like and that this was a tall order for me, but I wanted to try if for nothing else as an experiment to see if it improved my quality of life. I’ll get into my conclusions at the end, but will say from the beginning it wasn’t easy.
Monday was my day to work in the campground because Lee and I have switched campground days. Thursday (Lee’s ne day) involves moving all the trash dumpsters out of the campground and I was finding that a little physically challenging. Lots of things we have done have been a little tough for me, but since our boss has made it very clear he doesn’t expect me to do anything I can’t physically handle, I have gotten pretty good at just looking at a task and saying, “I can’t do that one.” Unfortunately, the downside of that is the bulk of what I can do is largely scrubbing toilets and cleaning floors. Oh, and picking up trash. I am pretty good at using the grippers to pick up “micro litter”. Our campground days are 8 hour shifts and start at 5:30am when we open the gates. Once this is done, we check the campground day use area restrooms, walk around the small pond and pick up trash, and check trash cans and clean the fish cleaning stations.
The fish stations are a metal sink with a grate in the bottom and are used by the fishermen to clean fish. This is by far the least appealing part of the job for me, but thankfully they don’t usually need cleaning on Monday mornings. Next we check the two main bathrooms in the campground for large messes, or missing toilet paper, and once that is done we have some free time. You can’t really start roaming around the campground until at least 8am so I used that time to read the pass-on logs and look at campground emails. During this time period I have lots of time to think and that’s when ideas about improvement start to flow. Still, I was sticking to the plan, and just read the logs and replied to some direct questions and then headed out to start cleaning around 8:00am.
We have a list of campsites people are coming into that day and a list of campsites people are leaving, so I did some rounds and cleaned the incoming campsites. They are cleaned after use, but sometimes people “spread” into other campsites, so another check of the fire rings and for litter is a good thing. Around 9am we can start cleaning the bathrooms and I decided that the smaller restroom really needed a deep clean. So I pulled out mop buckets, a hose, cleaner, etc and sprayed the bathroom down. The walls already looked really good thanks to the efforts of Mr. Kayaker earlier in the seasons, but the baseboard needed some extra attention so I spent the next hour and a half working on those.
Not much else to do while you’re cleaning bathrooms other than think, and I spent the time working and thinking about stuff. By the time that was done I was pretty tired and hungry, so I packed up and took my lunch break. Once lunch was done I started working on the sites people had left, but still had several sites that were still occupied. Check out time at the campground is 1pm and check in time is at 4pm, and people actually stay here right until 1pm. Unfortunately we had two cabins and one campsite that were being turned over to new people that same day and they were the ones who chose to stay right until the last minute. This was my first opportunity to clean the cabins, so I scrubbed floors, cleaned beds and tables, and cleaned the campsites around them. That was a tougher job than I thought it would be but I managed to get all the sites cleaned and turned by 2:30 when I was done for the day.
Afterwards I was very tired, but decided to take advantage of the sunshine and walk down and sit by the river. I took a chair, book, and some water, and spent a couple of hours sitting in the sun. That was nice, especially because a beautiful woodpecker landed on a tree about three feet from me. I have only seen one other woodpecker this close the entire time we have been on the road and I took it as a sign I was headed in the right direction.
Afterwards I was still tired though, so I took a nap and then we watched some TV and went to bed. The next day I had my appointment at a dermatologist. I’ve never been to one, but my mom was concerned about a patch on my right cheek so I drove into Clackamas to get it checked out. The doctor was great and the appointment was very quick, with them using a spray liquid nitrogen on the place on my cheek. It was pre-cancerous cells but nothing too serious as there is only a 1% chance they will become cancerous. Still they like to get rid of them when they can and the spray is a fast and easy way to get the top layer of your skin off. It stings quite a bit going on but since then no issue although I do have a scab on my cheek which makes it look like I got in a bar fight 🙂
I also received information on all my tests with my other doctor online and once again I have to commend the medical coverage in the Portland area. In other places my Florida license raises eyebrows and sometimes issues, but here everyone has been very nice. It seems pretty common that people come and work here for the summer and I don’t get treated any differently than any other patient. The most amazing proof of this was my mammogram. They found a small cyst during the test and they immediately requested my previous mammograms from New Hampshire. Within 4 business days, and yes I am still amazed as I type this, they not only had my scans from 2011, 2013, and 2014 but also had done the comparison and determined there was no change and everything was fine. Wow…impressive!! The government has been pushing very hard for all medical information to be online and for doctors to work together to share results and I am a happy beneficiary of that. If those scans weren’t available, they probably would have wanted to do an MRI and/or a biopsy which I know from previous experience runs thousands of dollars. This way they could clearly see there was no change and all of those tests were unnecessary. The whole experience was top notch and made me very happy.
Wednesday we explored, which you saw in my last post, but Thursday it was back to work. My favorite day of the week is the day I am in the truck alone (I am sure it is Lee’s also) not just because it is a short day, but because it is during the week and I get to set my own route. Working with a partner, even when it’s your husband of many years, requires discussion of routes and priorities that simply don’t apply when we are alone. To start the day I went to get gas and since our badges still aren’t in, I stopped to borrow my supervisor’s. We had the opportunity to have a nice chat and he told me how much he appreciated the information I was providing to him. That was great to hear, and I opened up a little bit about what I used to do for a living, but said I don’t want to bother you with this stuff if it doesn’t matter. I told him, this is just how I think, and I am as surprised as anyone that it didn’t just stop once I left the corporate life. He was happy to have information about what was going on at the sites though and I felt much better. Not every boss we have had is interested in my analysis and on occasion it has caused me some issues, so I am very tentative on what information I offer and when. Our supervisor was happy to get the information though because “we are closer to the job” than he is, so I felt that I could at least drop him an email when these things occurred to me.
Just to be clear, my emails relate to traffic patterns, challenging in providing a great customer experience, and the occasional idea (such as adding a third toilet paper bar to a couple of restrooms). They are not rocket science. But, as I said, I have learned the hard way that some bosses take the feedback as criticism no matter how careful you are and that rarely goes well. Thankfully our current boss doesn’t fall in this category. What I realized by Thursday was this is just the way I think. My earliest job memories (at the age of 16) include me trying different ways of making cheese plates at a racetrack, and bussing tables different way to see which one took the least amount of time. What I realized was this is not a new thing. All I did (and it was largely subconscious trust me) was find a job and education path that honed those skills. Not that surprising really. Lots of people pick jobs that enhance their innate abilities and being a business analyst is the ultimate end result of honing that particular skill. So it is part of how I think and I don’t think that is a bad thing, but what I can control is what I focus it on and the level of frustration I have when the thoughts/ideas never get acted upon.
So Thursday was a good day, despite the fact it started raining and we headed into the weekend. Although Lee and I like being done early on Thursday and not being back until 3pm on Friday, Friday nights are our least favorite day. The sites don’t get any attention for 24 hours and at least one of them is a mess when we finally get to it. We never know which one that will be though, so opening that door initially on Friday night we kind of hold our breath (literally and figuratively). This week though we got some warning, because one of the drivers for a rafting company warned us about the changing rooms at Moore Creek when we walked up. Moore Creek sees a ton of use, because most of the rafting companies meet their guests there. They use the changing rooms to get ready and leave their personal vehicles, while they are driven upriver in the van with the boats. When the ride is finished they usually stop here as well, so the site probably gets double the traffic of any other river site. It’s not uncommon for the toilet paper to be practically empty on Friday nights and the toilet and floors always need scrubbed, but this night was a new level. And I am going to stop right here and give fair warning. If you do not like reading details about restrooms cleanup stop here and skip the next two paragraphs!!
The driver apologized for the state of the restrooms as a group of young boys they were with had made a mess earlier in the day. She looked embarrassed when she said she thought they had peed on the floor of the changing room, but we were totally unprepared for what we saw when we opened the door. One side did have urine on it, but since I have a strong set of rubber boots that wasn’t a huge deal. The other side was full of dirty towels though and for some reason this really bothered me. Since the incident occurred early in the morning when we were off the room had looked like this all day and why she didn’t at least pick up all the towels I am not quite sure. Lee saw the look on my face and to his credit said he would handle it, and I went over and cleaned the toilet area. This is not the first time we have been taken aback by what we had found, but until now I didn’t feel right about mentioning it. Twice we have found piles of human waste within steps of a pit toilet and in both cases we just sucked it up and cleaned it up. Toilet “explosions” are somewhat common and a long handled scrub brush along with a mental attitude of someone couldn’t help themselves go a long way in that situation. But the condition of these changing areas seemed deliberate and frankly malicious and my overall attitude was “Seriously, as if this isn’t bad enough.”
There is a difference between cleaning campground bathrooms and bathrooms open to the public. Sure these types of things can happen in either place, but it’s much less likely in a campground. For these roadside toilets, lots of people stop throughout the day and night and since they are not manned there is a certain amount of anonymity involved. I have been hoping that the first two instances were an isolated case, but this third made me realize that this type of behavior was more common than I thought and was definitely going to be part of our summer. And that’s why I am mentioning it. It would be disingenuous to just show pretty pictures of the river and not talk about this kind of thing because for some people they might be a deal breaker. And to be clear, if you take one of these jobs you have to be the one that cleans it up because that is what we are being hired to do. There is no one else, it’s us.
That realization hit me pretty hard, and since it rained Friday, Saturday, and Sunday so distracting side projects were largely off the table, we spent a lot of time cleaning the bathrooms and scrubbing floors. And since I wasn’t thinking about work, I had quite a bit of time to think about my life, where I was, and the choices I had made. I want to be perfectly clear here. I in no way think I am too good to clean a bathroom. But this job, more than any other we have had, is about as opposite from my former life as possible. The idea was if we made decent money, people were nice to us, and we were in a beautiful place it wouldn’t matter what we did all day long every day. And since working these jobs we have met lots of people who have found their way to that place. I, as you know have struggled, and have often felt like I was doing something wrong, because I couldn’t just settle in. “Life is too short” and “Worry less you will be happier” have been pretty common themes in feedback I have gotten either online or in person from folks and although I know their hearts are in the right place something in me rebelled against it.
But when I was focusing on the minutia of the jobs, and essentially distracting myself, I didn’t really think too much about it. Well that’s not fair I did think about it, but shied away from it because in some ways it felt like a rejection of earning money this way meant a rejection of the lifestyle itself. This time though really forced me to face it head on and the stripped down nature of the job itself didn’t give me any place to hide. The conclusions were ultimately pretty simple. At 50, I am not willing to commit the next 15 or so years of my life to earning money this way. Once the novelty of these jobs wears off, and that cycle is getting shorter and shorter, I am generally not happy. The sole exception to that experience has been gate guarding, which was good for me because I had lots of time to write. The other jobs have been physically demanding with challenging schedules, and compared to my old life low paying. If we were in a situation where we were working occasionally to supplement existing income, maybe it wouldn’t be such a big deal, but since we are spending about 10 months of the year working these jobs and have only a couple of months of “down time”, for me at least it is a high price to pay. Yes, I love this lifestyle and I absolutely feel lucky to be able to spend my life traveling from beautiful place to beautiful place, but for me it is not enough.
Saying this out loud to myself, was a pretty big deal, and I really felt like I needed an objective opinion on it and called my friend Jo. She is a working full timer and a psychologist and although I called her as a friend, her background certainly didn’t hurt. I laid the situation out and then asked her as a friend and a fellow RVer if I just “needed to get over myself and suck it up” because enough already this was what the life was. Her response, and wow do I love her, was to say essentially say they are your feelings…own them. And then she said something that really resonated with me, “Who says you need to do these type of jobs.” I know that sounds simple, but it disconnected the lifestyle from the type of work we are doing which, for me at least, is a very important thing. She also helped me to remember that I had a job that “fed my soul” and just because I was burnt out and wanting to try other things didn’t mean those emotions were any less valid. She recognized that I am a person who gets quite a bit of my self-identity from what I do for a living, and just because I became a full time RVer that didn’t mean that would go away.
She and her husband Ben work as a traveling nurses and not every contract has been a good fit for them. Plus, because they do different work (she is a hospice nurse and he is a surgical nurse) one of them can be content and the other less so. I can relate to Ben’s situation in particular because he was previously working in a large city in a trauma hospital and had to be at the top of his game. Many of their contracts now are at smaller hospitals and the work is often less challenging. The work conditions are also different, because they, like us are temporary. Even in a professional environment, it is common for the “scut work” to go to the temporary employee so they have to be really careful when they are choosing their jobs to try and find out what the nature of the day to day work will be. So she gets it and talking to her was exactly what I needed.
I don’t want to rush into anything. I want to find a contract in a cool place where I think the work will be fulfilling. That is a tall order and I am ok with waiting for the right thing. After all we have determined we can live off other types of employment so it’s not an emergency. What has changed for me is I no longer feel I need to prove anything to myself or anyone else. I am also fully aware that if I am not careful contract work could end up being the same for me, but I am hoping it will give me more opportunity to “feed the soul.” We will see where it all leads us, and in the meantime I will fulfill my current obligation and continue to enjoy this beautiful area of the country. There really are worse places to have an emotional crisis 🙂
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