Red Winged Black Bird on a fence post in a field.

Park Protocol


Category: philosophies

I enjoy going to parks, particularly state parks. Iowa has some very nice ones. It?s becoming clear to me, though, that some people have no clue about park protocol. You know; the rules of politeness to follow when you are at the park.

This past weekend I went to Wapsipinicon State Park in Anamosa, Iowa. It was a beautiful autumn day. The sun was warm and the breeze was cool. I parked next to a site with a grill. I like to cook out when I can because you get that great ?cook out? flavor with having to do much cleaning. There is only one grill so the site can really only accommodate one party.

Because the Iowa Hawkeyes had a home game there were not many people in the park at all. All around me, there were open sites where people could park, cook out, or do the other things that make the park enjoyable. Imagine my surprise when the old, gray Lincoln rolled up behind my car.

Two old people and a kid about the age of eight got out and milled around a little. Then they dug the kid?s bicycle out of the trunk and they all meandered off. My question is: Why did they feel the need to park in the tiny little area I occupied rather than one of the empty neighboring sites.

I?m an Iowan. We are notorious for wanting our personal space. People from more crowded places think we are stand-offish because of the way we converse intimately at a distance no less than five feet. This is particularly true of rural Iowans. The Lincoln had Buchanan county plates. That?s pretty rural.

I tried to see what other benefit my site may offer. The terrain was no more flat than the near by sites. Whereas the closest site had a convenient way to get into and out of the parking area, my site had a small loop barely wide enough for one car. If they wanted out they would have to back out.

The entire park is equally beautiful, so no site is prettier than any other. There is a stream that runs behind my site, but that streams runs for quite a way. There are plenty of stream-side sites.

I couldn?t figure it out. There are only really two possible reasons for attempting to occupy a great deal of my tiny site. First, it is possible that the old man driving is just demented. If that is the case, there is little I can do to help.

The second possibility is that they don?t know the politeness rules of the park. That?s why I?m writing this. That?s why I?m talking about some of the protocols for use in the park.

Don?t occupy other people?s spaces. Sure, there may be times when the park is so crowded that you will have no choice but to park next to someone else. That should be the exception. People these days go to the parks in an effort to get away from the congested city life. If you crowd them just because you feel like it, you are rude. If there is plenty of space conveniently available to you and you still have to crowd someone, then you are rude and probably stupid. I hope you crowd the ditch on your way home.

Secondly, no matter how much you enjoy your music, there is no guarantee that others will also enjoy your music. Again, people go to the forest to get away from your hideous musical preferences. Turn it down, you moron. It?s too bad that the law protects you because there?s nothing natural selection likes more than a noisy critter in the woods.

On the subject of noise, try to teach your children to respect the majesty of nature. I shouldn?t know how many kids you have at the other side of the park just by hearing them. The forest is not a place for yelling. The only time people should yell at the top of their lungs is during an emergency. If you do not have an emergency, I?m sure we can arrange one for you.

Fourth, take your trash out with you. Don?t leave paper, plastic, aluminum, or glass scattered all over the forest as though it?s your living room. In particular glass is an issue. I don?t know if you?ve heard this, but, broken glass is sharp and cut things such as animals and people. Sure it might be good if you or your offspring got a fatal injury on the glass beer bottle you tossed (Darwinism at work) but it?s not so good when others are the damaged ones.

The grills are not a garbage receptacle. While it is true that paper items will probably burn, metal and glass will not. The confusing stuff is plastic. Some of it will appear to burn and the rest will just melt. It takes an extra effort to clean melted plastic off the grill. Even then, there?s an occasional stench from the plastic fumes. Worst is when you think the grill is clean but get a strange, plastic-like flavor.

Finally, don?t harass the animals. Don?t let your kids harass the animals. There is no reason to bother the wildlife at all. It?s a state park and you cannot hunt there. Picking on the animals just annoys them. Some of them will run off rather than put up with you. Others will defend their territory by biting your leg off. Again, I think it?s funny when you (or your kid) go out of your way to disturb an animal and it destroys you in a very painful way. Of course, I don?t want you to die from the attack. I want the attack to mutilate you so severely that your life is ruined (and painful) until you kill yourself a few years later. If it?s your kid who gets mangled then I want both of you to die in such a manner. [NOTE: In the previous couple of statements I stated that I would like for such people to kill them selves but I am not actually advising them to do so. Iowa law prohibits encouraging people to kill themselves.]

In the time it took for me to fire up my grill and type this, the old couple came back. They argued about something a bit and put the kid?s bike back in the trunk. Leaving the site, staring at me with malevolence, they chose to drive forward instead of back out of the site. That took the Lincoln off the road way and across the grass and weeds and such. I can only assume that these people are extremely rude and could use a good re-education in manners.

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