I’d like to say it was a near-death experience that turned me against camping but that wouldn’t be entirely true.
I did almost suffocate due to a malfunction or user error—the jury’s out on that—in a Boler trailer, but I hated camping long before the camper was towed up our driveway and then parked temporarily in our backyard. We (my grandparents, my father, and me) travelled to the east coast and back with that overgrown chestnut behind us.
My grandfather loved that thing. He was mesmerized by the genius of each part of the trailer doubling as something else—the kitchen table folded down to a double bed, the “couch” back and seat could be converted into bunk beds. Brilliant.
After that trip through the Maritimes, the Boler was not parked at the curb with a “Best Offer” sign attached to the door.
Instead it was moved to a sliver of dirt under some pine trees at a campground called Ponderosa (I’ll let you imagine it) in the little town of Mount Albert.
My father dropped out of the group and remained in Toronto, leaving the three of us to enjoy the relaxation of camping. I was promoted to the bottom bunk in his absence, so after a thorough check of the inside of my sleeping bag with a flashlight—always check the seams, that’s where earwigs hide—I climbed into the bottom bunk.
I was roused from sleep with a smack in the face and a mouth of vinyl as my body was thrown, then pinned against the wall.
My lips were tingling as I tried to figure out what kind of wild animal tasted like vinyl. As I started to come out of the too-much-fresh-air fog I was in it occurred to me I was being attacked by a Mount Albert thug in a faux-leather jacket. As I tried to kick my legs I realized I was trapped under the top bunk, which had swung back to its daytime resting place as the back of the “couch.”
I couldn’t move my arms, so like any sane 15-year-old girl, I started to panic and scream. My voice was virtually silenced by layers of factory-made and wildly unnatural fabrics—vinyl, foam, plastic, some kind of woven, wool-like material.
The humiliation of being suffocated by a synthetic bench while camping was too much. I tried wriggling like a claustrophobic caterpillar having second thoughts about the chrysalis phase.
I tried to rock my body against the bunk and after what seemed like 15 minutes, I managed to wake up my grandparents from their slumber on the dining room table. The bunk was lifted off me and as my grandparents stared down at me in their pajamas I yelled at the top of my lungs, “I could have died!”
I argued that the stupid trailer wasn’t safe and we should pack immediately so we could leave in the morning and go back to civilization.
My grandmother was the undisputed family health and safety expert. She could predict death, loss of limbs or other disastrous outcomes in any given scenario from swimming immediately after lunch (cramps and drowning) to neglecting to eat fruit (horrible bowel ailments).
Yet, I had almost died under that bunk and she couldn’t see the risk. She told me to settle down, stop being so dramatic, and go back to sleep as she climbed back onto her dining room table/bed.
And that’s what camping does to people. It turns them reckless and wild.