Chipped Attitude

Tracy Werth

The fall foliage in Oak Creek Canyon that Friday afternoon was glorious in all its colors. Dan had taken off work early so we could get a good campsite and we had driven up with our gear for a weekend of relaxation. Our son, Michael, was all excited to go fishing in the creek, hoping to get a trout on his line. I had loaded a cupboard in our tiny camper perched on our Toyota truck with Alfred Hitchcock and parenting magazines to read relaxing in a sand chair while Dan looked after our burgeoning fisherman.


We got lucky and managed to snag an end campsite with a nice view of the clear, moving water. The only drawback to our spot was that it contained the only water spigot for the entire campground. At first it irritated me to have frequent intrusions by strangers wandering into our space. We had a rather large Doberman, and I worried about Zuma asserting his canine territorial instincts on someone’s leg with his teeth.

But soon, the sound of the nearby water in my ear and a glass of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill relaxed me enough to greet each visitor with a smile and hello. I soon found each interruption almost pleasant after the first few water seekers since each was friendly and chatty. My change in attitude made each newcomer like a chapter in a book that I looked forward to greeting like some new adventure.

One man beat me to it with a pearly grin as he rambled over. He was a few years younger than me, in his early 20’s, wearing a tie-dyed tee shirt, one silver hoop earring, and a ponytail of soft, chestnut hair. I couldn’t help but smile.


“Hi fella,” he said to my son, who was holding an empty cup as he walked toward the stranger. The man helped Michael hold the water valve in the on position to fill my son’s cup.


I could not help but tip back my magazine to catch a glimpse of the rear of the good-looking man’s faded Levi’s 501 jeans as he walked away with his filled water jug after a friendly good-bye. The tiny red pocket tag against a guy’s house has always been a sweet sight to my sighing eyes.

By three p.m. there was a brief respite from the water seekers and I was relaxing in my chair, one eye on a detective short story and the other gazing at my husband and son at the water’s edge.  A one lane road ran alongside the campground past our tents and campers and then to a pricey resort up on the hill overlooking Oak Creek. Since our arrival, loads of expensive Mercedes, Caddies and even a shiny, red Jaguar had roared past our tents and campers on their way to the comfort of maid service and cable TV at the resort hotel above our humble campsites cooking hotdogs on sticks and playing cards.


I looked up with disgust as the smell of thick exhaust fumes burned my nose. A big old Pontiac Bonneville had pulled into the narrow roadway, stopped and then attempted to turn around. Its roof was rusted and the car had one green fender that clashed with the rest of the car’s body, which was a faded red. The mix of green and red reminded me Christmas. The beat up car stopped and died in a belch of smoke and stink.           

My earlier foul feeling toward my fellow man once again raised its ugly head; until I saw an elderly couple emerge from the heap. The man seemed totally puzzled as he struggled to lift the hood. His wife stood beside him, wringing her thin hands. All that was missing from the tableau was a Midwestern church and one of them holding a pitchfork.

Their predicament pushed aside my initial nasty attitude and I called for my husband who was doing absolutely nothing useful at that moment. “Why don’t you go see if you can help them?” Dan ambled over to lend a hand and some of his amateur mechanical expertise.


Michael and I watched from the safety of my chair as Dan and the old man poked around for a few minutes but still had no luck starting the decrepit car. They went back to fiddling under the hood and I shook off my slight wine buzz as I realized I should offer the poor woman some water and a chair. Just then, a shiny black Corvette, its grill gleaming silver like the wicked smile of a gangster rapper, turned onto the road only to find their way blocked by the broken down car.

A man with an orange-y tan wearing sunglasses got out of the low slung sports car, slamming the vehicle’s door behind him. Mr. Corvette stomped to Pontiac, as if he were blind to the fact that the hood was up with Dan and the old man working on the car. “I need you two to get this thing movin’,” snarled the orange man.


Dan approached this new player in the drama and explained that the car would not move.


“Then you need to push it out of our way,” Mr. Orange demanded.

I was proud of Dan when he turned his back on the idiot without another word and went back to calmly helping the old man.


“Can I offer you both a bottle of water,” I asked the woman, inviting her into our campsite and setting her up with our sturdiest folding chair across from where Michael was creating a roadway in the dirt for his wooden car collection.


We tried to ignore the obscenities being muttered by the jerk as he stood alone. He got back into his Corvette and revved the engine as if he expected that would somehow magically make us clear a path for his sleazy sports car. The asshole did not notice that there was a cool breeze signaling the end of what had been a warm day down in the valley we had left behind that morning. The sounds of the changing leaves against the sound of the creek mixed together to form the feeling of taken a Valium.

“I’ve just started working up there as a maid,” the woman said as she sat on the hard metal edge of our folding chair, “Maybe I should walk up the hill. Probably fire me if I’m late.”  The sound of the Pontiac’s motor roaring back to life jerked her out of the chair like a jack-in-the box.  She leapt up and clapped as Dan pushed down the hood to close it. “Thanks so much, hon. You and your husband have been our guardian angels,” the tense woman said, stopping to touch Michael’s hair as he played with his toy cars in the dirt.


She limped over and got into the car as her husband revved the motor to keep it my sputtering. The elderly couple waved as their started back up the hill’s narrow roadway. The asshole in the Corvette gunned his engine to dart past the Pontiac within only an inch to spare. He just could not sit and enjoy the sound of the stream and the rustle of the crisp fall leaves in the breeze. I almost felt sorry for him as he faded from view.  Oh fuck it I thought as my shitty city attitude kicked back in and instead I made like a Gypsy and gave a silent curse that Mr. Orange and his Corvette would soon veer over the edge of a steep cliff and burst into flames. No, no! Bad Karma….Instead I decided to hope he would see the light as his car teetered on the edge but did not go over. Perhaps I need to meditate more and rid myself of such feelings of anger from watching MSNBC so much….Nameste. (deep breathe)