My last book for my quick little project is Ranger Confidential by Andrea Lankford.
I have been searching high and low among the memoiristic, essayish genre for a good comparative title for my memoiristic, essayish style book on stupid questions. It hasn’t been easy.
I’ve read several essay books from humorists and popular bloggers/pop culture columnists. I read We are Never Meeting in Real Life, One Day None of This Will Matter, and I’m Judging You. None of these titles were remotely close to what I’m writing, so I looked harder.
I searched for touristy type books. Well, not touristy in the idea of tourist books, but tourist destinations. A majority of my stories occur within the theme park industry, and with 180,000,000 visitors to zoos and aquariums each year, I think my book qualifies as “touristy”.
I stumbled upon a couple titles about life as a ranger. I wrote them down and put requests into several sites. When I visited Portland back in May, I stopped by Powell’s Book City, and found one of the titles at the used bookstore.
It takes me a while now to finish paper copies of books. I just don’t have as much time as I want for sitting down and reading. But for this project of ten books, I wanted at least ONE of them to be a hard copy, where I read rather than simply listened.
I’m torn about Ranger Confidential. It’s not a bad book. It’s not a great one, either, but it’s not horrible. Not the most well-written piece of work I’ve read in a while, but considering the author is a trained park ranger, I feel she did an adequate job. She was trained for rescue missions, for horseback riding, for hiking, back-packing, and survival in the wilderness. Authoring a memoir/biography of park rangers was not part of her job description. So, I took that with a grain of salt, really.
The stories themselves weren’t what I was hoping for either. I mean, I’m getting the gist that park rangers aren’t necessarily the funniest people alive, but I was really looking for a book with some intense humor. I KNOW park rangers have come across some incredibly stupid and funny park visitors. I was hoping for those stories.
If I was looking for a book which showcased how hard a park ranger’s life really is, what it is like to be a park ranger for the National Parks, and what it’s like to work at the most popular places to visit- Grand Canyon and Yosemite, this would have been the perfect book.
I shouldn’t complain. It’s not like the book mislead me. I read the back cover, I knew what the book was about. I was just sincerely wishing for a few chuckles here and there, thrown in the mix for laughs.
I didn’t get my wish.
It was just a selfish wish, really. I was hoping for a great comparative title from the National Parks to use for my query packet.
But it looks like I’m going to have to write THAT one, too. Which, I’m working on. The Cynic’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest.
I don’t just touch base on my quick flash of a summer at the Washington State Parks. I only have a couple funny stories to share from this summer. Such as the visitors today who thought my job title wasn’t “bathroom cleaner” but “obstacle course designer”. All three bathrooms I cleaned today, I had visitors come into the bathroom while I was cleaning, and were confused that I was closed for cleaning. Two of the restrooms don’t have “closed for cleaning” signs, so the park aides pile all the cleaning equipment in the doorway to make it as clear as possible that the bathrooms are out of service.
But one woman, while I ran behind the building to grab more toilet paper, literally climbed over the buckets, moved the broom out of the doorway, and ignored the open toilet paper dispenser so she could close the door and go to the bathroom. The irony is, I had finished the men’s bathroom, and it was wide open. There is literally no difference between the men’s and the women’s at that location. I know she didn’t know that, but if you had to climb over obstacles versus walking into a bathroom, which would you likely choose?
Then, at the picnic area bathroom by the beach, I left my drying rag in the ladies’ restroom. My mop, broom, toilet cleaner, and the trashcan were blocking the doorway. And I had the wet floor sign up. I was gone literally 30 seconds. When I came back to wipe down the sinks I had just cleaned, a man was peeing at the urinal.
“Sir, I’m cleaning in here,” I called to him from around the corner.
“Oh, I thought you were done.”
I know National Park rangers have had similar encounters. Perhaps Andy Lankford was trying to be polite and not piss off readers. But I wouldn’t have minded hearing stories of stupid campers, ridiculous hikers, and idiotic tourists. Even if I was guilty of something she wrote about.
Instead, I got a very graphic and real look at the life of a park ranger. Not a bad book, just certainly not the one I was looking for or hoping for.
I will pass the book on to my state park ranger co-workers. It’s a different system, state parks and national parks, but perhaps they will find the stories thrilling, and see the similarities in their jobs.