Sometime in August I suddenly realized I was a summer RV park workcamper. I’m no expert on the subject, but now that I’ve logged my hours, I thought I’d tell you about my experience. First, I didn’t apply for the job, I just happened to live in the park and they needed help for the summer crowd.
I worked for 4 months for about 10+ hours a week in the park office doing typical front desk things — checking people in (which had to be done on paper and then put into the computer), making reservations (which had to be done on paper and then put into the computer), helping with issues people might have, giving directions to visitors, and chatting with the regulars that came in every day like clockwork to have coffee and check in on the day’s RV park gossip. (Below: That’s Phil, he came in every day for coffee and always had an awesome story to tell.)
What didn’t I do? Pump propane. Why? Because it’s a man’s job. No kidding, that’s what I was told. I wanted to say that I could lift a filled tank into my F250 easier than anyone else who worked there, but I decided not to rock the boat.
Anyway, the park has been in operation since the 80s, and is by far the nicest park in the Seattle area, so it fills up during the summer. On any given day we had 15-20+ people checking in, and since I worked the night shift, I was usually dealing with people that had been driving for hours in horrible Seattle traffic, probably had gotten lost at some point, and were hungry. Were they all friendly? No. But I’ve been there — so I tried to get them in and to their spot as fast as possible. From now on, no matter how tired I am when checking in, I will always be nice.
I learned less about the operation of an RV park than I learned about people. I don’t think they’ve changed the day to day operation of the park in decades, so it wasn’t that hard to get into the swing of things. “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” could be the motto above the door. Oh, and they only used adding machines. Seriously.
More interesting to me was what I learned about people who have strongly different political and social views as me and who wanted to talk about it a lot. I didn’t try to hide my beliefs, and sometimes I think they just came in to hassle me, but I felt I held my own, but at times it was very difficult. From gay marriage, the Affordable Care Act, and HIV being transmitted by mosquitos, I was in a place where news snippets from questionable sources were gospel.
I always worked with two other people, always a married couple, and all the men were Vietnam veterans (that’s Del above, I love that guy). Several times a week campers came into the office and thanked them for their service (they always wore a hat or jacket or t-shirt advertising their veteran status), and I was able to learn about their role in the war and how their time in the Army/Navy affected their lives. With their wives (Del’s wife Sharon is a hoot) I had conversations I never saw myself having, specifically about dentures. And learning how to use the damn adding machine.
Overall, I don’t have much to say about the ins and outs of working in an RV park. It’s kind of like working in a hotel or waiting tables. I’d certainly change the way they do things given the chance, but I was a person working for a short period of time in the company of folks who have been there for 10 years (like Larry, above). The system they had was what they were comfortable with and that’s how it was going to stay. Literally everything was done on paper, then copied to another paper, and those two pieces of paper were put into different places in case one got lost. Then it was put in the computer, and at the end of the day another piece of paper was filled out, photocopied and filed again. As much as I tried, I couldn’t understand why all of this needed to be done. It was wild.
In the end, I really liked my time in the office and am so grateful that they hired me on. Deke and I have often talked about having an RV park someday, and this was an interesting insight to how it all worked!