It’s 11:00 pm. My eyes open. I hear chatter at the campsite next to ours. Chatter I didn’t hear when we were watching the stars at 9, or even as I drifted off to sleep at 10. The chatter was getting louder.
At first, I thought it was 2 voices but somehow now it has blossomed into 4 distinct voices. 3 guys and 1 girl. Based on the “bro speak” of the guys and the vocal fry combined with a sentence-ending upward inflection of the girl I can tell they are in their early 20’s.
It’s 11:15. They aren’t getting quieter. In fact, they are getting louder. Increasing laughter with spastic outbursts. I think to myself “are they drinking? Listen for cans being opened. If they are drinking this could go on for hours but if not, perhaps I can wait out the storm.”
It’s 11:30. They are at full volume with their voice carrying across half the campground. My wife is now wide awake too. We lay in silence, both desperately hoping to fall back asleep. I can understand everything they are saying. Their conversational topics and personal opinions are the sort of mixed bag of nonsense that makes me want to drive tent stake in my ear.
It’s 11:45. My golden retriever starts growling. She doesn’t like them either. With that comes the inevitable barking from our other dog. Sure enough, he lets out a few ear-piercing yelps. I grab the dog, pull it close to me and whisper “shhh shhh” into its ear. “Maybe that was enough, I know they heard the dogs and will use that as their cue to be quiet. They understand where they are and have respect for others, they aren’t really the monsters I am making them out to be.”
I’m wrong, they are those monsters, and the barking didn’t slow them down. They keep getting louder. They aren’t just talking anymore. They seem to also be engaged in some project to make their tent site more efficient. Whatever it actually is, it sounds like a bunch of monkeys trying to screw a football.
Any moment they will wake up my son and then it’s all over for everyone. I think to myself “Someone has to stop them. No one else will, so it is up to me. I have to save us.”
I get up, my wife whispers “where are you going?” I reply with 3 simple words. “I’ve had enough”
It’s midnight. I unzip the tent, find my shoes and walk out into the cool night air. I look around. No one else is up, all the other sites have gone to bed. I imagine that they are all looking out their tent flaps silently cheering me on as I march on down the path.
I walk up to the group, keeping my distance at about 10 feet. None of them see me as they are all too busy giggling.
“Excuse me,” I say in a flat tone; trying to hide my inner rage. They all look at me. I can see in their eyes, they already know what I’m about to say. “Can you please keep it down?” I say. As soon as the words roll off my tongue they are all already apologizing.
Still, I feel the need to justify my request. “I have a 4-year-old who is trying to sleep, thank you.” Again they all apologize as I walk away.
I lay back down in my tent. Their voices have dropped to a whisper. I think about all the names that they are probably calling me.
I lay wide awake, wondering what has become of me. “Did I really just do that? Did I go out there and ask them to be quiet? I mean, what would the 20-year-old me say? It doesn’t matter what he would say. The 20-year-old me didn’t have a wife, child, and 2 dogs.Still, what a bummer I am.”
The longer I lay awake the more I replay every decision. “This, this is the reason we camp in the woods and not in a campground. I don’t know why I thought this would be a good idea. God, I suck. I can’t believe I had to ask them to be quiet. Where was campground patrol in their little golf carts? How come they got to go home and get good nights sleep forcing me to be the camp monitor? Asshats!
These kids weren’t even partying or being belligerent, they were just loud. Still, that’s inconsiderate. They apologized before I event told them about the boy. Why did I even bring up that I have a 4-year old? Like I need his existence to be my justification to ask that they be a little more respectful of others? Whatever, I’m glad I asked them to quiet down, still, I suck.”
Would they have woken my son up? It’s hard to say but I didn’t want to take that chance. He did wake up several times later that night before crawling into bed with us at about 5 but still, that’s not the point.
I have now been on both sides of this coin. I’m sure there are plenty of other examples of how I have changed in the last decade but today, this one seems most startling. It seems that we are all destined to play many roles of the same scenarios.
What’s next for me? Will I start shushing people at the movies, asking people to sit down at concerts, yelling to keep off my grass? Hopefully not… but who knows.