Friday, 19 February 2010

Altercation in Arizona

Without exception, every American we’ve met on our trip has been friendly and helpful. That is a lot of Americans. And we’re talking right wing, left wing, old, young, friends and strangers.

Until we got to Chloride, Arizona, a skeleton of a silver mining town just over the Nevada border.

There, we visited the visitor center cum gift shop to get a map of the town for a self-guided tour. And Barbara, whose love of gift shops ranks just below margaritas and museums, bought a couple of things.

I went in to take Sophia to the bathroom – asked where it was, the owner mumbled something about something or other not working so I said we could go somewhere else. He said that would be much better.

So we went to our trailer, climbed over all our in-transit packing, and used our own bathroom. And washed our hands.

RVs tend to have two tanks: one for black water, or human waste, and another for sink water. Our grey water tank is detachable, and stored in the trailer when we travel. So we didn’t put it on for one handwashing. Which is probably not the right way to do things.

Definitely do not ever do this in Chloride.

The visitor center man, whose shaggy beard and flannel shirt tucked into overalls made him look like a ghost town extra, ran outside, gesturing indignantly at a tiny puddle on the gravel parking lot.

“I’m going to report you!” he yelled at Daniel, who tried in vain to explain that the water was not dirty.

When I said that our four-year old had to use the bathroom, he spat “I don’t care if your kid has to take a leak!”

Unable to stay quiet, I added, “But we asked to use your bathroom and you said it didn’t work”.

“That’s a lie,” he grunted, so close to me that I could feel his breath and imagine his whiskers. I really thought he was going to push me over.

Chloride has no police station, did it rely on vigilante justice instead, like some of the other out-of-the-way places we’ve visited on this trip?

He stomped across the empty street, and then stomped back, his face echoing the oncoming storm brewing overhead.

“Do we need to wait for someone, the people you’ve reported us to?” we asked.

He looked at us like we were the crazy ones, and said, “no, they know all about you.”

“Who are they?”

“The EPA,” he retorted, infuriated.

“The Environmental Protection Agency?”

“Look it up in the phone book, or on your fancy computer,” he replied, stomping back into the shop.

So off we went, fairly quickly, in case anyone with guns showed up.

We wanted to sneak a photo of him, but were afraid. Plus, his wife was on the veranda of the shop, notebook and pen in hand. So we took a photo of the visitor center, through a closed window.

As we left, we caught glimpse of a giant billboard reading 'GUNS', advertising an upcoming gun show nearby.

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