I was perusing Amazon for hiking stuff earlier today. I ran across the standard orange poop-hole digging trowel. It’s funny what people “also bought” sometimes while buying other stuff.
So I started reading the comment for some reason, and I ran across the gem above. The question was ridiculous and the response was simple and to the point. But how often have you wondered something silly and obvious, only to come up with the solution later and thought, “Boy was I stupid!”
It’s easy to respond to stupid questions with condescending answers. For some of us, cynicism is an art form, cultivated over years, nurtured and developed into something with its own mind. Often when an opportunity presents itself, our joking, cynical side spews forth an answer before our rational brain can come up with a decent response.
I’m not picking on Elizabeth, above. Not in the least. I laughed and laughed. I reposted her response on Facebook. It was funny and perfectly logical. Someone that doesn’t understand the simple practicalities of pooping in the woods probably shouldn’t be out in the woods alone, yet. If taking a dump is so confusing, then how would the same person handle falling into a 35 degree creek in 45 degree weather? Would they know not to carry a raw steak in their pack and cook it over their camp stove in the vestibule of their tent? Would they assume trail shelters have wi-fi, power outlets, running water and HBO?
I used to take flying lessons, many years ago. There was a quote on the wall in the office:
Whenever we talk about a pilot who has been killed in a flying accident, we should all keep one thing in mind. He called upon the sum of all his knowledge and made a judgment. He believed in it so strongly that he knowingly bet his life on it. That his judgment was faulty is a tragedy, not stupidity. Every instructor, supervisor, and contemporary who ever spoke to him had an opportunity to influence his judgment, so a little bit of all of us goes with every pilot we lose.
Those of us who have been out a few times have an opportunity to help the newbies. I was on a newbie hiking trip a year or so ago. I had hung my bear bag, and one of the new guys had finished eating and walked over to where my bag was hung, PCT Style. He started messing with the rope with his right hand, because he had a wad of stuff in his left. He was just as confused as a bear might have been. The more he pulled on the rope, the higher the bag went. I asked him what he was doing, and he said, “I’m trying to get the bag down so I can put my trash in it.” I responded maybe a little bit sharper than I should have, “Not in MY food bag you’re not!”
I took the opportunity to educate him, that we all carry out the remains of what we carry in. We don’t litter, we don’t burn trash (okay maybe paper towels or napkins, but that’s it), and we don’t put our trash in other people’s bear bags. He had assumed that somewhere there would be a trash bag or can.
Even hiking for a while, we can all learn something. There aren’t many hikes that I don’t learn something, or at least watch a different way of doing something and think “Oh! I didn’t know you could do it that way.” Recently I watched a couple trying to pump filter some water out of a puddle. They were having a terrible time at it, and I was exhausted and just sat and watched. When they finished, I plunked my silicone squishy bowl down under the trickling pipe, and waited so I could pour fresh clean water into my “dirty” bag before squeezing it through a filter. They looked at my bowl of water, mouths open. Then I realized – had I put my bowl out for them, it would have saved us all a lot of time. They could have pumped from the bowl, out of the mud, and cleared out of there faster leaving the source open for me.
It was a missed opportunity, for me to be a friendlier hiker to my fellow trail-marchers. But they learned something just by watching me. I’m sure the idea of a fill bowl won’t escape their memory for a while.
Someone may say silly things, ask stupid questions (they DO exist!) or even do things that make us stare and ask “What the hell was he thinking?” but if we can help someone learn something (even if we have to make a snarky response before answering the question for real), it makes us all look better, and improves the woods experience for all of us.
Imagine if the original poster of the question above never asked. You’re walking along the trail one day when you’re hit by flying poo from behind a bush. The person comes out with their orange trowel in hand and says, “No one told me to dig a hole, I just bought this thing on Amazon…”. So, Snark first, then educate. We’ll all get along better out there.
Now I’m going to go read some more silly questions.