Monday, November 23, 2009

Nature versus nurture

Before I get into today's post, I'm extending an invitation to anyone who cares to join me for a Turkey Day ride on Thursday morning. Trails are a mess in Draper right now with more snow falling last night, but the road up American Fork Canyon was dry yesterday. 7:30 from the 4-way at Suncrest or 8:00 at the mouth of AF if you're interested. Or you can go play touch football and risk a PCL tear, a broken tooth, or a permanently crooked finger.

More than half a century ago, my mother and her family decided to go see Baldface Mountain. Baldface Mountain is supposedly one of the more spectacular peaks in the Eastern US, since, as the name implies, it's bare rock rather than forested.

Like so many other points of interest, the government charges a fee for the privilege of seeing Baldface Mountain. When the party arrived at the fee booth, the sky was foggy, and they were skeptical about whether or not they'd actually be able to see the mountain they'd come for. The Ranger in the booth assured them that they'd soon be above the fog and the mountain would be in full view. Taking his word, they paid their money and proceeded.

When they arrived at the view point, the fog was no less dense than it was at the fee booth, and they couldn't see a thing. Everyone was disappointed but willing to let it go. Everyone except my grandmother, that is.

As they reached the fee booth on the return trip, my grandmother told my grandfather to stop the car. She got out, walked over to the booth, and told the ranger she wanted her money back since he said they'd be able to see the mountain and in fact they couldn't.

He indicated that there were no refunds and he was unable to return her money. She encouraged him to give her a refund anyway, but he held firm.

She then walked up the road a bit and waited for the next car to arrive. As it did, she told the occupants that the mountain was socked in with fog, that the ranger would tell them it was visible but it really wasn't, and that they should turn around and go back.

They thanked her for the information and turned around. My mother, who was five years old at the time, was horrified. She knelt on the floorboards trying to make herself invisible. She was aghast at the embarrassment and shame her mother was bringing on the family. My grandfather and his sisters just sat there and waited. They'd seen this before and knew there was no sense in trying to talk her down.

Another car came, and my grandmother did the same thing. Then another, and perhaps another. My mom isn't sure, since she was hiding rather than counting cars. Finally, the ranger came out and offered a refund if she'd just go away, an offer she gladly accepted.

When my mother told me this story, more than fifty years after the fact, it was apparent there was still some residual embarrassment that she wasn't quite over.

Whatever the gene governing such behavior is, it evidently skipped a generation. Because I just laughed and told her I would have done the exact same thing.


  1. My grandmother was feisty like that. She would return anything she wasn't happy with and would escalate to the highest level of management if she wasn't satisfied. At times it seemed petty and I was embarrassed, but many other times I admired her gumption (great word).

  2. [throwing yellow flag, pulling yellow card out of pocket and waving it]

    you can't use a word and then compliment yourself for using that word. you can't even use a word and then compliment the word for being a great word.

  3. Oh, hi dug.

    I just like the word.

  4. That is a women I can get behind.

  5. Good heavens. A womAn, not a womEn.

  6. Dug, why not a straight red card?

    FWIW, I'll second gumption being a great word, thereby removing Kris's sting for complimenting his own diction.

  7. Wait - that was Mark, not me, in the previous comment.

  8. cuz a red card is an ejection. i'm not trying to get crazy here--a slap on the wrist will do.

    but if crazy is what it takes, i'm your man.

    i also give YOU a yellow card for jumping in and saying gumption is a great word. i mean, it's fine. it's nice. it's got a nice ring to it.

    but GREAT? egregious grade inflation.

  9. What if I had said:

    "... I admired her gumption (I like that word)."

    That's what I meant. The colloquial form of great, like "what a great day".

  10. Mayonaise, now that is a cool word.

  11. I always liked non sequitur. Though I have no idea what it means.