Dear RV Shrink:
During our recent travels to several national parks we have noticed a difference in Park Ranger attitude. Many of them seem burned out and annoyed that we were asking questions about park features, policy, directions and programs. I know they get asked the same questions a million times, but I would think it comes with the profession. With one especially rude ranger I finally reached the end of my patience and gave him a good dressing down. After my outburst I felt awful. I don’t know who got the attitude adjustment, him or me. How should I have handled the situation? —Regretful in the Rockies
Not having been present, I can only give you some scenario advice. First, don’t beat yourself up over this incident. We all lose our temper on occasion. I agree that taking visitor questions are a major part of most park service employee duties. It must get old after a while, but a professional would suck it up and be polite. I have read articles listing absurd questions people ask the rangers like, “Where do we catch the escalator to Half Dome?” “What time does the three o’clock bus leave?” and “Does the river follow the canyon all the way down?”
You have to cut park employees some slack. Many are seasonal personnel who are often asked to wear more than one hat when it comes to park duties. Hours are often long and varied, and half their pay is a view of the scenery they work around. With that said, if you spend enough time in the parks you are going to run into a fair number of rangers who definitely need an occasional attitude adjustment. As long-time card-carrying Senior Pass members it is our job to help the park service out and tweak those individuals who need tweaking. So don’t feel bad. Heck, you might have a Junior Ranger Badge coming. Your ranger could have been a slacker. You may have strengthened the corps with your little outburst. Some people stop looking for work once they have found a job, but that is rarely the case in the park service.
I heard a visitor ask a ranger in Glacier National Park if the collared bears were tame. I think all of us would have to admit that the thought of answering “yes” would at least go through our mind. —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink
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