gas station wisdom

“Do y’all sleep in that thing?” yells an older man pulling up alongside Delia, our repair truck, as we fill up at a gas station in central Oregon.

We get this question a lot, and usually my answers turn into satirical explanations: How we spoon each other amid the sewing machines, dreaming of the land of unbreakable zippers and climbers who have learned how to use washing machines.

Assessing my state of fatigue, I pause before answering. His friendly eyes and innocent excitement are his saving grace. Smiling, the man gazes at our vehicle, a whimsical mobile dwelling crafted of reclaimed redwood wine barrels. It’s far different than the faded, rectangular mobile homes I see loosely organized in the trailer park beyond the gas station. “That’s just a lovely truck!” his wife interjects as she leans over the stick shift to make eye contact with me. Kern, a longtime friend and coworker, and I are several hundred miles behind schedule, having indulged in hot springs, climbing and dining. Our job descriptions beckon for no more messing around, but our curiosities have no regard for rules or regulations.

Oregon’s late afternoon sun slows our hustle, and we jump out of the truck.

“We’re traveling the country repairing people’s clothing,” I say out of habit. The man responds with an exciting monologue about repairing his cars, which drifts into a concern about whether or not people he knows can even afford the time to repair clothing. I had not considered this point of view. We talk about local eats, and he proclaims a pending revolution of his diet, but eventually circles back to the convenient hospitality of fast food. There’s something about the couple’s joyous and simple lifestyle that is affecting me, dismantling my dogma.

In a flood of sobriety, I realize in all my gallivanting and preaching about repairs, I have failed to fully consider the realities of our audience. A needle and thread is not a radical act in the situation of this couple. Seeing a lack of income as an opportunity for joyful simplicity—now that’s radical. Finding happiness in the stuff they already own—that’s responsibility.

I walk them both around to the back of the truck and reveal the interior. Like an excited kid solving an arithmetic problem, the man points out that if someone slept on the ground, all five of us could slumber comfortably in here.

In hopes to receive this roadside lesson, I close the back doors of the truck and muster the humility to concede, “Sir, you’re more right than you know. I guess we all could sleep in here.”

This story first appeared in the Patagonia Holiday 2016 catalog