How Do You See RVs?
07/10/2006There's a Web Poll at the bottom - don't forget to go express your opinion!
One advantage of being old is that you have a bunch of experiences to draw on. Over the years, I've seen many reactions, heard many opinions, listened to many views, and read many conflicting perspectives on a variety of topics. As a result, there are times that I put a bunch of these observations together and have a revelation ... a realization of a situation that, to me at least, is extremely surprising and possibly of major importance to the rest of the world. When I have these revelations, I immediately assume that I'm the first to realize their existence and significance, only to sometimes learn that I'm the last the figure it out. Some of my revelations, like when I figured out that no convertibles had been produced for about 20 years, turned out to not be revelations at all, but only me waking up and finally smelling the roses. Hopefully, my revelation below is something you may not have already realized, so will be of some value by raising your awareness to a situation that may affect you at some point in the future. Or it might even cause you to consider where you fit in the scheme of things and to possibly even result in your re-evaluating your perception of RVs.
I had a revelation of sorts the other day - I was pondering some strange reactions that I've heard about RVs over the years and I suddenly realized - Not everybody sees an RV the same way that I do! Below, I'm going to discuss some of these views, labelling each, then include a Web Poll at the end of the article to see how you readers feel about all this.
Now, I already knew that my wife (and probably many other spouses) doesn't view our RV the same way I do. When I look at our RV, I see freedom, adventure, and the ability to go wherever we want, whenever we want to. Joyce sees it more like a somewhat large, very narrow, very confining coffin with bars on the windows, where turning on a hair-dryer can blow a circuit breaker, not putting enough water in the flushes can cause serious black-water stoppage, not clicking the refrigerator can result in cold contents being spread across the living room floor, getting hot water requires turning on the stupid water heater 30 minutes in advance, and nearly every day-to-day activity (like walking the dogs) is a major operation, fraught with pitfalls. I've learned to respect this perception and tried to work with it, balancing our limited time in the RV with long periods of living in our land-based, more spacious, simpler "real" home. Label this the "Coffin View".
The opinions that I started thinking about the other day are those of people who really don't know much about RVs and have reached their own conclusions based upon experiences that they consider "similar" to RV-living. What started me thinking was an experience I had several years ago, when I was doing some temporary on-site work for an employer that I'd been associated with for many years and where I had retired a couple of years earlier. I couldn't get a campsite and asked my employer if I could park the RV at the outer boundary of their large parking lot for a few days. No problem! ... until I made the mistake of extending my awning one afternoon. Wow! You'd think I'd plowed a garden in the corner of their parking lot! The next day I got strong words from upper management, letting me know that my RV was no longer welcome in the parking lot and that I needed to vacate as soon as possible. After a little research, I learned that the facility manager was extremely concerned that "all of the retirees" would see this as an invitation to come live free in the parking lot and would converge, with all of their monster RVs, and set up a commune in the parking lot that would be impossible to move. Upon reflection, this produced several revelations.
First and foremost, I realized that these managers don't see a somewhat expensive and upscale home on wheels, equipped with all of the modern conveniences, affordable for those few individuals with an adventurous spirit and a willingness to bear the added expense in order to be able to experience the freedom and flexibility uniquely available to those in the RVing community. They instead saw a home on wheels, a MOBILE HOME, conjuring up images of trailer trash, large black lawn bags of household trash in the front yard, junkyard dogs tied to the undercarriage, old cars up on blocks, drugs, prostitution, crime ... and all of the other negative stereotypes that come from exposure to a few somewhat trashy mobile home parks over the years. I'm not criticizing mobile home parks in general, I'm saying that there are a few out there that are really trashy, and exposure to a couple of these can leave a lasting and indelible impression on the viewer. Being in Alabama at the time, I'm sure these managers had no doubt seen some of the trashier of these, and they knew what was coming as soon as they saw my awning come out.
Second, and somewhat surprising, was the obvious assumption that there were a bunch of retirees out there that would jump at the chance to set up house-keeping in the company parking lot. True, it was convenient to shopping and schools, but hey, retirees don't care much about schools and most would rather not be that close to shopping and cities in general. The view isn't that fantastic and the parking lot certainly doesn't represent a very stable environment. I doubt that there are any of my fellow retirees out there that who would even consider living in the company parking lot, unless they were being paid handsomely for doing so.
Finally, I concluded that these younger manager types seemed to assume that all of those hundreds of retirees out there owned an RV (or mobile home). I don't know if this would be because they can't afford anything "better", because they need to be mobile so they can go visit all their children and grand-children, or if they simply assumed that an RV was part of the standard retirement package. In any case, I'd guess that probably one out of 100 retirees that I know have an RV or would even consider having one. Most retirees have some of the same opinions of RVs, many of which are this "Mobile Home" association - as evidenced by the many retirement communities with very strong aversion to anyone being allowed to park an RV in front of their land-based home for more than 15 minutes or so.
So, that's one view. Label this the "Mobile Home View". I'm not criticizing those managers by any means, just using them as an example of one view of RVs that is in direct opposition to my own. Prior to that point, I guess I'd assumed that most people see RVs as I do - NOT SO!
When I see an RV, I initially assume that the owner(s) are somewhere between semi-affluent and wealthy to be able to afford an RV. I also assume that they're reasonably intelligent, adventurous, willing to take risks to enhance their living enjoyment, not afraid of being viewed as unconventional, inclined to spontaneous actions, and generally the type of people that I'd get along well with and that I'd enjoy having as a neighbor. They tend to keep the areas around their RVs clean, always pick up after their pets, never dump their trash (or holding tanks) anywhere other than officially-designated spots, and always try to leave their parking spot as immaculate as they found it. I'm not too close-minded to not realize that there are some RVers who violate some or all of these perceptions, but I truly feel most RVers are exactly as I assume them to be. Reflection upon the reactions of others to my RV and the RVs of others has, however, finally drawn me to the conclusion that not everyone sees that when they see an RV. In fact, I might venture to say that the majority of people don't agree with me! Label my view the "RVers View".
Another view, somewhat similar to the Mobile Home View, is the one apparently held by the majority of members of boards of many homeowners associations and condo associations. If you closely read the by-laws of some of these associations, you'll note that they're highly opposed to, possibly extremely fearful of, any parking of boats or RVs anywhere in view. Contrary to my view that large boats and RVs are very expensive and a sign of affluence, association boards seem to consider them a sign of trashiness, a tendency toward clutter, and owned by those who have no pride in the appearance of their homes. They not only outlaw boats and RVs from the front yard (the location usually used by those who truly don't care about the appearance of their home), they also don't allow them in the driveway, or even up by the side of the house, unless they're completely hidden from view. They don't allow parking at the curb for the purpose of loading and unloading for periods longer than a few hours. One subdivision I was in once didn't even allow parking for a few minutes! I had a little furniture to unload at our son's home in Ft. Lauderdale, and a police car showed up about 3 minutes after we stopped, letting us know that we had to move NOW! Wow! Those people must have had some really bad experiences with RVers (or maybe with mobile homes .. who knows?). Whatever, it seems that homeowners associations generally view RVs and boats to be similar in appearance to those large trash bins that construction people put in the driveway when they're building a house. For this reason, I'm going to label this the "Trash View".
One more comment on the Trash View. The interesting thing I've noticed in some of the by-laws is that there is no limit on how long a "commercial vehicle" can park on the street in front of a home. That means that those huge lawn service rigs can park wherever and whenever they want to, as well as any huge, ugly, commercial truck or trailer. That seems unreasonable in my view, since many of those commercial vehicles are much more intrusive and unsightly than any RV or boat. On the other hand, it works out well for me, whose RV is actually owned by Robert Hoffman Consulting, Inc., and therefore qualifies as a commercial vehicle. I haven't pushed that detail much yet, but it's ready when/if I need it in the future.
Once again, I'm not criticizing those who write the community by-laws. Their goal is generally to try to maintain a beautiful, pleasant, and inviting environment, so they have to outlaw anything that they view as a threat to those objectives. My point is that some of those views, and consequently the community rules, reflect a general misunderstanding of what an RV really is. Like the Mobile Home View, I feel that the Trash View results from perceptions based upon past experiences that are considered relevant to RVs, but which are really quite different.
There's one more view I've noted and this one is one that I truly don't understand. I've come to realize that many TV personalities and newscasters seem to have a really warped (IMHO) view of RVs. When they hear or are reporting on some person that decided to purchase (or rent) an RV and then forced their family to take a cross-country trip in it, they seem to view this as the height of unreasonableness and torture. It's like eewww! ... living in an RV for a week! ... How could anyone even consider it? I've wondered about this for quite some time and have concluded that these people have never really seen an RV up close, definitely never been inside one, and sort of view living in an RV as very similar to living in a car - a situation conjuring up views of poverty-stricken, homeless people, burrowed deep in the trash and worldy belongings stuffed into their rusty 20-year-old car which probably doesn't run and is infested with mice. I hear of some wealthy foreign individual who decides to buy a quarter-million dollar RV and take their family on a tour of the USA and the newscasters come across with .. Wow! What a wierd guy! How could he consider demeaning his family in this way? There's no way that people of culture and breeding would be able to handle that for more than a few days!
I really don't know what to call this view. I've heard it over and over again on morning shows, newscasts, celebrity interviews, and in movies ... like "RV" ... When Robin Williams first brings the RV home, his family looks at it like a torture chamber. It's presented as a huge joke and an extremely unreasonable whim of a somewhat deranged middle-aged wierd guy. And that view is probably what most of the movie's viewers felt! That's just wierd. I guess I'll simply call this unreasonable view the "Media View", since it seems to me shared by most of those in the media.
THE BOTTOM LINE : So what's my point with all this? Well, I guess I'd like to try to raise a little awareness in those who don't know much about RVs and RVers - maybe not with this particular Blog entry, but through the future actions of RVers who may not have already been aware of the "other views." I, of course, think that my perception is the correct one and that RVers are, in general, a group of pleasant, friendly, clean, and possibly somewhat unconventional people, but people that you'd probably enjoy having as neighbors. I'm hoping that I can find ways to sway the other opinions described above, so that more of my neighbors and acquaintances can gain a better understanding and appreciation for RVs and the RVing lifestyle. One good way to sway some opinions is obviously to actually be an RVer as I describe in my RVers View.
The only opinion I think I have to just accept and live with is the Coffin View, held by my wife and some others. That's how they feel and it probably ain't going to change, so hopefully the Coffin Viewers and the RVers Viewers can just get along and try to accommodate each other as much as possible.
Finally, how about taking my Web Poll below? It doesn't record who you are, just your opinion. And, if there's a "view" I've forgotten, email it to me - I'd like to hear it.
Whoa! Wait! I just thought of two more views that need to be in my poll - the "Extravaganza View" and the "Hog View". These are related, but slightly different. The Extravaganza View is held by those who look at RVers as people who have more money than they need, are quick to waste it on frivolous ventures, and are probably proudly displaying a sign bragging that they're "Squandering their Grandchildrens' Inheritance." They put the extravagance of RVing in the same category with gambling large amounts in casinos, spending unreasonable amounts on pointless parties and expensive travel, and generally wasting resources that could be much more intelligently employed.
The Hog View is those that view RVs as road-hogging, gas-guzzling, highway-damaging monstrosities that have no value and certainly have no place on our public roads. They feel that anyone with a vehicle that large is obviously supporting terrorists and devious middle-eastern oil interests by frivolously using as much fuel as 10 "reasonably-sized" vehicles. They view RVers as having no concern for the environment, the rights of others, and the value of frugality and conservation of our precious natural resources.
All that being said ... please take a minute for my Web Poll below.
If you have views on this or something substantial to offer, put an entry in the guestbook above or email me.