Thursday, February 25, 2010

Dad – there’s a serious problem with the sewer

capilano My oldest son pointed out that I missed a memorable campground in my list of places we’ll never willingly go back to.  The KOA that used to be in Vancouver (or more accurately Burnaby) probably should have been on that list.  But in fairness to the campground it is no longer a KOA and with any luck it has also changed ownership since our stay there many years ago.  I’ve looked online and tried to figure which is the guilty campground but I’m just not sure so all I will say about the current campgrounds in Vancouver is that we have stayed at several of them and now we will only stay at Capilano.  The story that follows has nothing to do with Capilano but if somebody is looking for a park to stay at in Vancouver then Capilano is the one to pick.

RJ was probably 6 or 7 at the time and very much into helping.  He was pretty good at guiding me while I was backing into sites and Marilyn willingly gave up that duty as soon as we were sure he was capable of it.  But he was also 6 or 7 so when he very solemnly announced “Dad – there’s a big problem with our sewer”, I probably didn’t take it as seriously as I should have.  We were all climbing into the truck for a trip into Vancouver to see my old aunt and one of the items on the day’s agenda was picking up a sewer hose extension.  The sewer hookups at that campground were right at the road and we didn’t have enough hose to hook up.  So whatever the sewer problem was that he was referring to I knew it wasn’t of our making.  I remember noticing a faint sewer smell in the air but didn’t think much of it at the time.

We were gone all day returning home in the early evening with a sewer hose extension only to find a note on our door saying “report to the office immediately.”  So Marilyn headed off to the office and eventually I got around to hooking up the new sewer hose.  About the time that I was hooking up the hose, Marilyn returned from the office.  That meant that she was in the trailer when RJ came out to “help” me and promptly returned to the door of the trailer puking.  The “big problem” with the sewer turned out to be a plugged drain somewhere downstream from our site.  All of the sites in our immediate proximity had little puddles of raw sewage that had pushed up from underground.  The stench and sight of that had brought on RJ’s puking.  The worst part of the whole situation was that somebody at the campground had remedied the problem during the day but hadn’t bothered to clean up the obvious mess at more than a dozen sites upstream from the blockage.

When I got done cleaning up our site and got us hooked up Marilyn told me the reason for the summons to the office was to tell us we hadn’t paid for that night’s stay and that we had to move into the overflow section.  I had the credit card receipt clearly showing that we were not only paid for that night but the subsequent one as well so that wasn’t going to happen.  Before I could head off to yell at somebody Marilyn asked if she could deal with it.  At that stage in our lives she was working hard at becoming more assertive and she thought this would be a great opportunity to practice some assertiveness.  So I wasn’t there for the rest of the story but I have heard it enough times that I think I can retell it.

woodallsWhen she showed the owners the receipt they acknowledged that they had a mistake in their reservation system and that we could stay where we were.  Then Marilyn asked what the W logo in their sign meant and they said it was a rating by Woodalls.  Marilyn then asked for the address for Woodalls and the camp people asked why she would want that.  “So that I can send a formal complaint about this campground.”  And things escalated from there culminating in a screamed accusation that “people like you make it bad for everybody” aimed at Marilyn. 

Eventually Marilyn returned to the trailer to tearfully tell us that we were going to be thrown out of the park.  When she had calmed down a bit she told us that the owners had said they were going to call the police and have us ejected.  My response was that it was unlikely that they really wanted to involve the police when they still had raw sewage sitting at all the sewer hookups surrounding us and as it turned out my assessment was correct.  We left when our initial reservation expired but that wasn’t the end of the story because Marilyn did write the letter she had threatened to write.  In addition to Woodalls she sent the letter to KOA.

Some time later she got a phone call from the president of KOA who thanked her for her letter and then informed her that the campground in question was no longer part of their system.  “Just because of my letter?”  No, apparently they had many other complaints about that location and Marilyn’s letter was the famous straw that broke the camel’s back. 

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