I am writing this from my corner of our motor home. My traveling companion and life partner, the man I married 45 years ago — perhaps in haste — sits in the opposite corner of the RV glaring daggers at me. I don’t know if he’s snapping the paper because I’m making too much noise (even though I’m pretty sure I can pound on this keyboard a whole lot harder before it breaks), or if he’s snapping the paper because he knows how much I hate it.
After spending months living in the confined quarters of what is basically a bus, we are kind of getting on each other’s nerves. And retiring to opposite corners of a 30-foot RV is an exercise in futility as we are always within sneering, snarling and growling distance of each other. But we are not alone.
One of my RV neighbors came by to borrow some Tylenol and to say goodbye. “We’re heading out,” she said, adding, “you know it’s time to go home when your jaw locks from clenching your teeth.”
Seasonal bickering is a common occurrence in Florida campgrounds populated by northern visitors and a sure sign that it’s time to pack up and head out. Early in the winter most couples were all hug-hug, kiss-kiss, but by the Ides of March, some version of the following snowbird sniping takes place behind the thin walls of RVs:
You keep looking at me.
No, I’m just looking in that direction.
But it’s where I am.
Well I can’t help that, can I? Everywhere I look, there you are.
I guess that’s what happens when you live in close quarters for any length of time. In our case, since November 19, which, if today is March 22, has been 125 days (or 3,000 hours but who’s counting?).
You know it’s time to go home when you need a calculator to figure out that 3,000 hours equals 180,000 minutes.
Even for the happiest of couples, this cheek-to-jowl cohabitation works for only so long before things sour and what started out as a cute little quirk explodes into grounds for divorce.
At an afternoon gathering of RVers, a woman from Michigan commented that her husband chewed funny and it was driving her crazy. Her husband, who overheard her, responded, “well, you whistle through your nose, and that drives me crazy!” After that, it was bedlam with husbands and wives slinging spousal barbs at each other: He leaves used dental floss on the sink! She doesn’t fold the paper back to page one. He slurps his coffee, she reads to me from the paper after I’ve read the paper, he refolds the towels, and on and on and on.
It hasn’t always been this way. Early in snowbird season, back in December and January, you would see these same long-time married couples holding hands as they strolled in the glorious sunshine. Well, there’s not so much hand-holding now. In fact, hand-holding has been replaced by eye rolling and paper snapping. And that glorious sunshine? Come on! That thing’s a fireball. Have you been outside? It feels like 185 degrees out there!
Because our RV has been parked beside the newspaper boxes all winter, I was able to watch one particular couple every day. In January, they would stand, leaning into each other, shoulders touching and read the headlines. Then he would reach into the change well to mine for unclaimed quarters. Occasionally he would find one and hold it out to his wife, who grinned as she accepted the found treasure. I called them my goofy couple because they were kind of goofy, but in a cute way.
Early February I noticed a change in habit. Instead of giving her the loot, he slipped it into his pocket and by the end of the month I watched them race to be first to the mother lode, not gently touching shoulders anymore but bumping shoulders as if they were trying to knock the other down and even slapping the other’s hand away to be first to the loot.
Not only are RV couples getting on each other’s nerves, we’re getting a little testy with our neighbors, too. January’s heavenly sounding wind chimes tinkling in the balmy breeze start making a hellish racket in the gales of March when that delightful afternoon “tinkle, jingle, tickle” morphs into “CRAZANK, KERPLUK, DWOINGGGGGGG!” at two in the morning. One RVer’s wind chimes CRAZANKED! until an unseen hand (not mine!) tied the clangy parts together sometime during the night.
“Gee, I guess someone was bothered by the wind chimes,” the owner said.
Each winter, there’s an incident that signals maybe it’s time to think about heading home. This year it was the unfortunate demise of an RVer’s 12-foot-long windsock whirly-gig flying from a pole above his RV. It was a tall pole.
But not tall enough, apparently, because when the wind changed, the tail of the whirly-gig windsock started to slap at the RV next door. If this incident had happened earlier in the season, the RVer getting slapped would have just merely told his neighbor, who would have fixed the problem. Instead, the owner of the RV being assaulted got out his scissors and chopped off six feet.
You know it’s time to go home when people start cutting off each other’s whirly-gigs.