Opinion | Biff America: Sweet smell of an open mind
Three dollars is a very good price to pay for 11 gallons of sewage. The going rate can be as high as $20.
I should probably point out my bride and I weren’t in the market to purchase, but rather to deliver.
Anyone who has ever traveled in a camper or RV is familiar with the term “black water.” Black water is what the toilet empties into the holding tanks. You must occasionally find an ecological place to empty it while traveling. The places where you do that are called “dump stations.” They can be found in RV parks and some state and federal parks. Some are also offered as an amenity in western towns; those often only ask for donations.
In our particular RV, we can usually go a week before needing to offload, depending on our diets. We had just dumped the day before when we passed through a New Mexican town with a cool visitors’ center. The lady working the front desk was friendly and knowledgeable. She told us about local trails to ride and hike and public lands where we could free-camp.
We picked up some maps, used the Wi-Fi, left a ten spot in the tip jar and left. As we pulled away, we saw a previously unnoticed dump station next to the building with a sign that said $3 dump fee.
Three dollars was much less than we paid the day before. I did a quick trip itinerary in my head and realized we would be back to that exact spot in about a week.
We had a great time in the “Land Of Enchantment.” The hiking and biking were amazing, the people friendly — and there were not many of them.
We pulled in to that visitors’ center six days later and checked the sign once again. I went inside to pay and get a key to unlock the station. I gave the same nice lady my $3 and asked for the key. She told me I was $17 short. I politely said I just looked at the sign and it said $3. She pointed to a laminated price sheet hung on the wall that read $20. I asked if she had seen the sign out front advertising a lower price, and she said she doesn’t walk home that way. I asked if she could go out with me and take a look at it, and she said she couldn’t leave the building until the end of her shift at 6 p.m.
I was at a loss. I did not believe the nice lady was trying to cheat me or pull a fast one. She was simply getting her information from a different source and had no interest in exposing herself to an alternate perspective of the going rate of sewage.
I hope you readers will believe me when I say it wasn’t the money; it was the principal. OK, let me rephrase that. It was partially about the money. But there was also a sense of frustration that I knew I was right. Despite that, I gave her $20 and she gave me the key.
It was midway through the process of watching our black water flow through the clear hose that I had two revelations. One was that we should eat more fiber. But the more important revelation was that many of us are not looking for information, we are seeking affirmation.
In my mind, I accused that lady of having no interest in exposing herself to alternate perspectives. Well, the same could be said of me. I glommed onto the source of information that suited my already-held beliefs.
It seems that sewage and politics have much in common. Most opinions about politics, social issues, vaccines, gun regulations and the health benefits of kale are based on the source of information one uses to form that opinion.
Our nation and social civility has been damaged by those who confine their gathering of information from a source that simply tells them what they want to hear. Moreover, there is the tendency to harshly judge any of those who don’t share their views. I’m guilty of that as well. Going forward, I will seek out (reasonable) arguments from the other side, i.e. arguments that challenge my thought process and long-held beliefs in hopes of broadening my political and social horizons. I will open my mind to the other side of all the above issues. Though I won’t make any promises in regards to price of sewage and kale.
Jeffrey Bergeron’s column “Biff America” publishes Mondays in the Summit Daily News. Bergeron has worked in TV and radio for more than 30 years, and his column can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He is the author of “Mind, Body, Soul.” Bergeron arrived in Breckenridge when there was plenty of parking and no stoplights. Contact him at email@example.com.
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