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Friday, May 29, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Paul Turner: Finding others who dislike camping is a secret – until now

A camper skis back to his tent in the backcountry south of Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park. (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)
A camper skis back to his tent in the backcountry south of Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park. (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)

I can’t remember if it’s in the 1956 movie or the 1978 remake.

But in one version of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” there’s this scene. A couple of the pod people meet and give each other the look. It’s a look that says “We know who we are but we have to keep it a secret from the Earthlings.”

Well, we have our own variation on that look right here in Spokane. Only it’s not about invaders from outer space planning to take over the world.

No, our version of the look silently communicates something else. It says “Like you, I dislike camping and want nothing to do with it.”

You can understand, of course, why someone would not want to reveal that to just anybody. Someone in the Inland Northwest admitting that he or she has no interest in camping would be shunned, ostracized and quite likely hounded from our midst.

I mean, not like camping? Here? In Spokane? Why, it’s just not done. Don’t you want to be near nature?

You might as well say you think huckleberries are overrated.

Anyway, we’re just a few days from the unofficial start of the camping season. And though it might seem disloyal to my closeted tribe, I thought I might take this opportunity to reveal a few of the ways we camping unenthusiasts make ourselves known to one another in public.

For one thing, there’s the secret handshake.

If a stranger gives you a grip that seems intended to crush your metacarpal bones, that person might be saying “I hate sleeping on the ground outdoors.”

It’s a cry for help, really.

Or if you meet someone in the Spokane area whose handshake is of the dead fish variety, there’s a good chance that person is communicating something to you. Oftentimes the unspoken message is “Please help me … my family wants me to commune with bears and go without taking a shower for an entire weekend.”

Then there’s the gesture of tapping the side of one’s nose with a single finger, much like Paul Newman and Robert Redford did in “The Sting.”

If you see someone do that in Spokane, there’s a possibility it means “Campfires make my asthma flare up” or “The weekend is when I watch my recorded shows.”

Another bit of anti-camping code looks very much like a gesture employed by Curly in The Three Stooges.

You place the bottom of your right wrist on top of your head and then flap that hand in a vigorous waving motion. To others who resist the lure of camping, this says “I am one of you, brothers and sisters. I adore sleeping with a roof over my head, HVAC and being around people who do not smell like baloney.”

But perhaps the most reliable signal that someone wants nothing to do with camping is a look in the eyes. It’s a bit like the arched-brow expression you give others in your little cluster at a party after someone has just said something jaw-droppingly clueless.

To the uninitiated, it might not be obvious. But to a fellow noncamper, it’s an eloquent look that says “Are you hearing these tent lovers? It’s like they enjoy bug infestations.”

Of course, that look is a bit like the one the pod people gave one another in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” as they were about the steal the life force from another slumbering human.

Something to think about in your sleeping bag this weekend.

Just wondering

Do you think there would be less confusion about Memorial Day’s intended meaning if it had not become just another one of the Monday holidays back in the early 1970s?

Or do you think it’s not really so much a matter of confusion as it is utter ignorance, willful obliviousness or, worse, apathy?

End note

I have a Spokane friend, Florence, who went to college several decades ago in Flagstaff, Arizona. She didn’t have a car. So when she wanted to go home to Tucson for the weekend, she would call one of the men’s dorms in the middle of the week and ask if anyone was headed that way Friday afternoon. It’s about a 260-mile trip, one way.

On multiple occasions Florence arranged rides that way. She didn’t really think anything of it.

But when I was visiting with her last week at Manito Park, she admitted she couldn’t really imagine being a student and doing that now.

Could you?

I realize a stranger who happens to be a schoolmate isn’t a completely unknown entity. But Ted Bundy was a college student, too.

Columnist Paul Turner can be reached at

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