David Altshuler, M.S.
(305) 978-8917 | david@davidaltshuler.com

Travels on the Continent

The folks at the RV North Carolina place weren’t kidding when they said, “we just sell them; we don’t fix them.” Our salesperson teased us: “Your check cleared; you’re dead to me.”

I was left wondering what all those folks in the cavernous “Service Department” might be doing. I chatted with any number of them. “When we try to turn on the generator, flammable gas spews out,” I said. “Yeah, not good” they agreed. 

I spoke to Bob who introduced me to Tom who said that Joe might know if Ray could fix some of the scores of problems. At one point I ended up purchasing a rivet gun at the hardware store and before you could say, “why in the name of all that is good in the world was the purchaser of a brand new RV putting in rivets?” we were creaking down the highway. 

Somehow Patti and I managed to do a loop of the country. I visited colleges in Wisconsin, Washington, Oregon, California, and Tennessee, saw residential treatment programs in Oregon and Utah. Not wanting to end up as an unfortunate headline—“Consultant Fricasseed in Exploding Fireball: He Should Have Known Better than to Try to Use the Generator”—we conceptualized the van as a $92,000 tent. 

“You might have considered a $200 tent” a fellow camper suggested. “Then you would have has ninety-one something thousand dollars left over to buy a cooler.”

“How did you know the fridge in the RV also doesn’t work?” I asked. 

“The bags of ice in your hands and the unrelenting stream of inappropriate language were our first clues.”

In our defense, we now realize that we were subject to a sophisticated scam. The RV folks promised that in the unlikely event that any—or in our case all—of the vehicle’s systems failed, that there were certified dealers across the country peopled with happy mechanics competent and eager to repair our little refrigerator, the sensors on the water tank, the generator—“RV Explosion Seen from Space”—and myriad other concerns. What the smiling salespeople neglected to mention was that appointments for said mechanics weren’t available until December. 

The ineptness bordering on perfidy of the RV folks—“I sold you the vehicle, now you expect it to actually function?”—reminded me of some parents: I gave birth. What more do you want? 

There has to be more to having kids than, “you have food and shelter. What else is there to talk about?” 

I would argue that it is incumbent on the parent to determine what is going on with the child across ages and stages. It is not the child's responsibility to have that insight. A crying baby needs a cuddle. Or a bottle. Or a diaper change. Or possibly a nap. Figure it out. A crying baby does not need to be told, “I gave you a cuddle, a diaper change, and a bottle. Now you’re on your own.”

A similar, if more complex calculation, is appropriate for adolescents. Food, clothing, and shelter are necessary but not sufficient conditions. Helping teens figure out why they tend toward morose monosyllables is every parent’s sacred trust. 

When Patti and I determined that the RV place in North Carolina was incapable or unwilling to make good on their promise of selling us an RV that actually worked--although to be fair, we had no trouble with the door handles--we drove to Indiana, a mere two-hundred-something miles out of the way, to the one dealership in America that could see us before New Year’s and fix enough things so that we could continue stumbling across the country touring college campuses without exploding. Whereas parents don’t have this option. No one in Elkhart, Indiana wants to cuddle, change, or feed your baby. No one at the RV place wants to help you figure out why your middle schooler isn’t doing her math homework. 

The good news is that your child is unlikely to burst into flames causing you and your spouse to become unfortunate statistics. The bad news is that the sadness and damage resulting from misunderstood and poorly parented kids will be much worse.



2 thoughts on “Travels on the Continent

  1. John Calia

    Although the twins are approaching a date marking a half century since their birth, I can recall the early days when a cuddle, some food and a diaper change weren’t enough to sooth their savage caterwauling. So, we would put them in their cribs hoping the crying would cease before we could figure out how to sell them into slavery. It would be months — no, years — before the amount of energy invested in guiding through life seemed to repay itself in parental joy. Ages 5 to 10 are about the best, I would estimate. And it’s all downhill from there. There are a few ups and downs along the way. You’re never dumber than the day they graduate high school. You’re never smarter than the day they graduate college. But I would say that providing food, shelter and an occasional kick in the pants is about all they needed to achieve adulthood and a fairy stable lifestyle. More than that and you’re likely not to have your investment repaid. All things considered, a dog might be a better way to go. You don’t have to send them to college. They never borrow the car. And, they’re trainable.

  2. Martin

    Good one. Great detail and apt comparisons / lessons. It might be said that children do not come with actionable warranties and newbrns are indeed acquired “new”. But thankfully most do come as standard models with proven inborn technology though learning how to service them is indeed something learned if at all, on the job.

    For $92,000 you can buy a very nice used sailboat. But still have to learn how to maintain it and put in the hours. And though it can cross oceans it won’t get you very near institutions of higher ed.

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