We were at Arches National Park last week with some friends visiting from the midwest. Yes, I know, this is what you are thinking: “Boy, are these people dumb or what? Why would anyone go to Moab, Utah in the heat of August?” Well it turns out that lots of people go to Moab in the heat of August. And, apparently, most of them go to Arches.
Our first stop was the Delicate Arch trail. Delicate Arch is the iconic symbol of not only Arches National Park and Moab, but of the entire state of Utah. We had no expectations that we would have the trail to ourselves and we didn’t. We hiked in a crowd, viewed the arch in a crowd, took pictures of the arch with a crowd beneath it, and sat underneath the arch for a few minutes with a crowd. It was beautiful. The air was clear, magnificent clouds were building over the La Sal Mountains. Despite the crowd, we each were able to have a personal experience, alone with the beauty of our world.
That is, until a young European woman tried to make us move away from the arch. “Do you realize that people are waiting to take photos of the arch with no one under it?” she asked. Our group looked at her blankly, each of us probably thinking “Really? There are hundreds of people on the trail. Really?”
I was ready to stand up and move, however, because she did have a point. We were in the way. We were not the only people preventing her from taking a photo, but someone needed to take the first step away from the arch and it could have easily been us. But then my husband told her “no.” He was polite and he told her we would move soon and we did. With a bit more work on her part, she was finally able to cajole everyone else out from under the arch and her photo could be taken.
As we walked back to the overflowing parking lot, I was lost in my thoughts. I was disappointed in myself. By not responding to the woman when she asked us to move, I did not set a good example of civility and courtesy for myself or my boys. After I did move, I heard the woman talking to a young American woman about rude Americans. Where we rude? I thought so. I felt that we should have gotten up immediately to allow her to take her photo. My husband felt that on a crowded day her expectation was unrealistic and so no, we were not rude. We did move after all and she did get her photo.
In the end, neither of us is right or wrong. It is just that as a mom I am conditioned to accommodate everyone and everyone’s requests immediately. This behavior begins when the children are babies and their needs must be attended to NOW. But at what point does this accommodating impulse stop? Should it stop? Is there a point when our society is less than it could be, because we have stopped trying to accommodate other people? I certainly don’t like to get stepped on. But I also value the sense of community which comes from people working together and empathizing with one another. I certainly don’t want to live in a society where everyone is out only for themselves.
In the end, everyone at Delicate Arch got what they wanted except for me. As a mom, I felt I should have been brave enough to set a good example for my boys. I should have said “Hey, she’s right. Let’s move away for a couple of minutes.” I should have offered to take their picture. I can come to Arches in any other season and find isolation at Delicate Arch. These women may never come back. I wish I had been brave enough to be kind.
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