people don't like the forest service

I think it was my first day as a fed that I realized how much people hate feds. It's still surprising to me how often people used to yell at & berate me just for wearing a uniform. Granted, I was (and still am) very proud to wear the U.S. Forest Service uniform... but this made people pretty furious.

If you know me, you know that I'm kind of a smart-ass but I'm really nice unless you give me a reason not to be. So after a while of letting the public insult me while I was working, I decided that I wouldn't give them any more room to criticize or mistreat me just because I worked for a federal agency. I work for the Forest Service because I believe in the Forest Service. I continue stand up for what I believe is right- even if that means I might leave some visitors to the forest a little unhappy.


Anyway, here's a photo I just took of my notes on this post. I was going to start off by listing things I learned during my first year as a fed, but I got side tracked with all of the weird reasons people have gotten angry with me while I was wearing the FS uniform. Maybe a few stories only happened because some people are clueless and I'm a highly skilled smartass- you be the judge. Either way there's a few that are pretty hilarious. Here are my favorites.

While I was working at the ranger station, a lady frantically ran into the visitor center and asked me where the forest was. I calmly told her that she was currently in the forest, but I guess that answer wasn't good enough because she flashed me an angry look and told me that the Forest Service should have put up signs telling her she was in the forest if she really was in the forest. Already losing my patience, I asked, "How did you know that the ranger station was here?" and she replied with, "Because of the sign." ... I said, "Oh, the same sign that says that you're entering the forest?" and smiled at her as she promptly left the building without a word.

One guy didn't want his wife to have to deal with mosquitoes and bugs on her first backpacking trip. He demanded that I tell him the areas in the wilderness that had absolutely no bugs. When I told him that there's nothing I could do for him and that by going outside you may or may not encounter bugs, he hung up on me. He called back a few minutes later asking to speak to the "person who takes care of bugs in the Forest Service" and I told him that job title doesn't exist. This phone call was much longer than the first because he just wouldn't take no for an answer. He couldn't believe that the Forest Service "is so useless that they can't even track mosquitoes." After about 8 minutes of going back and forth, we decided it was probably best that he and his wife both stay home.

A seemingly nice woman walked into the ranger station. I greeted her with a smile and asked her how she was doing. She took one look at me and told me that I should be in school instead of working for "criminals." I put on my best innocent face and told her that I liked working for criminals. The lady was furious as she stormed out the door and sped out of the parking lot. I still don't know what she came to the station for.

My patrol partner and I were about to go off-duty for the evening when we spotted a couple camped illegally across the lake from our camp. We were pretty tired from working all day in the hot sun but we just couldn't stand seeing their tent so close to the crystal-clear water. As we climbed the granite boulders to get around the lake, they spotted us. They took their dog and waded through the freezing water to get to the other side of the lake. We called out to them and they ignored us. By the time we got to their camp, they were over by our camp! We headed back the way we came, trying to be a little more incognito about it this time, and noticed that they were starting back toward their camp. It was obvious that they were trying to run from us, so my partner took off running. They started running from him but since my partner knew the area way better than the campers, he caught up with them pretty quick. Eventually the couple told us why they were running: they thought we were going to confiscate their dog "like the rangers in Yosemite tried to do." After a good laugh, we explained that we were Forest Service Rangers, not Park Service, and we love dogs. We asked them to move their tent back at least 100 feet from the water's edge, and they agreed. We got overtime hours that day.

A mean-looking guy in his 50's walked into the ranger station one day and was instantly disappointed that it was me who greeted him. He was appalled "that the federal government disrespected him so much that he would have to talk to a young girl who knew next to nothing." Since I hadn't even said anything to him yet, I smiled, said okay, and grabbed my supervisor to talk to him instead. The guy asked her a few questions and she said "I'm not sure, but Miranda knows the answer to those questions. Let me get her for you" and brought me back to the guy. He was so mad. I answered his questions in great detail while my supervisor watched, beaming from ear to ear. I think I got my smart-assery from her.

One dude called the ranger station and said that he had left his food out overnight at his campsite and a bear had gotten into it. I empathized with him until he told me it was my fault and I should have known to call him before his trip and warn him not to leave his food out overnight. Yeah, this complete stranger expected me to know that he was going camping in a remote area in the forest that weekend and blamed me for his irresponsible actions. Being the customer service expert that I am, I said, "Oh my gosh. You're right. I should have known you were going camping this weekend! I can't believe I forgot to tell that bear not to eat the food you irresponsibly left out all night!" He hung up.

Last but not least, an old guy hobbled into the station and angrily asked to speak to the recreation supervisor. I told him that she was in a meeting and he grumbled "god damn feds" at me and told me to "do my job properly" and get the person he wanted to speak to. Taken aback, I assured him that she really was in a meeting and that he could wait for her to be done if he wanted. I kid you not, this is what he said to me: "You know what, I've been around longer than you ever will at this point." I raised my eyebrow at him and realized that I was about to rip this old-timer a new one if I didn't escape this situation. So I left the room without a word until he got in his car and drove away.

These are all completely true stories. I was laughing the whole time I was writing this... the life of a fed is so unpredictable. After a while of people insulting me at work, I decided to live by the motto "do no harm, but take no shit." I don't know if I'm the best representative of the Forest Service, but I sure do make myself laugh at some of the things I've said.

Miranda Leconte1 Comment