I hadn’t thought ‘lightly’ and ‘politely’ could be interchangeable until a letter from a rental vehicle company proved that, indeed, this is so.
We share a Kaipara beach with ‘no camping’ signs which were ignored by some freedom campers I met during a preprandial wander. The couple, whose van had been parked all day, were relaxing on deck chairs on the beach. The man acknowledged me, but the stiff set of the couple’s backs indicated they had no wish to chat.
I walked past their van, past a fire on the beach and . . . .urghhh!!! . . . past dirty pieces of tissue paper near the boat ramp. Yick!!!
As if by karma, a clean plastic bag lay at my feet. I used it to gather the toilet paper then approached the stiff-backed couple who told me they were from Europe and that this was their third New Zealand holiday.
I politely mentioned the no camping rule and offered a camping spot in a nearby paddock. The declined and looked surprised when I said the beach was popular with boaties and families and that there was a nearby toilet.
“Some naughty people used the grass as a toilet,” I said, indicating the ‘treasures’ in the plastic bag.
They left the next day leaving wood on a fire that smouldered near dry kikuyu.
What would you do? I wrote to the vehicle hire company and days later received a prickly reply informing me I’d made incorrect assumptions. The writer also asked why I hadn’t lightly pointed out that camping wasn’t permitted.
Confused, I checked my letter and found I’d made no assumptions, incorrect or otherwise – I hadn’t accused the company of not educating campers, but said I’d been unable to find this info on their website. And in the circumstances, was the tone of our interaction relevant? Now I felt prickly.
I replied saying that, in fact, they had made an incorrect assumption as I had spoken “lightly” to the campers when I offered them a legal camp site.
A few days later, glancing at the grouchy letter, I realised I’d misread it. I don’t mean to make fun of the writer’s spelling ability – we all have different strengths and weaknesses – but I’d been asked to speak “per lightly” to the campers, i.e. “politely”.
In my chummy reply, I’d agreed with the writer’s idea that, if a similar thing happened again, I should contact the relevant car hire company. I didn’t mention that he’d incorrectly assumed I was a bloke.