Who’s rude to you?

 | September 9, 2008 8:53 am

Because I’ve been wanting to write a post about this anyway, I’m responding to Joe and Jack’s comments on my post “My Situation” with a whole new post.

I read all the time on other people’s blogs about how nobody gets it and people are rude to them because they live in a car, but honestly, I can’t think of one time in the last two years I’ve ever gotten this reaction.  I have started to wonder if perhaps vandwellers are too quick to jump upon any slight as being proof that we’re being trod-upon and snubbed by society.  We are generally so proud of our rebel/anti-conformity outlook that maybe it’s easier to justify a “screw you” attitude to society if we can cultivate the belief that society has a “screw you” attitude to us.

Like I said in the earlier post, there’s a small percentage of people who I haven’t managed to convince that I’m doing this because I want to and not because I have to, but I can’t think of a single time I’ve encountered rudeness or snobbery because I live in a car.  I’m sure that eventually I will, but it just doesn’t seem to be as prevalent as someone considering living in their car my get the impression of from surfing the web.  I would hate to think that it would discourage anyone from trying it because it’s just so damn awesome to live this way.

Maybe I’m too wrapped up in myself to notice I’m being snubbed. Maybe I just hang out with the right people. Either way, it’s time I ask this question of all the vandwellers out there.

Who has snubbed you for living in your car?  I’m not talking about people pitying you because they can’t comprehend you’re doing this because you want to.  I’m not talking about people being annoyed that you’re sneaking into a campground to shower.  I am also not talking about communities passing laws that make it more difficult for vandwellers.  I’m talking about personal rudeness or snobbery in a one-on-one situation in which car living or vandwelling is the ‘reason’ for it.

I want to know how often people are being snubbed on a regular basis specifically for living in their car/van.

I’ve been putting off this post because I’ve been trying to figure out how to write it so it doesn’t offend anyone, but here you are.  This is is something I’ve been thinking about for a while and would really like to get a discussion going on it.

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10 Responses to “Who’s rude to you?”

Lo wrote a comment on September 9, 2008

While I’m not a vandweller, I’m a “freak” in my own way. I don’t own a car, my most obvious “crazy” trait. Once you get to know me, it just gets weirder.

I think you’re right. If you engage in fringe behaviors, society/media will call you a freak, but not necessarily individual people. But once you become convinced of your own oddness, and feel shunned by society, you will look for examples to back up your beliefs. This is a fundamental human trait that applies to almost anything, not just being weird. We give undue weight to evidence that supports our own prejudice.

Even though I live in post-racial America (ha!) in ultra-tolerant California, it’s still very unusual in my area to see interracial couples. At first, living here and dating my boyfriend, I really noticed when we got looks. Then I started looking for them, and my opinion that we were judged and different was verified anytime anyone looked at us. But hell, people might have looked at us because we wear funny t-shirts, they think I’m hot, who knows? There’s no question that we are treated differently as a couple than I am alone, but even that has decreased dramatically over the last year.

Or has it? I really doubt that society has changed drastically over a few months. The real reason it happens less is that I’m not looking for it anymore, so I don’t see it. Maybe it’s still happening and I’m oblivious, but the most likely explanation is that it was mainly all in my head.

I spent my entire childhood, adolescence, and part of adulthood believing that I was so “weird,” and out of the mainstream. When I got sober, I dropped that completely and constantly emphasized in my mind the ways that I’m the same as everyone else. Only then, when I stopped believing I was unusual, did I actually become unusual.

But so what? Nearly everyone has something weird about them. If you live in a van, your quirk is more visible than most, but do you honestly believe that any of these “normal” people don’t have some twisted, fucked-up part of themselves? Of course they do!

The reality is that most people keep their uniqueness hidden. It’s a shame, because if everything were laid bare to the world, most would find their secrets are not so strange at all. Those who are most ruled by fear become judgmental of other’s oddity to protect what they consider to be something evil or wrong in themselves. It also means that they’re isolated in their fear, likely believing that no one but them finds ear wax to be sexy, or like to drink pickle juice out of the bottle, or cheat on their wife with older men, or whatever.

So when someone judges me, I’m most likely to feel compassion. I don’t tolerate it, simply walking away from the most abusive. If they’re only mildly rude, I don’t defend myself but rather describe all the advantages for me personally (this makes it much less threatening!) and if they’re still hating (they never are), drop it. I don’t tell anyone why they should walk instead of driving, I merely describe how I got rid of my car as an experiment and found my life drastically changed for the better. As Jessica does, just talk about how much you love your lifestyle, and emphasize “it’s great FOR ME.”

I have unknowingly convinced people to try carlessness this way on a couple occasions (that I know about, maybe there have been many more!) using this method. The cashier at quiznos tells me: “Hey, I started walking to work! You made it sound so great I decided to try it and wow you were right.”

Finally, remember that people will react much more to your tone and courtesy than the fact that you live in a van. If someone is giving you a hard time, their problem is likely with you more than the van.

And hey, you never know. Maybe that uptight soccer mom had a rough time 10 years ago and was forced to live out of her car and turn to prostitution. You’ll never convince her that vandwelling is romantic or awesome, but who cares if you convince her? You like it, she didn’t. So what?

jack wrote a comment on September 9, 2008

Well, I don’t think I really have anything of substance to add to this conversation. I actually don’t live in a van, though I am seriously considering it once I’m done with my job next year. So, no, never encountered any real animosity.

What I would say is that, at least within the circle of people I know here in DC, finding out that someone lives in a car/van can definitely elicit more than just pity. What’s super weird is that I have a feeling that there may be more ill will towards a vandweller that does NOT NEED to live in a vehicle but is doing it for other reasons. It challenges certain people’s sense of self in a way that feeling pity for someone who is down on their luck does not. Even if it is not verbalized, there are definitely people who will automatically harbor negative feelings towards a vandweller. On the othere hand, if you don’t really experience it that often, why should the vandweller really care?

Chris Harne wrote a comment on September 9, 2008

Most people who see me don’t know that I live in a van. Even when I get a job, it takes many days before I reveal the fact to anyone. What I get then is uncertainty. Sometimes people immediately see what I’m all about – sometimes I need to tell them it’s by choice and I’m happy.

You’re right when you point out that people who WANT to be snubbed will find ways to SEE themselves snubbed. I dress, smell and look normal. I think the closest I’ve come to being condescended to is when I get a look of uncertainty while I’m cooking with my doors open. Sometimes passers-by will give me a quick look of surprise. It’s not positive or negative – people just don’t see van-cooking every day.

I contend that nobody is getting snubbed unless they’re doing more than just living in a vehicle. You can get the stink eye for getting caught ‘showering’ in the sink at a Denny’s, and some people give the stink eye to anyone with tattoos and piercings. Vandwelling, in and of itself, doesn’t garner much attention. If someone is a snobby asshole, they’ll never find out where I live, ’cause I just won’t bring it up. If a snobby asshole happens to discover me, I doubt they’ll say one word. I’ll give a big smile and move right along with plan A: living life.

I agree with your viewpoints here, and think you worded your thoughts very well. It’s exactly how you said it.

Joe wrote a comment on September 9, 2008

I just want to say that i’m really glad that I stumbled on this website. This has been a real huge support in doing this whole thing. As for the whole snobby thing, the person that I encountered this from was from my best friend. When I told him about my living situation, his words were “Why are you doing this, you come from a rich family?” He then sort of gave this scoff/laugh, as if my idea of doing this is stupid. It doesnt change my relationship with him because I know where he comes from and he can be close-minded at times.

I agree with Lo about being positive when you tell people about what you are doing. I’ve had a friend respond by saying that I am having way too much fun with this. When I tell people what i’m doing, I tell them that i’m basically camping for a year, however, they just dont get it. I dont argue with them or try to persuade them to understand, but if they ask questions, i’m happy to answer them.

On another note, I received good news today that my student loan went through. I’ve been looking for places to share/live on Craigslist and it is roughly coming to around 500 incl. utilities. It seems that now that i’ve gotten a taste of this lifestyle, I feel that I can do this and I would hate to be a quitter. The real fear was just stepping out of my comfort zone. After that, everything seems to be working but with a little more effort on certain things. I’m pretty sure i’m going to stay with this as long as I can. I dont think I could go back to paying for rent, when I know that this option is available.

Sorry Jessica for using this as my journal entry. Once I start writing, I just keep going. Hey Lo, what ethnicity is your bf and yourself and what part of cali do you live?

Travis McGee wrote a comment on September 10, 2008

Great website! I have lived aboard various small boats during my life, and am now getting ready to wander around the country (USA) for a year or so in my Toyota Prius. It is amazing and liberating once you realize how little it takes in material possessions to be happy. Keep on keeping on!

Little Breakaway wrote a comment on September 11, 2008

Right, people will notice things that they’re more sensitive to.

My current sitch is making me consider van dwelling. Although it’d technically car car dwelling. It’s won’t be easy to live in a Mustang. It’s so cramped. Thought about trading it in, but that’s when I realized that I’m thinking trading in a new car just to solve 3 month long bunking situation.

Issa wrote a comment on September 11, 2008

I’m a weirdo in all sorts of ways. I’m an atheist, used to be Pagan, have dreadlocks, am polyamorous, am into BDSM, like to go barefoot in businesses, am a burner, and I live in my van. I’d be hesitant to throw out laws as not being evidence of bad treatment, since individual people support those laws. It’s not some nebulous “they” that makes the laws that make it hard to be who you are. But, that aside, I’ve rarely, if ever, received negative treatment from anyone for any of my weirdness. When I was Pagan, I saw a lot of people feeling persecuted, but this seemed to correlate to their own hostile and fearful attitudes. Something I said often then is “If you act like a scared, abused freak hiding in the corner, it’s not unreasonable for people to treat you like one.” I try to just be straightforward and casual about who I am, and I’ve found that people react the same. They may ask pointed questions. They may decide they don’t want to be my best friend. But they don’t ever treat me badly.

Click wrote a comment on September 14, 2008

well, my two cents…
i’ve lived on a bauwagenplatz (trailer park isn’t really the right word so i’ve left it untranslated) in germany for the past half year, and when i moved into my caravan had a lot of weird responses from friends when i excitedly told them about my new living situation. the comments were subtle, not always straight-up rudeness (besides the one time when someone just blurted out “i fucking hate hippies,” ummm….), but the sort of comments that gave me a feeling that they were getting defensive because they felt like i was judging their lifestyle by choosing a very, very different one, one that didn’t involve working a job i hated or paying rent or having electricity or a regular bathroom. most people have just been supportive and excited that i’m so excited about living this way, but there are a few (the hippy hater, for one) who have outright stopped talking to me or just refuse to visit because they are grossed out at the thought of peeing outside. i wouldn’t call is getting snubber so much though, because the issues here generally seem to have more to do with individuals own hang-ups and fears and self-judgments than what i’m actually doing.

nice blog, by the way. glad i stumbled upon it.

G wrote a comment on September 27, 2008

Having been a nomad/busdweller(kind of like a giant van, really) I’ve noted that it really depends who you tell(and how) as to the reaction you get….
Many times during my bus/backpack years, i got complete jawdrop surprise when i answered that question… and many times i got total neutral reactions, and sometimes tons of interest. i.e. “wow how do you do that?”. I think it depends on the other individual.

Mike wrote a comment on October 3, 2008

Like everyone else, I’ve had mixed reactions to living in a van. Now I don’t share the fact with anyone (Other than other van dwellers). It’s a choice I’ve made and not subject to anyone’s approval or disapproval.

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