Wherever the Road Leads

Wilma and Workamping


This is the longest Blog Post that I have ever done. There are no pictures to break up the words. Just the story of recent events.


Right now my 91-year-old mother, Wilma, is in hospital and currently struggling. She has a very bad case of Shingles, causing her great pain and nausea, therefore she was not eating and is frail.

Then she fell beside her bed – her knees gave out, she said – and she couldn’t get up. She phoned my Uncle Peter, her older brother who lives in the same building, to come to help her get up. When Uncle Peter arrived, he assessed the situation and called for an ambulance. My mother was admitted to hospital where the doctors have discovered that she has Atrial Fibrillation – an abnormal heartbeat – which can cause dizziness and even a stroke.

All of y’all, had this been you, would have dropped everything and rushed to be with your mother… Shingles and now a heart condition. Some of y’all know my mother. None of y’all has a mother like her. I love my mother. My mother is the most stubborn woman in the history of mankind. There is but one way of doing things – The Wilma Way. If you are not doing things The Wilma Way, it is not that you have a preference for doing things differently, a way that works better for you, you are doing it the wrong way.

I am living my Hare-Brained Scheme, currently in an RV Park twelve miles from my now-rented-out house and friends who would be happy to store my trailer for a while. It will never be simpler for me to go to Canada. But I’m not going. Here’s the story…

When I was first contemplating the Hare-Brained Scheme – renting out my house, buying a camper and traveling, living in it full-time – I learned of an opportunity at Amazon.com*. Amazon* has Distribution Centers in somewhat remote parts of Kentucky, Nevada and Kansas. They have difficulty getting temporary labor to meet the demands of their three-month Christmas peak period.

A few years ago they began a program called “CamperForce”* to seek out people like me – retired, older and living in their RVs. Realizing we have a lot of experience, potential and old-fashioned work ethic, they began offering a reasonable hourly wage, PLUS they pay for the RV Site – full hook-up: power, water, sewer. The closest Distribution Center would be in the mountains of Kentucky, where my only reluctance would be the weather conditions when, with my limited experience, trying to get home pulling a trailer the day before Christmas.

I thought it might be an idea to work one year to pay my air fare to South Africa the following year. One year Amazon*, the next year Johannesburg. My mother thought this was a great idea. While going to South Africa was a good idea, working was a fabulous idea. Though getting back into warehousing and distribution was not my idea of fun, I did have to admit that I was getting a little bored after the novelty had worn off of the Hare-Brained Scheme.

My idea was to travel and my first areas of interest were the states of Mississippi and Louisiana. I discovered a volunteer organization where you can volunteer your services at a National Forest or a National or State Park, painting a few fence posts, hammering in a few nails, manning a Front Gate, cleaning a few toilets in exchange for a free RV Site and Full Hook-Up. THAT tickled my fancy considerably more than ten-hour shifts, four and then five days a week packing or shipping widgets to folks, or loading up UPS trailers. Volunteering would give me something to do in the outdoors and cut down on one of my biggest expenses – site rental.

That idea seemed okay to my mother, not as good as Amazon but at least I was not being a retired layabout.

Three things happened at about the same time. I discovered that my ‘coach’ had been leaking and I was facing a hefty repair bill. The National Park in Mississippi where I had been in contact, had emailed References and thought I had a good chance at traveling to, emailed me and said all of their last year’s volunteers were returning and they couldn’t use me.

The third event was discovering that Amazon’s Nashville Distribution Center was offering the CamperForce* Program this year for the first time. Nashville is much closer to home and accessible by mostly-flat interstates in a warmer clime than two-lanes and ice through the Appalachians on December 24th.

I threw my name in the hat and within a few days, got a phone call that served as an interview, followed by a job offer contingent on three items: clear a background check, a drug screen and proof of education with the minimum requirement being a G.E.D. – meaning graduating twelfth grade.

My mother was ecstatic. I was going to work. Her life had meaning once again.

Background check: no problem. Drug screen: no problem. Proof of education: uh-oh.

For years I kept and carried round a letter from Niagara College in Niagara Falls Canada listing my grades – a transcript. I tore this trailer apart looking for it, without success. I spent an hour on the phone as my mother searched her condo, going through what I had left up there, without success.

I looked into taking the GED test while I was in Florida. While I was working I always considered a GED as a diploma for dummies. How difficult could it be for someone who has has a lifetime’s worth of experience, Trivial Pursuit playing and Jeopardy-viewing? About as easy as it would be for someone American-born to pass the test that Immigrants have to take about their knowledge of America, how it came to be and how it runs.

Here is a Practice Test. The GED is broken down into four academic areas: math, reading/writing, social studies as well as history. Reading/writing I figured I could ace, so I didn’t even try those questions. I didn’t need to; the others did me in. Give it a try, boost your self-esteem. The categories are across the top of the page. Click and go for it!!


I called the local Board of Education where I was in Clay County Florida. I could take the tests for $135. She recommended taking only two at a time as they were intense, ninety minutes long with only ten minutes in between. You needed to score 50% on each to pass and 55% combined overall. The testing was done on Wednesdays and I was running out of time in Florida.

It dawned on me that I had a contact who might be able to cut through the maze. My cousin Al’s wife, Debbie, was recently retired from a long career at the University of Guelph. Surely she could get me pointed in the right direction to get my grades out of Niagara College. And indeed she did. It was dead simple, once she found the right page and link! Simply print out a Transcript Request Form and fax it to them. What could be simpler? I printed out the form, filled in the information and paid the lady at the RV Park to fax it up to Canada.

I asked the college to mail my grades to my address in Green Cove Springs, where I was in Florida. There was only a week left in my stay there before I left for Savannah, but I hoped that Canada Post might have acquired a younger donkey who might be a little quicker in getting the mail turned over to the United States Postal Service, who still have integrity.

Eight days passed and the letter had not arrived in Green Cove Springs. I traveled on to Savannah, then had the Mail Forwarding Service send whatever mail that had collected to me, in care of Pine Lake RV Park, where I was headed next. The mail package arrived, but no letter from Niagara College. It was now Labor Day Weekend, three weeks from my fax.

On Tuesday, September 2nd, with my ‘Successful Transmission” fax cover sheet in my hand, I called Niagara College to ask for some details. The young woman explained that they had never received the request. The requests do not come to a fax machine, they come to a computer and she went to the log files for the day I sent the request. I gave her the exact time. She had received a fax a half-hour earlier and a half-our later, but nothing at 11:18am. Very strange.

I checked the obvious – what Time Zone was I in, what Time Zone is the College in? Both Eastern, so the time – 11:18 was correct. Then I saw it. The fax had been successfully transmitted to area code 904. Niagara College is area code 905. The woman at the RV Park had mis-keyed the area code. Sort of. I later looked it up. Area code 904 is the local area code in St. Augustine, where we were. Whether it was force of habit that she keyed 904, whether it was that she assumed that the tourist, me, had made a mistake, I don’t know. Bottom line is I didn’t check thoroughly enough and I was now three weeks behind.

I printed out a new Transcript Request form and this time, I emailed it to Niagara College, with a cover letter explaining the previous error, the urgency and I repeated all of the details, name, date-of-birth, year completed, address where I wanted it sent, everything that was on the form itself. The email went through, I did not get a bounce-back.

The college promises a two-day processing time, so in three days I called back. I got the same girl who told me, “Oh yah, I seen it come in and I remembered you so I sent it out the same day, September 2nd. ” Wonderful. Except as of September 11th, nine days later, it hasn’t arrived.

The College has a strict policy about not faxing or emailing Transcripts. I am out of time, ahmoan need an exception. I called the college. I was hoping for the same girl who ‘seen’ my request come in and remembered my story, but, Praise the Lord, I didn’t get her. This woman pulled up my file and confirmed that the Transcript had been sent out on September 2nd. To the address on file, in Canada, from twenty plus years ago.

I told my story to this lady and begged for mercy. She changed my address – the one noted twice on the Transcript Request Form that DID go through – then printed out my grades and has sent them out Overnight Courier to me. Now, it’s still not a fait accompli and I have not breathed a sigh of relief.

A God-fearing person might wonder, ‘are all of these problems and delays a sign that you should not be going to Amazon?’ And I have wondered, a hundred times over I have wondered. I am sure the good Lord knows of my mother’s stubbornness but I doubt He has dealt with it one-on-one.

I have. She is absolutely adamant that I let happen whatever is to happen to her. Amazon is paramount and trumps all. It’s like I was going into a Rehab Clinic to straighten out my life. Numerous times she has asked in a thinly-veiled manner to assure herself that I am not being led astray by a beguiling woman who might convince me abandon the Amazon idea. It’s not the beguiling woman, it’s her obsession with me going to Amazon.

I offered twice to park the trailer and drive up. A stubborn and adamant Wilma does not say an emphatic “NO” nicely. I was hurt at first when she asked, “For how long?”, then I realized she was wanting to see if I was using her ill health as a way to weasel out of going to work at Amazon. I’m still hurt but defying her and arriving unexpectedly at her bedside would make things worse, not better. The other day she told me, “In hindsight I should have let you come up. We could have said out good-byes and you could have gone on to Nashville.”

Yesterday I spoke with her doctor in the hospital. He says her condition and if/when she goes home and whether it will be assisted or unassisted is being decided on a day-to-day basis.

As is my life and whether my next little while will be spent in Tennessee to work at Amazon or Toronto once her blessing is no longer required. Smart money is on Tennessee and Amazon. She’s too stubborn to let Shingles and Afib do her in. She’s not yet done raising me.



*Amazon, the Amazon logo, “CamperForce”, AmazonSupply, and the AmazonSupply logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.

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  1. Lynda Whitelaw  September 14, 2014

    Gordon, I sent a message to your FB message box. Please let me know if you received it. Thanks


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