Logic, U.S. government style.
Last week, I was in the North Cascades National Park. On a whim, I stopped by the Visitor Center at Newhalem. In addition to the usual interpretive displays, they have an excellent three-dimensional map of the area that identifies rivers and lakes and dams with lights; push a button and a red light appears on the map to show you where that thing is. They also had a ranger standing at a table with a bunch of reproduction animal skulls (wolverine, wolf, and bear) and corresponding paw castings and pelts. And a gift shop.
I went into the gift shop before leaving because … well, that’s what I do. I found some interesting kids’ stuff and picked out two gifts for my neighbor’s grandson, who has some learning disabilities. Then I saw a large coffee mug I liked — I like a big cup of coffee in the morning — and thought I’d buy it as a little gift for myself. But it had a paper sticker on it that had nothing to do with the mug. I reached for another, hoping to find one without a sticker and that’s when I realized that they all had stickers.
The sticker, which is shown below, says:
The North Cascades has an annual rainfall of over 200″ in some areas, which feeds the many cascading waterfalls of the region.
On a side note, I can definitely believe that rainfall figure because it rains every single time I go there. Although I like rain more than most people — probably because it rains so seldom where I live — I prefer getting rain at home instead of when I’m traveling. (Yeah, I know: whine, whine, whine.)
Of course, being the inquisitive person I am, I had to know why this sticker was on the mugs. So when I went to pay for my purchases, I asked the ranger at the check out counter.
He didn’t know. He said he’d never even noticed the stickers. He said he’d ask the guy who stocked the shop.
I didn’t have long to wait. That ranger walked by a moment later and the guy I’d asked called him over and asked him. He seemed almost embarrassed when he told me that they weren’t allowed to sell anything in the gift shop unless it provided some kind of interpretive or general information about the park.
Apparently, just having a logo on the mug wasn’t enough to satisfy some decision maker higher up on the food chain. The sticker was the solution.
I bought the mug as a practical memento of my visit to the park. I didn’t mind paying the price — which I honestly can’t remember — because I figured that it was another way to support the National Park Service. I didn’t need any additional information about the park to help me justify my purchase. And I definitely didn’t need a sticker that I had trouble scrubbing off once I got home.
But it makes me wonder … what other things are National Park Service employees being required to do to meet government guidelines established by someone in Washington who may have traveled to only a tiny fraction of the parks?