What's Wrong With Sleeping Outside
July 22, 2014
Mosquitoes, that was the only thing I had to fear. That and some loud teens that had left the park just as I decided that I couldn’t stand the offensive little bugs that feasted freely on my flesh.
I didn’t leave the park however. Madison is a lake town and this particular park, like most of the parks next to the lakes, had a boathouse.
Stepping off the city bus with a long black duffle bag with two wheels, a neon green mesh bag full of dirty laundry, and my smaller black shoulder bag that carries my computer and other essentials, I walked into the park I would be sleeping in for the night for the first time.
I have rarely visited the neighborhood surrounding the park. Blocks away sat a building where I received help to quit smoking last year from the UW. But other than that this park was regarded from afar on the familiar bus route.
I had arrived with an hour left of daylight and scanned for the best spot to “set up camp.” To the back of the park, close to the water, is a thicket of trees and tall grasses and I chose a spot in the middle of the brush and set out flattened cardboard boxes to sit on.
The pain from dragging my rolling duffle while shouldering another eight or nine pounds for about twenty yards made my limp ankle pulse inside of my splint.
I gave the park a long scan to take in what kind of people attended such a lovely green space.
My Chosen Destination
Of course people not of my race, and they all were preoccupied enough in boating, playing a sport, or chatting happily to one another to not notice me. I pulled a book from my smallest bag to wait until nightfall to set up my sleeping pad.
I hadn’t given much thought to all of the things that could go wrong with sleeping in such a space.
As the people trickled out after sundown, the mosquitoes began to appear. One by one they began to attack until I was scratching all over. By that time it was dark so I made my sleeping pad.
Lying out the cardboard boxes to my length, I laid my white down comforter over the boxes and wrapped myself in a thick blue robe although the eighty-degree weather begged me not to. I situated my belongings close to me and spread a sheet out over my body covering my head as I lay down on my pillows stuffed against my long black duffle.
Wrapped in the cotton cocoon I tried hard to ignore the feeling of fire all over my body from the mosquito bites. I nestled down breathing evenly through the sheet. Stashed under my pillow were a scrapbook knife, and my iPhone.
I lay there for an hour and a half, peeking out to be sure my surroundings were clear every now and then. The teens had congregated at the boathouse about five yards away but their laughter carried on the wind back to me. Bats flew in and out of the creaking trees, and I reminded myself every five minutes that the shushing noises that I was hearing was just the rustle of the tall grasses.
A Picturesque View From the Pier
A while after the teens had left I gave up the location and broke down camp quickly to escape the undue wrath of the mosquitoes. The rest of the night passed uneventfully. The mosquitoes around the boathouse seemed more preoccupied with the recessed lights on the eves of the modern wood and brick structure. The only other worry I had were people fishing at midnight who may call the police, and spiders. To tell the truth I was more concerned with the spiders than the nocturnal fishermen.
I awoke at the behest of my alarm promptly at five in the morning. Slowly I stood, stretched and folded up my pack into my long black duffle. I had a lot to do that day. An appointment with a spinal neurologist was first on my agenda, then laundry, then a bunch of other little errands to run.
Sitting at one of the picnic tables perusing my phone I realized that the boathouse had free Wi-Fi. Shortly after my discovery the metal service windows of the nautical structure began to rattle and I felt it would be best to leave.
The next night I skipped the formalities and went straight to the boathouse after dark to set up my pack. A few late night scares that second night at the park prompted me to check city law, and I realized it was against the law to sleep in a park in Madison between the hours of ten at night and four in the morning.
Luckily I had mosquito repellant the second night but being in that park by myself was stressing me out. I knew I needed to make a choice.