“There’s Only 58, So Get Over It!”
truncate (TRUNG-kate) v. To shorten, as by cutting off.
My cousin Barb’s husband Jim is doubly entitled to be a crusty old bugger, being a retired police officer (he was a Captain on the Berkeley, California, police force) and a retired full-bird Colonel (USAF). Every time I visit Jim at his Bay Area home, he and I spend a lot of time discussing things. We do love to get under each other’s skin. Jim is an S.O.B. (Sweet Old Buddy) and I am a PCPWHNIHTWRW (Pinko College Professor Who Has No Idea How the World Really Works). Barb referees our discussions, being careful to duck out of the way and shield her ears when we really get into it.
During my most recent visit to the Left Coast, Jim and I were discussing national parks and he was rattling on about how he and Barb intended to visit all of them before they died. I told him that he’d have to step up the pace if he expected to visit all 391 before we planted him. He told me that he only has to visit 58, there being only 58 National Park System units designated National Park. He added that I was sadly uninformed for a geography professor, and that he intended to live long enough to dance on my grave. He did not actually say “dance.”
This conversation took place last January, and I thought I had paid no heed to Jim’s argument. (After all, I almost never pay serious attention to anything that Jim says.) But just recently I noticed that my use of national park terminology has shifted perceptibly. In the past few months I’ve gotten into the habit of referring to the 58 national park-designated units as national parks and the rest as simply NPS units.
Without benefit of conscious decision, I have subscribed to the notion that “All national parks are NPS units, but not all NPS units should be called national parks.” In other words, I have, at least at some subconscious level, come around to Jim’s way of thinking.
What a revolting development! The very thought that Jim will now be given free rein to gloat is almost more than I can bear. I briefly considered not telling him about my cognitive conversion but decided that this would be the coward’s way out. So, when I see him next month (the three of us are going to visit Redwood and Crater Lake together) I’m going to tell him that, after allowing for legitimate differences of opinion, and with due regard for his woeful ignorance of enabling legislation, Congressional intent, Supreme Court rulings, and National Park Service traditions, policies and practices, it may be technically appropriate for him to truncate his national park life list at 58.