About Elliot

Story #1: A Time When I Did Something Stupid At Camp

It was the summer of 1998, and I was a counselor at Grace Youth Camp. We were just finishing a week of junior high camp, which is usually very entertaining, as there are waves of hormones washing over the entire camp all week and knocking unsuspecting staff members over if they're not careful.

The boys that I had in my cabin that week were obnoxious -- but this is normal. They liked to sleep a lot -- also normal. They were aggressive and too cool for everything and cliquish and really interested in girls. All of these were normal as well, but the only thing that ever worked to my advantage during a week of junior high camp was the girls. If enough of them could be persuaded to spend their time making fools of themselves while girls were around, or writing notes, or trying to get some alone time with the opposite sex during capture the flag, or formulating hopeless plans to "raid" the girls' cabin area after I was asleep, or just pining and sighing wistfully, then they became much less of a problem.

These guys, although they were interested in girls, still had enough energy left over to be obnoxious most of the time. But I'd made it through the week, and it was Friday morning, and their parents were about to pick them up and take them away from me, and maybe I would meet them again someday when they were not ruled by their glands, but I was hoping that I would not encounter them before then.

As we had some free time in the morning before the closing ceremonies, some other guy counselors and I took our cabins down to the waterfront/dining hall area, where some boys could take out their aggression in four square, and others could sit at the picnic tables and be sullen.

After an hour and a half or so, it was about time to go up to the chapel to get ready for the parents to come. Before I went, I had to get something out of the cabin, which was a short walk through the woods from the dining hall. So I told my Counselor-In-Training and trusty sidekick, Flick (an amiable blond youth), to watch the guys while I was gone.

It might be helpful to describe the cabins before I continue. They have hardwood floors and about six bunkbeds in each of them, with room for twelve to sleep. In the center of every cabin, a couple of steps down and closed off from the rest of the room, is a shower. Next to the shower is a toilet. There are also two sinks next to the beds on the outside of the shower enclosure. 

When I entered my cabin, cabin 11, all of the bunks were pushed against the back door, and the mattresses were in the shower. It also looked as if somebody had tried to do something with the sinks, since there were lots of wet paper towels in them. It was a prank, though not a very creative one.

At this point I had some questions to answer, the first one being: Who did this to me? Only counselors had keys to the cabins. While I had seen my campers earlier in the week experimenting with getting into the cabin via the toilet room window, I didn't think that they would have been able to get away from the waterfront, where they were being watched by several staff members. Besides, it didn't seem as if they had been successful the one time that I had caught them trying to break in. No, it must have been a counselor, and after thinking for awhile, I decided that Sara must have done it.

Looking back on this situation with the wisdom that subsequent years has given me, I see a few flaws in my reasoning. The first one was that Sara had obviously been taking care of her own campers at the time, and would not have had much time to get away and do this. If she had decided to do something like that, she probably would have done something more creative, as she would have had to plan it beforehand. The second flaw was that I was dating Sara at the time. And while she may still have done it, the repercussions for me if she HADN'T done it would be dire and long-lasting. This did not enter my mind, however.

I went to Flick immediately to formulate the game plan. To my credit, I was not absolutely sure that Sara had played the prank, and so Flick was sent on a reconnaissance mission. He would tell her what had happened, and observe how she reacted. The reason why I did not go on this mission was that I might not get a good reaction if I told her, because if she had done it then she would be prepared for me to tell her about it. 

When Flick reported back a few minutes later, he said that he thought she probably had done it. Then he said that she might not have. Then he said that he didn't know. Then he waited for me to make a decision based on this information. I went with Flick's gut reaction (though I knew that he was a jumpy, indecisive boy) and concluded that Sara had done it.

Which brought me to the second question: How do I get this person back? Perhaps this is a question that I would not ask myself if this were to happen to me these days, but I asked it then, and that's what matters for this story.

Everyone was making their way up to the chapel for the closing ceremonies, so the girls' cabin area would be deserted if we were to go to Sara's cabin and wreak some kind of havoc. So Flick and I, as surreptitiously as we could, crossed the soccer field that lay between the girls' and guys' cabin areas. In broad daylight. In full view of God and everybody.

We were men of action, and we had already decided what we would do before we climbed the steps to the enemy base, cabin 3. We were going to TURN ALL THE BUNKS UPSIDE DOWN.

So we set about doing this, making as little noise as possible. And we were good at it. It was as if we had been born to do it; that we had been waiting our whole lives for this chance to exercise our latent skill of turning bunks upside down. We did it quietly and smoothly and quickly, and we had two bunks left when we heard someone coming up the front steps.

Thanks to fire regulations, there is not just a front door to every cabin; there is a back door as well. It was to that door that Flick and I ran with all speed. Flick made it out first, and I was right behind him. But I somehow miscalculated my step out the door, or forgot that there were steps, or something, and sprained my ankle. I couldn't run. So I huddled against the back of the building and hoped that Sara (who, we could only assume, was the person we had heard coming up the steps) had not heard us. Though she would have had some severe hearing impairment to not have done that, because we stampeded out like startled rhinos in the bush.

Flick, loyal to his commander until the bitter end, didn't run. He stayed with me. Maybe if he hadn't, we might have been saved, because the cabin was barely wide enough for one of us to cower without being seen, let alone two. I didn't have time to tell him that I was a goner, to go on and save himself, that he was young and had his whole life ahead of him, because almost as soon as we got back up against the building, the door opened and Sara appeared. Looking none too pleased.

It came out very quickly, in our subsequent conversation. that Sara had in fact not been the mastermind behind my bunks being rearranged. It also came out, in addition to her looking none too pleased, that she was ACTUALLY none too pleased.

Dejected, I limped over to the chapel for the closing ceremonies, accompanied by Flick. I saw my campers there. The conversation which I had with them there included a couple of them admitting to playing the prank, and me admitting that I was happy their parents were coming to take them away.

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Last update: 06/24/04