Friday, August 28, 2009

People DO read my Blog

I'm popular!

Apparently a little too popular.

When my parents came back from their vacation there was a message on their machine from an attorney who represented a client that I had written about. The attorney asked my folks to get in contact with me and have me remove a certain blog entry. If I removed it, the attorney said, "this will be the last you hear of me." The lawyer must googled his client or the client googled himself and thought it necessary for an attorney. There was nothing shown or written on my blog that was false - everyone knows all of the best stories are the kind you couldn't make up if you tried. I still decided to take down the entry. I don't need any trouble, especially for something as stupid as this. Now if only someone could perfect an "eternal sunshine" device to have the memories wiped clean from my brain.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Hotel Bathroom Capacity

Every summer on Wheels, the staff would split into girls and boys and do evening activities on our own. The goal was to bond the genders together and create a good group dynamic. One summer I was privy to a group with an insanely disproportionate ratio of 24 females and 7 males. The problem with boys and girls nights was that for the guys, every night was a boys night. The seven of them only took up two hotel rooms, and when those rooms had connecting doors they all got to hang out together. The gender nights were continued out of jealousy from the girls, who wished they were as close as that summer's guys.

For the girls, these nights meant a lot more. There was notable jealousy of how close the boys were, so we tried a couple of these activities. Since the guys were used to this kind of thing we had a low key night. Our allotted budget was used to order to movie X-Men 2 on my hotel television and make iron on t-shirts with out nicknames. Towards the end of the movie, I realized that it was well over two hours long. During the climactic battle scene there was a knock on the door.

It was one of the female staff members – easily the stricter of the two. I looked at the clock and noticed it was nearly 11:15, past the previously discussed curfew. The girl’s activity must have already ended and they were already put in their rooms. Instead of admitting I was wrong and telling this staff person that the guys were still in my room I thought it would be best to try and shoe her away. I hid all of the guys in the bathroom and told them not to make a sound or move until I opened the door.

There were many faults to this plan. What if she had to use the bathroom? What if they made noise? What if she was bringing me to a meeting of some kind and I never told them they could leave?

The plan of shoeing her away quickly went out the window when she walked right in to my room and sat down on the bed. She wanted to know how the boy’s night event went and proceeded to tell me about how theirs went. The whole time I nervously eyed the clock.

All the while three of the guys stood in the bathtub and the other four were sitting on the tile floor. At one point, one of them made motions like they had to sneeze. Working like a well oiled team, the guy closest to the tissues passed one down and reached the sneezer before he could make a noise.

I was finally able to break free when the group leader called us to come to our nightly staff meeting. I let her go first, saying I had to go to the bathroom, watching to make sure she left the hall. The two rooms of guys were only a few down the hall, but if she had seen them out of their rooms it would have looked bad. Most of the guys were just upset to have missed the end of the movie, so I recounted it as best I could – the dam explodes, the Phoenix saga sort of begins and so on.

We never really discussed it openly as to not alienate the female staff member, who some of the kids already viewed as a bit of a stick in the mud. The other staff got a bit of a kick out of it and if the goal was to further the bond between the boys, then mission accomplished.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Log Cabin Hospital

Two weeks into my first time on Wheels, the group arrived at Yellowstone National Park. The furthest west I had ever been was Texas, so everything in the Rocky Mountains was very new to me. When the group settled in, there was time to go and explore, as long as there were groups of three. I headed off with my friends Jessica and another girl named Stephanie.

Our trio saw a sign pointing in the direction of “The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone,” and decided to check it out. We were at least two weeks away from seeing the real Grand Canyon, but we figured it would be good to see another one. Upon arriving to the lip of the canyon there was a rickety set of stairs leading down the steep edge. They seemed sturdy enough so we headed down them and took a photo, in which the wind was gusting so hard my shirt blew up and you can see my stomach.

On the road back, there was another huge gust of wind and I felt something in my eye. I did the first thing you’re not supposed to do and began to rub it, hoping to cry it out. It was hurting pretty bad already so I knew I needed to get somewhere and rinse it out.

We had been walking for a long time prior to this event and I knew I needed to rinse it out as soon as possible. At the time, it seemed like a medical emergency, so we decided to hitchhike back to our campground. Approaching the road, Jessica stuck her thumb out in classic hitcher format and a car pulled over for us. She explained my eye and they took us towards camp, dropping us at the Yellowstone Laundromat. I found a sink and attempted to rinse it out, but it wouldn’t work.

From the payphone I called Aaron, the group leader’s emergency pager number, which I would later learn did not have any service while inside any of the National Parks. I left a mildly frantic message and continued to walk to his cabin. When we got there, the two girls split off and left me with him.

He was in the middle of shaving and he took the cap to his shaving cream can and filled it with water, asking me to try flushing the eye again. I took the murky lidful of water and dumped it out, determined to rinse it a few more times as not to get shaving cream residue in my eye, on top of what was already in there. A few flush attempts proved to be fruitless, so as is the case with any medical situation on this trip, no matter how small, I was taken to the hospital. On normal hospital visits, one staff member would accompany the kid in a taxi from the hotel to the hospital, but again, being in the National Park, we had none of those luxuries. The only option was for Jen the staff member and I to use the group bus.

We drove about 15 minutes down some dark wooded roads to reach Lake Hospital, a 10-bed clinic constructed out of a log cabin in Yellowstone National Park. There was nowhere to park a bus, so the driver backed in to the helipad while we got out and went to the waiting room. We were greeted at the front desk by a woman or a man, okay, a person of very indiscriminate gender. This person had a thick flannel shirt and a hairstyle resembling Jaromir Jagr’s rookie card. We were instructed to sit and peruse the selection of nature magazines.

The on call doctor saw me about 15 minutes later and told him the whole story. I said that there was an entire leaf in my eye, because that’s what it felt like. He told me in return that the leaf was likely on the hard to reach back hemisphere of my eye, as illustrated by the brown dot in the eye below. His plan was to drop some numbing solution in my eye and use a throat culture swab to get it out.
The numbing solution was cold and turned the white of my eye yellow. It took a moment for it to start working, but then it felt like I couldn’t close my eye. There was something very unsettling about not being able to brace myself as someone moved the business end of a throat culture stick towards my eye. I had not choice but to stare right at the swab, unable to look away. After fishing around for a few seconds, there, on the end of the cotton swab was the cause of my gigantic pain for the last few hours. It was slightly larger than a grain of pepper. As he tossed the swab into the garbage I couldn't believe something that small had caused me such pain.

By the time we returned to the group, everyone was already in their rooms for the night. A girl’s birthday had to be postponed until the next day because though the staff had bought her a cake, it was in a cooler on the bus, which we had taken with us that night.

The next morning, Jen called my parents with the lead in line "Don’t worry, your son is fine." This is not the great conversation starter you’d think it is. My parents calmed down once I talked to them and I hardly thought about the incident for the rest of the summer.

For anyone interested, it costs $116.50 for someone to jab you in the eye with a stick.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Popular Jerks are Good at Basketball

I went to a Jewish sleep away camp for two summers. That is to say, the camp was about as Jewish as anyone who would mark the box marked Jewish on the SATs, but wouldn’t know a lulav from a bamboo shoot. The real emphasis on was sports. From the moment breakfast was over it was sports, swimming and more sports. The annual highlight was the 4-day long camp wide Olympiad, but aside from that, the day to day activities consisted of what the counselors thought would be entertaining.

One day they decided to have a basketball skills competition. It was easy to arrange this since the basketball court was located right outside our bunk. My friend Adam won the foul shooting contest, hitting nine out of ten. When it came time for the three point contest I inexplicably caught fire and managed to hit seven out of ten to win.

A few days later, the counselors organized a half court 2 on 2 tournament and participation was mandatory. Part of me looks back and thinks the counselors were doing things like this for their own amusement. There were clearly four boys who were the best at basketball and it was only a matter of time until they played in the finals - the other several rounds were just to delay the inevitable.

I always viewed my popularity at camp as somewhere in the middle management. Comfortable with my group of friends, more popular than some, and disliked the kids who were higher up on the food chain. Those kids were jerks, but when you're 13, and the jerks are popular, you still find yourself envying them. People might think that I only think these kids are jerks because I wasn't in their group, but that's not true, and I'll give you two examples.

One night I woke up and my face was burning hot. Someone in the jerk group had a small bottle of tabasco sauce and had put a few drops on my face while I slept. I ran to the sink to find two other campers flushing their faces in the sink with the same symptoms as me. That was the night I had won the three point contest, so the good feeling I had was washed right down the sink.

The two oldest boys groups, the "super-seniors" shared one large cabin split into two sides by age. The older guys were on the left, younger guys on the right and shower stalls and bathrooms connected the two. A rare night occured when all of the older boys climbed to the roof of the bunk to sit and talk. It was not a typical bonding session, but we had a good time. When the counselors told us to come down and go to bed, one of the jerks walked across the shower roof and began to urinate off the side. The stream went right onto a window sill that aligned with the top bunk of one of the younger boys.

As luck would have it, these popular jerks were the best at basketball.

I approached my friend Adam, said that we had a decent shot, having won the individual skills competitions. It never occured to me that both of these could have been gigantic flukes. My only thought was that if we teamed up, we could surprise some people.

Our first round opponents were a kid in Teva sandals and another kid nicknamed "Beef" for eating an inhuman amount of meat during one lunch session. As I have mentioned before, participation was not an option, and these were two kids would have probably passed on the tournament if there was a choice. In the second round we escaped by a slightly better team to make it to the semi finals.

The last four teams featured the two popular jerk teams, our team and one other surprise team. We were up against one of the high seeds. They handled us with ease at first, jumping up to a big lead before we even got on the board. The games were to 21, going by ones and it was a quick 7-1 lead for them. When the score reached 10-2, one of their players sat down on the court and let the other do all the work. They swapped out on occasion, but it was still embarassing and arrogant on their part. With the two on one advantage, we chipped at the lead and brought it back to a 15-9. It must have been too close, because the other kid got back up, seemingly bored and they proceeded to finish us off to the tune of 21-10.

I remember the feeling of anger build up in me watching them sit on the court and laughing at us. I fought off every urge to throw the basketball as I hard as I could at him, partly because I had only been in one fight before and partly because I thought he might just catch the ball. I don't remember is who won the tournament or the names of any of the jerks. I've even looked at the bunk picture from those two summers and could barely identify any of them. I hope that they took a lot of pride being the best basketball players in a southern Connecticut semi Jewish summer camp. As far as that can get you in life, if you live your life as a jerk, it's only a matter of time before you piss in the wrong persons window sill.