Happy Campers

September 14, 2007

The other night I was watching a show about penguins, and something about a group of penguins (also known as a "tuxedo" according to the Oxford English Dictionary) standing at the edge of the water afraid to jump in because there was a sea lion, or possibly a group of sea lions (also known as a "sea pride" or "something which scares the hell out of penguins", also according to the Oxford English Dictionary) seemed very familiar to me. And then I realized it was what I and a lot of my fellow summer campers used to look like whenever we went swimming. We’d all huddle up at the edge of the dock afraid to jump in even though there were no sea lions down there. In fact the most dangerous thing was Mr. Hendricks, the swimming instructor, who would, if we didn’t eventually jump in, grab us by the neck and hold us under the water for three minutes. Even though this camp was not located in the Arctic, the water temperature was about the same, so we usually spent fifty-five minutes of our swim hour complaining that it was too cold to jump in and running away from Mr. Hendricks, and the other five minutes complaining that it was too early to get out and go to dinner. That is, all of us except Ritchie, the only kid among us who had a layer of protective blubber, but Ritchie also had thick glasses and tubes in his ears so he couldn’t go in water higher than his ankles. Since it was the responsibility of camp counselors to set an example by picking out anyone who was different and humiliating them Ritchie would put on his swim trunks like the rest of us and then spend swim hour standing in water just over his ankles. He always got a sunburn too, but he couldn’t put on sunscreen because he was allergic to it. Ritchie was allergic to everything, including, I’m pretty sure, oxygen, but, luckily for him, this was the 18th Century when having an allergy just meant he sneezed a lot. Now of course having an allergy means you can die if someone who ate a cashew three months ago breathes on you. When did allergies become such horrible things that required people to carry syringes with them? And what am I, since I’m scared to death of needles, going to do if I ever develop an allergy? I guess I’ll have to stop enjoying my favorite foods, like wheat and peanut crusted shrimp served on a bed of cheese, ragweed and bee stings.

But I digress. The summer camp I went to is closed now, or maybe it’s just been paved over. Summer camps used to be wonderful places where kids could go and spend a week living Lord Of The Flies and learning how long a person can go without taking a shower and come home with a handmade ashtray, but now, thanks to industrial development, budget cuts, allergies, and homicidal maniacs they’re just not the same anymore. You can’t go home again and you can’t go back to summer camp either. On the other hand there are theme camps where you can send your children, like Space Camp, Tennis Camp, Theater Camp, Science Camp, Sculpting Camp, Circus Camp, Secret Agent Camp, Magic Camp, Land Developer Camp, Sweatshop Camp, and Homicidal Maniac Camp. These camps are a way to live your own dreams through your children, making them hate and resent you for the rest of their lives. It’s a law of nature that whatever failed dreams you have will be the complete opposite of whatever dreams your children will eventually fail to achieve. For instance, if you wanted to be a rock star your child will probably have dreams of one day being an accountant, or, if they’re really ambitious, an actuary. There is a simple solution to this problem: don’t have children. That’ll teach the little snots to want to be accountants. If you do have children, though, you probably won’t be able to resist sending them some place like Rock Star Camp where they’ll spend their days learning guitar riffs when what they really want to do is create spreadsheets. Be warned that doing this to your children will open up a big can of worms, and that could be especially bad if your child is allergic to worms.

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