The Only Girl at Boy Scout Camp
The Only Girl at Boy Scout Camp
The summer of 2013 was a strange one for me. Not once in my life would I ever imagine myself saluting a flag, especially in a Boy Scouts of America uniform. Frankly I do not even fully support the Boy Scouts of America! Ironically, I am one of them.
As of March 2013, I had my summer all planned out. I was going to go to my senior trip with my best friends in Cape Cod, work at the YMCA camp I have been working at since I was fourteen, and go to the Bonnaroo Musical Festival in Tennessee with my boy-friend. Needless to say, I was pretty “stoked.” But then, something tragic (or what seemed to be tragic in my over-dramatic teenage brain) happened. The dates of the music festival were the same dates of my training for my summer job! Therefore, if I went to the music festival, I could not work at my job, and visa versa. So I obviously did the right thing and… chose the music festival over my summer job. I was pretty “bummed” about losing my job, but I was still excited for Bonnaroo and Cape Cod. Even though I had those events to look forward to, there was no way that my parents were going to let me go all summer without a job. I remembered earlier in the year my boy friend Andrew asked me if I wanted to work at the Boy Scout Camp he has worked at for years. He was going to be the program director that summer, which was the highest position he ever had there. When he asked me earlier in the year if I wanted to work there, I had to restrain myself from laughing in his face. “Boy Scout camp? Is that some sort of joke? Absolutely not” I thought. First of all, the camp is four hours away in the Adirondacks, far away from my friends at home, secondly, I’m a girl! Is that even allowed? Well yes, apparently it is. Once I had lost my job at the YMCA camp, I was in desperate need of a job, and fast. I had to swallow my pride and tell my boy friend I had reconsidered the Boy Scout camp job. “So about that job…”
With multiple back and forth e-mails with the director of the Boy Scout camp, and a job contract sent, I was officially going to be the Trading Post “Manager” of this Boy Scout Camp. Granted I was the manager of the Trading Post because I was the only one working at the Trading Post, but I like to count it. I left for Boy Scout camp with Andrew the day after my high school graduation. Because the camp set up started even before I arrived there, I had to miss my senior trip to Cape Cod as well. Thus my “super rad” summer turned into one that I was starting to dread.
The ride to this Boy Scout camp reservation was one of the longest ones of my life. Keep in mind; the ride to the music festival in Tennessee was fourteen hours from where I lived, this camp was only four hours away. My thought process during this unwanted car ride was a cycle of “don’t make me go, please don’t make me go.” Yet, I dug this grave for myself, now I had to lay in it. We arrived at the reservation and it was everything one could imagine a Boy Scout camp would be. A big main Cabin, a flag pole with the American Flag waving in all it’s glory at the top, green teepee tents in which all the staff members would be living in, and a field of green. Without even a half an hour of relaxation or settling into our luxurious tents, we got right to work. Andrew and I met up with the rest of the staff who were already setting up the campsites. I was definitely anxious about meeting these guys. I did not want them to undermine me because I was the only female on the campsite. I could not have them looking at me as some frail, lazy, inexperienced girl that just got the job because my boy friend is their boss! I mean, in reality, all of that was true, but I did not want them knowing that! So I suppressed my melodramatic thoughts, and started setting up without complaint. I had to show these boy scouts that I am no joke, I am the trading post girl and I am here to stay, I am woman, hear my roar!
Alas, they all had bets against me. “She’s going to last two weeks tops” is what I heard for, well, the first two weeks. Encouraging words for a girl who already wanted to go home the second she got there. While camp set up was difficult on my brittle bones, the feminist Girl Scout in my kicked in, and I told myself to “man up.” Although I tried to stay calm and collected around the twenty-plus male staff members around me, sometimes it was difficult to “keep my cool.” All my life the only people I have had to share a bathroom with was my parents and sister. So the switch to sharing one bathroom with three people, to one bathroom with twenty-seven people was a bit of an adjustment. Yet I really was not vocal about my womanly needs concerning the bathroom. When it is twenty-seven men against one, asking to “put the seat down” is a lost cause. I am a very low maintenance person, but living outdoors, at all hours of the day was definitely new for me. It is like I was Disney’s Snow White, but instead of being surrounded by adorable animals I was surrounded by moths and mosquitos and instead the seven dwarfs, it was twenty-seven Boy Scouts.
Working in the trading post was probably the dullest job I have ever had. For those who are unaware, the trading post was a Boy Scout camp convenience store. It carried all your Boy Scout essentials, such as rope, pocketknives and neckerchiefs. Honestly, what else does a Scout need? Yet mainly, for the Boy Scouts ages twelve and under, I was their main source of candy and ice cream. Every night without fail, the young campers would flock in at seven; with the hundred dollar bills their parents sent them with, only for them to buy a twenty-five cent candy bar. I guess you could say I had the easiest job on the reservation, considering my biggest concern was keeping the official Boy Scout Camp T- shirts folded in size order. In the trading post I did a lot of “people watching” There were many different types of Scout leaders for the different Boy Scout troops that came in around the tri-state area. There were the very strict, honored the Boy Scout code of conduct to it’s full form, every patch, pin and scarf in place type of scout leader. Then there were the more “laid back” Scout leaders who got roped into being a chaperone for their son’s troop that week. They were the one’s who truthfully did not know much about camping in its entirety, and most likely laughed when the children in their troop fell. My favorite were the leaders that avoided any activity by all costs and came in to buy things they did not need and make awkward and uncomfortable small talk with me. At least that was something to entertain me in my dreary day at the Trading Post.
Going into Boy Scout camp, I was sure I would be so tired and sick of the numerous guys around me, but it was really the opposite. The more I got to know them, them more I really started to love them. Each one of them had their own story, and their own unique personality. Sure, they were a bunch of “dopey” and smelly guys, but once I got to know them I was almost enlightened. Sometimes as a female, or at least myself in particular, seeing a group of guys in one place at one time, I can forget that they are real people, with real lives and stories. I would write about each and every one of them if I had the time, and believe me, I could if I wanted to. The co-worker I really connected with was a man named Rafael. He was the oldest worker there. He was this large, half Black, half Puerto Rican, incredibly outgoing man from New Jersey. He just got out of the army after seven years. When I first met him, he was debating the laws and regulations on gun control in America with another staff member and was vocalizing his arguments against guns and how much he hated them. Meanwhile, this man was the shooting range instructor. He was such a complex human being, I could write a whole other essay on the man. Then there was Lenny, a fifteen-year-old first year staff member who acted like he ran the place. He made me laugh, because he would try to give people life advice, as if he had so much knowledge from the time he was born through the fifteen young years of his life. Lenny was fifteen going on fifty. There was a staff member named Mike who is possibly the most eccentric man I have ever met, and probably the one who loved his job the most. This man, fainted from dehydration, almost drowned, was made fun of by the other staff members daily, and was the only director without an emergency phone (which he was very concerned about) but he still thought of Boy Scout camp as his home and his staff members as his family. Every staff member there thought of this camp as their home, and their co-workers as family. Half of them started counting down when they can go back on the last day of camp! Being at that camp I learned many things. Even though the food was similar to what inmates in Jailhouses eat, we shared one bathroom, the washing machine was broken half the time, and there was only hot water twenty percent of the time, somehow I eventually looked past all that. It’s the people that you are surrounded by that keep your spirits up. At the end of the day, everyone was happy to be together, be there for one another if they needed them. It did not matter how strong their “Wi-Fi” connection was or if their IPhone was charged. All that mattered was that they were together, working hard but supporting one another along the way. Each and every one of them truly had a warm heart and soul. Which is funny writing because I know if some of them were to read this they would majorly make fun of me.
I went into Boy Scout Camp dreading it. I did not understand how anyone could ever enjoy be around a weird cult-like Boy Scout Camp. Little did I know, it’s not like that at all. All it is is a group of people who enjoy being with their best friends, even family to some. I always say I went to Boy Scout camp for the experience. It was one hell of an experience, but I would not have traded it for anything. The friendships and memories I made there are forever, and I am so thankful that I was the only girl, at Boy Scout camp.