No man is a failure who has friends. — Clarence
A sunlit, weekday morning, exactly nine o’clock. I’m with my friend Shirley, a Fern Hill mom, at the school’s front gate. Sarah from the office has provided us a folding table, where we sit waiting for families to arrive.
Sign-up sheets and pencils lie before us, and little cards I printed up with the web address of the brand-new Fern Hill camping blog. Did I mention I started a camping blog?
I’ve turned down Shirley’s offer to bring her laptop and enter the names into a spreadsheet, (a decision I’ll later regret.) But I’ve had a belly full of computing lately, and I’m a little worried that I’m getting carried away by a mania for organization. The pencils reassure me because they’re not electric. So solid, and the lines they make so real.
“Oh,” says one mom, two kids running before her, “The sign-ups!”
Our first customer.
“How much is it again?”
“Fifteen dollars per camper,” says Shirley.
“Where are we going?”
“To El Capitan, if we can get enough sites,” I say. Frog Creek is the backup.”
“We’re all coming,” she says.
I had been worried about a line blocking the gate, but that doesn’t happen. Shirley and I have our rhythm down. One or two families at a time arrive for school, we transact our business, and they pass through.
It’s a beautiful, restful thing, watching kids come to school. Everyone, it seems, is going camping. In 45 minutes, we have 150 names.
BUT ARE THEY REALLY NECESSARY?
Time to pack up the table.
“Now we just need to get the sites,” I say to Shirley.
“You’re doing great,” Shirley says.
And I am doing great, until Richard, one of my reservation team, arrives.
“Hey, Wolf,” he says, “Can I talk to you?”
He draws his arm around me.
“So,” he says, “These videos. Are they really necessary?”
A bemused smile on his face. And he doesn’t even know about the fourth training video because I haven’t finished it yet.
Again, that weird thing my stomach does.
“Well,” I say. “There’s a lot of competition. We really need to be ready.”
“And Survey Monkey?”
Another brain child of mine. I’ve decided the best way—the only way—I can know how we’re all doing in the heat of the site rush is for everyone on the team to log in their results to a tabulation site.
“We need to communicate,” I say. “Otherwise we’re just shooting in the dark.”
“Just asking,” he says, and wanders off.
The world turns grey. It rains inside me.
“What did he want,” says Shirley.
“Nothing,” I say.
WHATEVER I DO IS BAD
I brood about Richard the rest of the day. The thing is, he’s crystallized all my fears. Either because he’s right, and I have inflicted my obsessions on a whole team of people. A whole unnecessary team of people.
Or because he’s wrong, in which case I haven’t picked my team carefully enough.
It doesn’t matter which. Both are bad.
At home, I can’t work. I have a fourth video to finish—how’s Richard going to respond to that one, I wonder.
I try to imagine the morning of the site rush. I picture one of two scenes:
Bang! The gun goes off.
The Fern Hill team swings into action, following the plan I’ve cobbled together. And nothing happens. Nobody gets anything. The sites are all gone before we start.
I have lost one for the Gipper.
Bang! The gun goes off.
The Fern Hill team swings into action. And we have all the time in the world. We get our sites, no problemo.
I have manufactured the whole crisis.
SORRY TO PUT YOU THROUGH THIS
I keep going, because I don’t know what else to do. Somehow I finish the fourth video. I write a check list for site rush day, and email it to everyone. I answer a million questions.
At the last minute, I decide I want part of the team on the phone together at the start of the rush, so I open a teleconferencing account. I recruit five team members. Richard is not among them.
The weekend before November 1st, I pick Nick up at Jay’s house after a play over. Jay’s mom, Jennifer, is on the team.
“I’m a little shaky on tabbed browsing,” she says.
“I guess I’ve thrown a lot at you,” I say.
We sit down at the computer and I show her about tabs. And then, for some reason, I tell her what Richard said.
“I’m sorry to put you through all this,” I say.
This is what she says:
Wolf. I’m so grateful to you. You’re taking over an enormous responsibility at the last minute. And you’re spending all this time—going to the location, and talking to all these people, showing them what to do, and taking all this crap. Why? To make memories for your kid. And mine. And all I have to do is pay fifteen dollars a night. Where do I sign? Richard didn’t take that on. I didn’t take that on. You did. You said, This is what it takes. And when someone ran you down, you got up. You said, You do your best. You try your hardest. Thank you. Just thank you.
She really says this.
I really need to hear it.
It’s my It’s a Wonderful Life moment.
Camp director continues next time with Rush.
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Speaking of obsession. Some of you know Big Little Wolf, a blogging friend and frequent commenter here. A couple of weeks ago, she got it into her head to help raise a cool quarter of a million for a renal transplant for Ashley Quiñones, sister of Kelly Miller of The Miller Mix. These women do not quit. You can read all about it on BLW’s magnificent blog, Daily Plate of Crazy. There’s a link to donate at the end of the post.
Add your It’s a Wonderful Life moment right here by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond.
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