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Camp director, Part 4: Team

Camp director, Part 4: Team

by Wolf Pascoe on November 26, 2011

No way you can reserve for that many in a state park. — J.H.

“Hey, Jennifer,” I say to the mom of Nick’s friend Jay, “I’m putting together a team to make reservations for the camp out. Want in on it?”

“What do I need to do?”

What indeed.

“Um, you have to practice how to use this website. Then you have to be ready at 8:00 am sharp on November 1st. It’ll take maybe 45 minutes.”

“Fun!” she says. “I’m in!”

So are 18 other parents, 20 of us in all. Twenty is the number needed at the starting line of the site rush. Needed, I have determined, to give us a ghost of a chance to get our Memorial Day Weekend campsites.

Memorial Day Weekend.

The weekend everyone in the state goes camping.




Over the past few days I have been haunted by What indeed.

Remember the wrong sign-up date on the flyer? Piece of cake. In the school office, Sarah has taken pity on me and sent out a second email announcement with the correction.

But the Reserve America website, which will make our sites available to all comers at the stroke of 8:00 am on November 1st? Not a piece of cake. Not at all.

It comes down to electrons. Electrons and key strokes. That’s the essence of a site rush, where we will be competing with hundreds of other potential campers for our sites, all of them sitting at their computers at the appointed hour with hungry eyes, fingers poised.

When not recruiting my team, I am daily on the phone with Reserve America customer service.

“How long will I have to get all my sites when they become available on November 1st?”

“For Memorial Weekend? Under a minute, sir. Maybe thirty seconds. Maybe ten.”

“Can you tell me the fastest way to reserve a site?”

Of course they can tell me. Each agent has a different method. Some say it takes three keystrokes. Some two. Some one. Nobody, it seems, knows exactly how the website will behave at the crucial hour.

“Sir, you can email our technical staff to ask. They’re very good at responding.”

I fire off an email with my question. No answer. I fire off another. No answer. I fire off another.

So it goes.

I ask Don and James, the Fern Hill dads who are practiced at getting those websites.

“I don’t exactly remember,” says James.

“I should have written it down,” says Don.

“Anyway,” says James,” “Their website is always changing.”




I begin practicing on the website, making up dates, running scenarios, devising strategies. I learn a three keystroke method which I know will work. Three keystrokes, three seconds. Too long. I learn a one keystroke method. But will it work? Or will it, as one agent tells me, cause the website to hiccough and log me out of my account?

Somewhere, someone has got to know. The site programmers, I hear, are in New York. Or Minnesota. Or China.

If the people at the bottom don’t know, the people at the top must. I discover that Reserve America is owned by a company called Active Network, headquarters in San Diego. I scour the web for their corporate directory. A name sticks its tongue out at me: Darko Dejanovic, Chief of Technology. It’s worth a shot.

I call the company and get voice mail.

“If you don’t know your party’s extension, please enter their full name.”

I spell out D-A-R-K-O. Voice mail spits back an extension.

I have the number.
Dear God, I have Darko Dejanovic’s phone number.

I get his secretary. I decide to come clean.

“I’m only a dad,” I say. “I have no experience. I’m going to have 150 campers and no sites. We just want a fair shot.”

The secretary is sympathetic.

“I’ll tell Darko,” she says.

Darko doesn’t call back.




Somewhere in the middle of this I realize my team needs practice and I haven’t told them yet what they’re supposed to do. I haven’t told them because I still don’t know.

What I need is everyone in one room. I need a Power Point with a computer hookup. With time for questions.

No problem, pal. And I’m the Prince of Wales. 

The answer comes. Video! I have screen capture—I can record anything and post it on You Tube! Will they all think I’m crazy? No matter. I set to work. I have to tell them everything I know.

I make not one video, but three. Each is ten minutes long. Surely everyone has half an hour to spare? These are the titles:

Fern Hill Reservations: Overview
Fern Hill Reservations: Reserve America Mechanics
Fern Hill Reservations: Team Communication

I post the videos, password protected. I email links to the team. I give up sleeping.

One night Nora has had enough.

“Come to bed. Now.”

I follow her upstairs.

I dream of the one-click method. Will it work? Or must it be three clicks? The speed of light is finite, so there must be a time lag. Perhaps we should start our keystrokes not at 8:00 am, but at one-half second before 8:00 am. How long does it take an electron particle to get through the cloud? Is it a problem of quantum entanglement, where a particle has two natures, and may teleport itself?

Suddenly, illumination.

Two different browsers. That’s it! Each team member must have two browsers logged separately into the site. Two identities! One for the one-click method, the other for three-clicks.

I force myself to wake up. I scribble a note in the dark.

It says: Make a 4th video.



Camp director continues next time with Sign-up.

Zen fatherhood



Speaking of taking on the impossible. 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.

Quantum Entanglement — A five minute film on how particles can teleport. This is what happens when you dream of electrons.

Art Passions — The painting above (A Fairy Roundel from A Midsummer Night’s Dream) by Arthur Rackham is taken from this lovely website, which warehouses and merchandises public domain art from some of my favorite artists.



It’s beyond chill pills.  Any help appreciated. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)


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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Robin November 26, 2011 at 1:14 pm

This is going to be an amazing camping trip!!! Never has a trip been more thoroughly and thoughtfully planned. We “I’m never good enough” people do have a knack for doing things well. A blessing and a curse . . . .


Wolf Pascoe November 26, 2011 at 2:07 pm

I like your attitude, Robin. You can be on the team.


BigLittleWolf November 26, 2011 at 2:30 pm

You are a beautiful writer, and I am quite a certain – a beautiful soul.

Thank you, Wolf – for being both.


Wolf Pascoe November 26, 2011 at 3:19 pm



Privilege of Parenting November 26, 2011 at 11:47 pm

I have heard we might have faked the moon landing… how can I be sure you’re really going camping?


Wolf Pascoe November 27, 2011 at 3:09 am

You could come with. Plus, I can show you Darko Dejanovic’s phone number.


Alameda November 27, 2011 at 1:06 am

As you look back on all this I hope you will look at it as a campsite story filled with laughter


Wolf Pascoe November 27, 2011 at 3:14 am

Laughter is good, but I’ll settle for just being able to look back on all this.


Barbara S. November 27, 2011 at 4:51 pm

Holy cow! When you commit to something, you really follow through. No wonder you’ve accomplished so much more than I have! I envy you your determination and drive! And your writing – you can make anything interesting!


Wolf Pascoe November 27, 2011 at 9:31 pm

The fool who persists . . .


Sirena November 28, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Is Darko REALLY his name or did you change it to protect the innocent? I love the name no matter if you changed it – very fitting for an expert that never calls you back. Ah, I remember the good old days when you just packed up your family with a tent and some supplies and went camping. This camping trip is too much with us and you ARE a prince for undertaking what seems like an impossible task. Still hoping you got the sites!


Wolf Pascoe November 28, 2011 at 11:20 pm

Darko is real: Darko lives!


Jim Parkevich December 3, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Hi Wolf,
I am sitting here commiserating with you. I have helped plan Boy Scout Camporees for a minimum of 350..Plenty big job..I loved every minute of it.
Here are a couple of fun items I hope you may keep in mind when your camp adventure happens.
#1..Show the kids some fun things…..get a “paper cup”..not foam….fill with water, and if you have a camp fire, set the paper cup right down in the hot coals..the paper cup will not burn and the water will boil after a few minutes…Magic !!
#2.. And if you have a camp fire..find a couple of feet of copper tubing…the fire must have a really hot bed of coals, and if you get the fire going…set the copper tubing over the hot coals..the flames will take on hues of brilliant blue and green
a very pleasant evening. Good luck !!! Jim


Wolf Pascoe December 3, 2011 at 11:43 pm

Can we make a Zorch too?

Nora remembers the Firefall from Glacier Point at Yosemite when she was a kid.


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