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Camp director, part 5: Sign-up

Camp director, part 5: Sign-up

by Wolf Pascoe on December 1, 2011

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.




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.




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:

Scene A.

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.

Scene B.

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.





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.

The Business of Childhood



Aiming Low — Feeling low? Someone else has gone lower.

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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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Sirena December 1, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Yes! Go Jennifer! I was having the same thoughts myself, like, did anyone else volunteer for this momentous task? NO. I personally don’t think one can be too organized, but I’m a little OCD myself. I think I just heard an angel get his wings.


Wolf Pascoe December 1, 2011 at 7:16 pm

I hope someone got his wings. But in all honesty, I didn’t volunteer. I was drafted.


Barbara December 1, 2011 at 2:20 pm

She was exactly right and I’m glad God spoke to you through her to let you hear what you needed to hear. There will always be Richards around who make us doubt ourselves.


Wolf Pascoe December 1, 2011 at 6:53 pm



BigLittleWolf December 1, 2011 at 5:26 pm

This makes me smile. Your Jimmy Stewart moment. And so glad there was an angel nearby so you could put things back in perspective.


Wolf Pascoe December 1, 2011 at 7:14 pm

And sometimes there are angels and you don’t even see them! Did you ever see Wings of Desire? They hang out at the Munich library!


Susanbeth December 1, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Can I interest you in giving us a little preview of RUSH? I feel as if I’m reading a wonderful serialized short story (because I am) and I can’t wait for next week’s installment! I am rooting for El Capitan, if only because of the enormous work you’ve put into this, but will be satisfied with Frog Lake if that’s how it all turns out!
Either way, the one thing I really have very little tolerance for are those people who stand on the outside (Richard”like”) offering only their criticism and derision, while others (like you, for instance,)”do the work.”.
Thankfully there are “Jennifers” who balance it all out and appreciate the creative ways in which you’ve approached the task at hand, in an effort to give the Fern Hill kids the best possible experience!
Please…………give us a hint!


Wolf Pascoe December 1, 2011 at 7:25 pm

The end is almost in sight. And thanks for needing a hint. I really didn’t want to string this out, but the only way to tell the story is to tell it. And somehow, I needed to tell it. Okay, here’s a hint about the ending: it is neither my A nor B scenario above.


Privilege of Parenting December 2, 2011 at 11:42 pm

But isn’t OCD the secret handshake for this virtual club? Work sets us free, right?


Wolf Pascoe December 3, 2011 at 2:24 am

I wouldn’t want to be in any club that took guys like me anyway.


Kate December 5, 2011 at 4:27 pm

I hate those voices of doubt. And how they crept in and camp out. (har har) Thank goodness for good friends and kind words.


Wolf Pascoe December 5, 2011 at 7:46 pm

I read this great quote from Teddy Roosevelt this morning. He’s not really talking about getting campsites, but I couldn’t resist sharing:

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”


pamela December 20, 2011 at 7:48 pm

I love this:

The world turns grey. It rains inside me.

“What did he want,” says Shirley.

“Nothing,” I say.

This is what happens to me all the time. Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone. LOVE Jennifer. Yay! She is right too – you took it on.


Wolf Pascoe December 20, 2011 at 11:59 pm

Thanks, Pamela. I think that’s one of the glories of writing, to remind us we’re not alone.


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