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Camp director, Part 6: Rush

Camp director, Part 6: Rush

by Wolf Pascoe on December 6, 2011

“Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

— Samuel Johnson

Zero hour.

On the day of November 1st, I wake early, shower, and have a cup of cocoa. There are times when only chocolate will do.

I glance through the kitchen window at the drowsy world outside, and at the trees in the backyard, just rousing.

I envy the trees. I envy them because they don’t, I assume, feel dread. Or think about questions such as the one I’ve been asking myself all week:

What am I going to have to tell Nick when this morning’s events are over?

Last night, I emailed a final set of instructions to my team. It contained the sentence below, which, if proof were needed, is a measure of how far gone I am:

On the real D-Day, it was the GIs on Omaha Beach, thinking independently under pressure, who turned the tide.

I juggle life and death at work, literally, and death, when it comes, is a terrible thing. This is just a camping trip. A proposed camping trip to El Capitan state park. Why am I’m more tense now than when I walk into an operating room?

Half an hour before 8:00 am, I sit down at my desk and log into the Reserve America website as myself in one browser, as Nora in another. I go over my check list. Nineteen other team members, I hope, are going over theirs.

It’s pretty weird to have your entire life taken over by military metaphors. But taken over mine is. I check the clock. 7:45. The race begins in fifteen minutes.




I’m about to log into the conference call with five other parents when the phone rings. It’s Bob, a dad on the team.

“The sites,” he says. “Are available now.”


The room spins. Has the world gone through a worm hole twenty minutes into the future? Have I screwed up and told everyone the wrong time? Are Reserve America and Darko Dejanovic chuckling now over a little practical joke they’ve played?

My fingers freeze on the keyboard. I can’t think.

Someone says, “Get to the Portola and de Anza group sites! Reserve them both! Now!” I think it’s me.

I hear keystrokes on the phone. Silence.

“No good,” Bob says finally. “It won’t let me. It just looks like they’re available. False alarm. Sorry.”

Should I email the team? Warn the GIs on Omaha beach that the terrain will look different from practice? No. They’ll figure it out. Stick to the plan.




One by one, my elite phone team of five parents logs into the conference call. Only five, for now, out of twenty. More would be chaos. The rest of the team, for now, is on their own.

We make small talk. I mention Bob’s call, how the site looks different.

“I noticed that,” says LuAnn.

Mike’s browser is giving him trouble.

“My second browser keeps logging me out,” he says.

“You need to be logged in as your wife on the second browser,” says LuAnn. “Not as yourself.”

“What?” he says.

I’ve told myself the reason for the conference call is that I need real time information from at least a few people. I think the actual reason is I want company.

At five minutes we discover that not all our clocks are in sync. I decide we’ll go with the majority.

Three minutes to eight.  Conversation lags.

“Okay, everyone focus now,” I say. “Only say something when you get a site.”




Here is the plan:

8:00 am to 8:03 am—Go after sites. Everyone has two assigned targets, and alternates if the first two are taken. Once a site is reserved, a customer has 15 minutes to complete the purchase. Don’t complete the purchase yet.

8:03 am to 8:05 am—Report results. I opened an account on the Survey Monkey web site and created a simple form. Everyone should have it available in a browser tab. Half a minute to fill the form out.

8:05 am to 8:07 am—Tally. I’m on my own here, the whole team standing by. I have two minutes to assess the survey results, then send final instructions to everyone.

The reason for this wrinkle? It’s just possible that we’ll reserve too many sites. If they were all to be purchased, we’d have to cancel the extra ones. And the cancellation fees would break us financially.

So everyone will wait for my message, and then:

8:07 am to 8:15 am—Complete purchase of authorized sites. Eight minutes should be plenty of time. Then join the conference call.




Have I injected too much complexity? Have I given myself enough time for the tally? Will the whole plan break down in the heat of battle? Is anyone sure of anything in the fog of war?

There’s always Frog Creek, our backup, the park we went to last year. It’s less desirable than El Capitan, but also less competitive.

I can’t think about that now. I have to think about my own part.

I’ve assigned myself to go after the Portola group site first, then an individual site. Two other parents will go after Portola at the same time I do. And three will go after the de Anza group site. We’ll be competing against ourselves. But the group sites are so precious—Portola holds 40 campers, de Anza 32—that the redundancy is worth it.

Fifteen seconds to go.

On the phone, someone starts counting down. Everyone joins in.

Five. Four. Three. Two. One.




Camp director concludes next time with Slingshot. Did I say concludes? Indeed I did.

Missing your mark



Airplane! vs. Zero Hour!

Image Credit: “Starting Line” by Jon Marshall



Have you ever felt you didn’t care anymore how an experience turned out, you just wanted it to be over? I’d like to hear. (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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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Jack@TheJackB December 6, 2011 at 12:27 pm

I have been to all of the campsites you named and have many good memories from them. It should be fun for you.


Wolf Pascoe December 19, 2011 at 6:24 pm

From your lips to God’s ear. Thanks, Jack.


Susanbeth December 6, 2011 at 2:30 pm

1999! Avon 3 Day 60 mile Breast Cancer Walk from Bear Mountain to Central Park! Trained for months and I am neither a walker or a runner . I was inspired because of a niece who had stage 4 breast cancer and many friends and family who had either died as a result of disease, or survived and were courageous and inspirational.
The walk also included setting up a tent each night (I’m a non camper as well as a non walker!!!) but a commitment is a commitment and I raised quite a bit of money based on my promise to walk and camp!
If I were a teenager I’d say OMG!!! I was a senior at the time and I still said OMG!!! By the end of the training period I had intense feelings of hatred
towards everyone whom I’d ever known and loved who’d had breast cancer, dead or alive!!
The walk began on a Friday and all I could think about was getting it done with.
I no longer had any interest in how it turned out or whether I reached my goal. .
I just kept walking and complaining and literally hating every second of the late NY August walk in the heat! Breast cancer shmeast cancer! Just let it be over!
And then it was!!
a today, over 11 years later



Wolf Pascoe December 6, 2011 at 6:43 pm

60 miles?
I say OMG!


Susanbeth December 7, 2011 at 12:42 am

What I meant to say at the of my comment was this:
And today, over 11 years later, I would never have had it any other way! Definitely worth the incredible amount of preparation despite not caring by the end. After it’s done, you’ll care.
Now I only walk 6 K’s, and still raise money!!
I cannot wait to find out whether your planning ends in El Capitan camping sites!!! A hint……….please Wolf!


Wolf Pascoe December 7, 2011 at 12:54 am

I used to be on the track team in high school. I remember at the end of the 440 yard dash, my muscles tied up, as if I’d run into a wall, in the final 70 yards, and it was pure pain to continue. And you’re right. Afterwards, I did care.

P.S. I gave you a hint last time!


BigLittleWolf December 6, 2011 at 10:23 pm

What, no military strategy in your med school education?

You know what they say… we plan, God laughs.


Wolf Pascoe December 6, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Nothing in my medical education prepared me for this.


Kelly December 7, 2011 at 12:09 am

I just read the whole story (so far) and must know how it ends! I’m on the edge of my seat … over someone else’s camping trip. Eek!


Wolf Pascoe December 7, 2011 at 12:55 am

I just want it to be over. And the next post, praise the Lord, is the last.


Barbara S. December 7, 2011 at 6:20 pm

I can’t believe you left me hanging like that…


Wolf Pascoe December 7, 2011 at 7:32 pm

I’m practicing for my series of fantasy/crime/adventure/romance novels.


Planner2015 December 8, 2011 at 8:36 am

There was this late spring mommy-daughter camping trip once where the temp bottomed out at 26. We were in tents. I just wanted that one to be over.


Wolf Pascoe December 8, 2011 at 8:46 am

Oh, Lordie! I hope you snuggled close.


Planner2015 December 8, 2011 at 11:08 pm

Yes, somehow my 8-year-old squeezed herself into the sliver of space between my body and the blanket beneath me. Never have I been so happy to see the dawn. The things we do.


Wolf Pascoe December 9, 2011 at 12:42 am

You get a medal for that one!


Privilege of Parenting December 8, 2011 at 8:50 pm

Perhaps all this is why humans invented hotels? The camping trip to end all camping trips.


Wolf Pascoe December 9, 2011 at 12:44 am

When I was a kid, my parents took me to a swank hotel in a forest. There was a forest fire.


Jenn December 9, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Wolf, all I can say is strong work! I pity next year’s camp director–although you probably have published a “how to” manual by now. I look forward to the actual camping chronicles!


Wolf Pascoe December 9, 2011 at 10:56 pm

Who would take this job now? I’m worried next year’s director may be the same as this years.


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