Remember before you were an adult and people would ask you what your plans were for the summer?
I work with college students and a lot of them still ask me that. I always want to half smile and cup their face and peer into their ambitious eyes and say "sweet, sweet child... hold onto your youth forever." Instead I half grunt/laugh and let them know that in the real world (even in education) you don't get the summer off.
But I did get the summer off at one point in my life and I, like most people, had a series of summer jobs. In high school I worked for my dad (thanks, dad). In college, I was a camp counselor one summer, got a job at my University one summer, and was a sports camp counselor at the local JCC one summer.
That's right. Sports camp. Preteen boys and sports. And, despite going to day camp at the JCC, most of them were not Jewish. (You can't play basketball- it's too dangerous. You could poke an eye out!)
I fell into this job because I worked part time at the JCC during the school year teaching "biddy ball." What do you mean 3 and 4 year olds don't have hand-eye coordination? Sure they do! And I just couldn't wait to get up early every Sunday of my Junior and Senior year to help them hone in on theses skills. Nothing cures a hangover like young children and sports equipment.
Near the end of the school year, my boss at the JCC asked if I would be interested in working at their summer day camp. I didn't have any other plans lined up so I figured why not.
That question answered itself within the first week.
Little did I know there are only a few ways you can get the respect of a herd of pre-teen boys enrolled at a sports camp- you need to have testicles and to be in with the "cool" staff members (who of course have testicles and are cool by nature--- there is no science behind it -- it's almost a catch-22). The following flow chart will explain it better.
I found myself in the bottom box--- in with the "cool" staff members, decent at sports, but alas- just a girl. Therefore, it really didn't matter what I said or what voice I said it in. I was not going to be respected or listened to at all. In fact, out of both sessions, with about 40 campers per session, there was only ever one girl camper. So it was an entire summer of feeling like I was talking to hyper active brick walls.
My frustration climaxed one day during free swim. I was the sports camp counselor on duty. Our group was swimming with other camp groups and, naturally, our boys were the only ones who treated free swim as time to dunk, push, and beat the crap out of each other under water. During one of these asinine displays, I walked over to the edge of the pool and bent over to tell one of the kids to stop semi drowning the little guy. It took me yelling his name three times to get his attention and when I finally had him and all of the other kids looking at me, I felt two hands on my back and the water hit my face.
I came up to howls of laughter and to see a counselor from another group who I had never spoken to before standing next to the pool with a shit eating grin on his face. I pulled myself out of the pool, gave him a look that killed a tiny part of his soul, and sloshed my way into the gym where my co-counselors were hanging out. They immediately got silent.
I held back tears of frustration and rage and told them I was going home. They tripped over each other to get off of the bleachers and find me a towel. As my boss walked me over to the back exit, he meekly asked if I would be willing to get them lunch while I was out. I turned to him in amazement as he held out a sheet with their orders and some cash.
"We have enough for you to buy yourself lunch, too." Dumbfounded, I took the order and cash and walked out of the gym. I held the tears until I got to my car. As I battled with teary vision and grabbing my sun heated steering wheel, I swore on all of the per-pubescent testosterone in the world that I would never speak to another male again.
Or at least for a few hours.