On the Plateau
In the summers between years of college, JG and I worked at a camp called Pocono Plateau. Neither of us was intentionally looking for a camp job, but when a recruiter came to a campus fellowship meeting during the spring of our freshman year, it was one of those “what the heck?” moments. We signed on as lifeguards and program facilitators after one visit.
As true rookies — we were rare specimens of not having been previous campers — we learned how to facilitate the high-ropes courses, and we spent many, many hours coaxing kids up the rock wall or down the zip line. Somehow, I became the go-to person for little kids’ parachute games and nature hikes, and JG often found himself leading the compass navigation activity. We taught teenagers how to do trust falls and hoist each other over a wall. Every Sunday, we gritted our teeth through swim tests, which were the scariest moments of being lifeguards, by far. There were cozy campfires on the weekends, and someone always took a ritual Saturday trip to Wal-mart, which meant a good twenty-minute drive.
Lest I paint an inaccurate picture, it must be said that working at a camp is really hard work. It’s the type of job that should not be broken down into an hourly wage. Every morning, the whole staff raced to clean bathrooms before the campers returned from breakfast. Periodically, the waterfront staff spent the whole morning scrubbing scum off of canoes. Every Saturday, there was a mad rush to clean the entire camp in preparation for the next week of campers because we weren’t free to start our 24 hours of time off until everything was approved. Sometimes, counselor needs chipped away at our staffing resources, but we still had to do the same amount of work. The time that we only had six people for everyday operations lives on in infamy as That Awful Week.
Despite the inherent hardships of camp life, JG and I loved it. Even after the summers ended, we spent weekends volunteering with high ropes and in the kitchen. We met some of our best friends there, even to the point that camp people composed half of our wedding party. Best of all, we grew closer together as friends, and then as more. There’s something about scrubbing the bottom of a canoe that will draw people together. I’m not sure if it’s seeing that person with absolutely no pretense or the simple knowledge that that person is willing to hunker down and scrub, or maybe it’s both. JG left me notes in my mailbox when he knew I was having a bad day, and I still have them in a shoe box in my nightstand. Later, when one of us was away to be a counselor, we started to trade recordings. I walked along the lake on our favorite trail and talked into a tape recorder, and I left the whole set-up in his mailbox with a note to “press play.” A couple of days later, I found the tape recorder back in my mailbox with the addition of a set of earbuds “for discreet listening.” We had our first fights, discussed getting engaged, and received our first Christmas ornaments at camp. It’s a special place for us.
All of these memories flooded back when we watched last night’s episode of The Salt-N-Pepa Show, because they went on a retreat at our camp! We know the guys who facilitated their high ropes! We belayed those courses! We took our picture by that sign! We ruled over that waterfront! We cleaned that dorm! We sat on that double rocking chair! And Salt-N-Pepa were there!