Alright, correction: every cool college student knows it. No one actually studies, and if they do, they're nerds. Every semester in college I'd spend finals week sleeping 'til noon, playing videogames, and acquainting myself with different Boston microbrews. Somehow I'd still manage to ace my finals, but don't ask me how. It's a mystery.
One spring during junior year, I decided it would be a welcome change of pace to do something worthwhile with my free week. I stumbled across an ad for summer camp counselors, and the duration of camp just happened to coincide with finals week. I fished my cell phone out from under a pile of empty Sam Adams Imperial Stout bottles and dialed the camp's number.
I spoke to a pleasant woman on the phone named Mrs. Wilson, and she asked me a series of simple questions.
To my credit, I was under the impression that any moron could perform CPR. I mean, it's basically just giving someone a really intense hug from behind, right? No, turns out that's the Heimlich Maneuver, and it's ineffective in returning life to a person in cardiac arrest. I should count my lucky stars no child has ever needed my medical assistance.
Mrs. Wilson asked me to fax her a resume, and a week later called back to notify me I had a job teaching Arts and Crafts during the first week-long phase of camp. I was required to attend a day-long counselor tutorial in the city, after which I was instructed to be at camp every day for my scheduled hour of Arts instruction. It all sounded easy enough.
Still, during the days leading up to the start of camp I grew increasingly nervous. I'd basically lied to get the job. What if they found me out? What if a kid died under my watch? I'd read the Harry Potter books, I knew that the forests are full of giant spiders that fucking eat children. My anxiety about camp grew, becoming unmanageable. I lamented to my friend Lucy about my predicament.
Lying to Mrs. Wilson was my first mistake, and confiding in Lucy was my second. I should have known better. Lucy wasn't particularly reliable. She was the kind of girl who would disappear from campus for 6 days and then suddenly return with a fading henna tattoo, half of her head shaved, and wearing six belts for no discernable reason.
Lucy was always on the go. This was the girl who could barely pause to have her student ID photo taken, resulting in her looking like a melty beast.
Still, I implored Lucy for advice. Hardly interested in my situation, she fished around in her desk drawer and responded, "Here, take some of my Xanax. I used to get really bad panic attacks, but it'll get rid of your anxiety, too."
Should I have trusted Lucy? Of course not. Lucy still had last Tuesday's mascara flaking off her eyelids. She wasn't exactly a well put together human being, but my nerves were affecting my common sense. I pocketed her Xanax with relief, and the next day hopped the train that would carry me out of town toward camp.
I only wish Lucy had notified me of the proper dosage.
I'd never been prescribed medication before, so I didn't know pills occasionally have to be cut in halfs or even fourths. As my train neared camp, I swallowed an entire pill, confident it would take the edge off. It took the edge off all right, and then some.
Before long my anxiety had dissipated completely and was replaced with a wholly different sensation.
To onlookers, I probably looked like someone who was just super jazzed about life, like maybe I'd finished an entire book of Sudoku puzzles on the train, or perhaps I'd had a particularly awesome BM that morning. On the inside, it was a different story. I felt invincible.
It probably would have been wise to arrive at camp with ample time to spare, but I'm the type of guy who'd show up late to his own funeral. Besides, I wasn't required to be on-site until my scheduled teaching time, so I arrived high as a kite and with a dozen 9-year olds waiting for my instruction. Incapable of feeling nervous, I beamed at the children.
Let's get this party started, went my internal dialogue. Let's make some goddamned CRAFTS.
I was handed a list of names by a senior counselor, who then left me alone with the kids. I took roll and ordered everyone to gather around one of the art tables, barely able to contain my feeling of obscene levity. The campers all seemed jovial and well-behaved, and I believe everything would have worked out fine if it weren't for one treacherous snake of a child. Her name was Phoebe, and she was a sneak.
While the other children gathered around politely and waited for my guidance, Sneaky Phoebe climbed all the way up onto the table, grabbed a hunk of clay, and began violently stabbing it with a popsicle stick. I would have stopped her but I was too high to care.
Watching Phoebe go apeshit on the clay, it dawned on me that I had no real lesson plan, and I briefly pondered what kind of flawed screening process this camp had to let someone like me slip through. I debated what to have the children create. Every possible avenue sounded amazing.
Of course, everything is amazing when you've taken too much Xanax.
I instructed the kids to "make macaroni necklaces or whatever" and for a time they obliged and strung noodles on lengths of yarn. Before long, however, their collective placidity gave way to ennui.
That's when Sneaky Phoebe spoke up. She had a suggestion, and she knew full well it would immediately take root in the hive mind of the other children.
There was no going back after that. The kids erupted into mass excitement at the idea of a hike. What I should have said was, "No hike. Now make more pasta jewelry." But alas, I was messed up on benzos, and had absolutely zero risk assessment. Pressed with a dozen tiny goblins shrieking to go hiking, I stupidly replied:
"Sure, why not?"
Five minutes later I was leading a group of children down a trail through the forest. I was effectively a child abductor. All told, it was a pleasant hike. It might've been the fact that I was completely off my rocker, but everyone seemed to be having a good time, and for about 30 minutes we wandered carelessly through the peaceful wilderness.
Regrettably, the pleasantries would not last. Before long the Xanax started to wear off, and I became cognizant of two facts: the first was that I was starving and a Pepperoni Pizza Lunchables would taste incredible. The second, much more distressing fact was that I had gotten us hopelessly lost.
The realization that you've just shanghai'd a herd of children and led them astray into the forest will sober you up quick. Though surrounded by the tranquil noises of chirping birds and babbling brooks, with gentle winds caressing my face, I was on the verge of completely losing my shit. Without saying a word, I blindly chose a direction to walk in, praying I'd lead the kids back toward civilization.
Thankfully, we didn't have to walk long before I heard the faint sounds of campers laughing and yelling, and from there it was a beeline back to the campground. Unfortunately when I approached the Arts and Crafts center, I was met with a frantic Mrs. Wilson who demanded to know where I'd been for the last half hour. I didn't even have time to explain the situation before Sneaky Phoebe blurted out the obvious.
I was ejected from camp right then and there.
I suppose it could have been worse. They could have called the cops, but that might've reflected worse on them than it would have me. The whole fiasco lasted maybe an hour and a half, but it became permanently imprinted onto my subconscious, a giant rubber stamp that read, "CHILD ABDUCTOR." If ever there was a moral to be learned, it's this: don't get high and attempt to teach children crafts. It will not turn out well.
For obvious reasons, I leave "camp counselor" off my resume.