To say thanks for the phone call:
A lot of people aren’t sure how to deal with 16 and 17 year olds they are in charge of – should they be scared of them? Pretend they are friends? Tell them stuff that no 16 year old needs to hear?
When you work in a sue-happy industry, it’s important to think, ‘Right. Maybe it’s not such a good idea to tell my campers that I tried cocaine last year. I think it’s okay to tell them how to make shots, or that putting a pillow under your ass during sex will make sure the penis hits your G-Spot, though.’
One summer, I spent 15 weeks living in a circle of tents. My tent held myself, TMD, and a whole lotta crap. The other tents held various teenagers who wanted to be counselors – but with the make-up, high energy levels, and hygeine standards no counselor can hope to maintain. I became comfortable with high school people. I had fun.
I was not afraid of them.
The following summer I l ived in a circle of three cabins. These cabins held the administrative staff – the ‘bosses’. What this meant was that during Me Time, the hour reputed to be a restful nap period, large troops of children were marched through, behind, and in front of the cabins. Kids didn’t know that we were punching our pillows, mouthing curse words and poxes upon their counselors, demanding in whispers to the other cabins that someone go out and Teach Them A Lesson.
Most counselors knew not to say stupid things in this area. We did have a few staff members who talked about vastly inappropriate things while walking past my cabin (I was the Staff Director), but by and large they were smart.
They’d talk loudly when they came back after a night off. You could hear them in the parking lot, shrieking and probably high on ice cream and cigarettes. The noisy gossip would continue in an even volume (did they imagine there was a soundproof bubble around the administrative cabins?) until they got within about ten feet of my cabin.
There would be a period of 15 blissful seconds where the only sounds were feet crunching on gravel, mosquitos whining in your ears, and your own breathing. Once they got past the ten foot barrier on the other side, chatter resumed. You can learn a lot of stuff from eavesdropping.
Then there were the CITs – a weird conglomeration of kids who were still campers, but thought they were counselors. They had more freedom than the younger campers did, and also more responsibility. The summer after I’d been their director, a group of freakishly thug-like girls had turned up for the program. They wore t shirts with the arms sloppily ripped off, shorts which exposed their perky teenage buttocks, and the occasional giant gold cross sparking with rhinestones. These girls wanted to be called things like ‘Lil’ Nigga’ and ‘Mike’s Ho’, but we forced them to pick more approriate names like ‘Sunshine’ and ‘Giggles’ and ‘Star.’
One day, the three Thug Commandos were walking through the ad staff cabin area. I was there during Me Time (which was a slight miracle, as the administrative team sometimes had to lie, fake illness, and just disappear in order to get that hour of freedom), and I had just laid down on my squeaky bed. All of the holey green canvas flaps were rolled up, exposing the inside of my cabin for anyone who cared to look.
I was invisible as I was laying down, but I really think I could have had a neon sign hanging over the entire cabin, flashing brightly with the words: ‘Be Careful. The Staff Director Is Listening To You And She Can Be Vindictive.’
My way of being vindictive, with anyone, was never to shout or yell or belittle. I just had a tone of voice which would make even the most beligerant, over-medicated camper stop in her tracks and pay attention. I’ve made entire groups of campers, 40 or more, cry when I told them how disappointed I was that they all bullied little Four Eyes Frannie. I had the magic.
These three thugs, prancing around in their pre-prostitution clothes, were walking down the main road of camp, in broad daylight. For some unfathomable reason, they were screaming, ‘Pussy, pussy, pussy, PUSSY!’ over and over again.
My head exploded at their stupidity – we had kids from the tiny age of 6 who worshipped adulthood and were eager to copy everything older people did. At the same time, my heart was filled with the sort of intense joy of knowing I was going to ass whoop someone. Plus, it might have been the first time I heard the word ‘pussy’ used like some Aztec chant in broad daylight.
I jumped out of bed, fast like Lightning, quiet like Mouse, and slammed open my cabin door. The girls stopped momentarily, looking at me and wondering why someone would be crass enough to shatter the silence of Me Time with a slammed door.
I said, my voice dangerously low and hard, ‘I know you didn’t say what I think you just said.’
One of them stumbled over her words, saying, ‘I’m sorry.’
I think I said, my hair standing on end from laying down and having sweat act like super powerful hair spray, ‘Oh yes. You are sorry. You will be sorry.’
The girls looked at each other. Was I going to lecture them? Pull them aside and cane them? Get their counselor over the radio and pass the buck to her? No.
I stared at them, holding them frozen in the road, until the brightness of the Jesus Crosses forced my eyes to water.
‘In future,’ I said in some bad movie way, ‘please realize that you do not say things like that anywhere on camp. There are little children everywhere, and they are always listening.‘
The girls nodded, again and again, but one of them had her arms crossed in a Bitch, don’t you fuck me with me way. My name is Shortie and I’ll say whatever I want. I’m 15. You don’t know me. What-eva. You don’t KNOW me.
I expelled my held breath and just went back into the cabin after telling them we would deal with it later. When choosing between sleep and disciplining errant teenagers with bad hair, I find sleep is a powerful pull.
Of course, as soon as my 45 minute Nap Of Glory had ended I ran directly to Chirp because I knew she would enjoy the use of the word ‘pussy.’
This was probably the worst mistake/best choice in the world, because her face got stormy. Instead of laughing uproariously at pussy chanting, like every single other person did, she demanded, ‘Get them in here now.‘
I said that I would talk to them with their counselor, and she shot me a look which clearly said, ‘Existere, do not fuck with me right now. I’m about to go all ballistic on your ass, and if you do not give me some bitch-like teenagers as a sacrifice, you will be burned by my raging fury.’
I shot out of the office and rounded up the girls. They were very loud and trying to ignore that I was probably taking them somewhere to peel every inch of skin off their body, then shove their ripped out intenstines into hot dogs bound by their own tiny breasts’ skin. When we veered towards the path leading toward the office, though, you could practically smell the excrement in the air. These girls suddenly saw all that I imagined, but also realized they’d be eating their self hotdogs with a side of Jesus rhinestones.
We walked in to Chirp’s office, and I closed the door behind me. I was always present for any major happening at camp, and they always happened with me and Chirp (and the probable offender) locked behind her door. When Chirp’s door was shut, everyone tiptoed.
On this particular day, she stayed serenely sat behind her desk. Only I knew that a look that pleasant and unassuming meant she was probably going to give these children nightmares. She brightly pointed to three chairs that were set out (by the gods of punishment?). The girls settled in them, and I plopped into a purple chair in the corner.
Chirp carefully lectured the girls about self-respect. I began to relax – this was a good talk, one I would have issued myself had I not had been half asleep and trying not to laugh.
‘I don’t know why saying “pussy” means I got no self respect,’ one of the girls dared to say.
Chirp smiled and leaned forward a little bit, a shark’s calculating gleam in her eyes. ‘Oh, Lil Nigga, your words are how you express yourself to the world. You have to have respect for yourself, and using the word “pussy” in a derogatory way implies you have no respect for the female gender.’
As the girl was trying to understand this concept, I was still sitting in my purple chair. Unlike every other confrontation that had ever happened, I had not opened my mouth. I couldn’t; I was afraid of what would come out. I clenched my fist and held it up to my mouth, biting down on the flesh of my pointer finger.
Chirp was saying the word ‘pussy,’ and I had never been so amused in my life.
Everything crashed around our ears when Chirp moved into Phase Two of the lecture. In a slightly angry tone, she intoned, ‘I would never go up to Existere and say, “Hey, pussy, what’s up?”‘
The girls stared, mouths hung open. Chirp opened her mouth to say something else, but all four of their heads swung to face the mysterious noise coming from the corner.
I was physically shaking. Drops of urine were probably squirming their way out of me to stain my panties, and I was trying SO HARD to not laugh. Chirp knew I was losing control, and her look said remember what I said about sacrifices? Don’t fuck this up for me, Existere, don’t. Regain control. Do not ruin the nice moral standards I am trying to impart on these children.
When I saw her look, I pictured her smiling, angelic face (Chirp looks like her name sounds – innocent, fresh, and nice) saying, ‘Hey, pussy, what’s up?’
I exploded. I have never laughed so hard in my life. There was no possiblity of reigning myself in; that extreme sort of hilarity has to be allowed to run its course. I slid out of the chair, pounding on the floor, and breathlessly wheezed as I tried to maintain the composure that the future boss of these girls would need.
The laughter would not stop. I ran out into the main part of the office, leaving Chirp alone with the girls as I was free to scream and stomp my feet and hug people.
When I managed to make it back into the office, all four of them were still wearing the looks they’d had on when I left – looks of total shock and disbelief.
I went back to my chair, and tried to explain through still manic chuckling. ‘I’m sorry, Chirp, I am…but, Hey, pussy, what’s up? I mean…God, I can’t stop…Do you understand what I’m trying to say?’
The girls looked like they wanted to laugh, but were afraid to become the drooling idiot that I was. Chirp said through tight lips, ‘Okay, girls, I think you understand what we were getting at. Be more careful and think before you talk, okay?’ The girls nodded and left.
Chirp looked out her window, watching the Ghetto Superstars walk up the path past the office, while I sniffed the air to see if my pee scent had infiltrated the inner sanctum. I was still laughing.
When the girls moved out of eyesight, I turned to Chirp and said, ‘Hey, pussy, that was a real good talk. Way to go, pussy.’
The next ten minutes were full of pounding each other’s backs, screaming ‘Hey pussy, what’s up?’ much to the confusion of the college-aged women milling around the office, and snorting uncontrollably.
I’m not the sort of person that can hold back. Chirp is the sort of person who can utter things that will send me sliding down the iceslope of Mental Breakdown. Together, thanks to three smutty-mouthed girls, we had the best laugh that the world has ever known.
Years later, on a winter weekend, I would be sitting on the dining hall’s peanut butter and jelly table with my friend Lifeguard. She was wearing the giant, man-hand sized plastic gloves we wore whenever we touched food. I pulled mine off minutes before and was aimlessly chatting with Chirp and Lifeguard.
I’d mindlessly put my naked hand into the megasized amount of trail mix Lifeguard was busy making. Chirp would denounce me as a germ spreader and walk away to the other end of the dining hall.
I would say, ‘Chiiiiii-iiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrpppppp…’ and when she turned, grab a handful of the mix and let it trickle through my fingers and into my waiting mouth.
Chirp would inhale, filling her lungs to maximum volume, and scream ‘Get your nasty ass vagina mouth out of my trail mix!‘ before turning around to see a sweet looking, gray haired troop leader who had just entered the building, her face carefully blank.
Originally published in a previous blog (February 24, 2004).