Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Coping Mechanisms: A Guide

Day 7: OMG so fun.
Christ on a Bike, that was a lot of work.

Welp, Paddle Georgia is over, and I think I'm all recovered-up.  But even though I feel like I've been hit with the sunburn/ dehydration/ overstimulation truck, I'm actually sort of sad when it's over.  Because Paddle Georgia allows me to spy on people. Like, all day long for a week.  It's better than the bus station.

Paddle Georgia's basically summer camp for old people.  And summer camp works really well for kids because they're used to not getting what they want all the time, but most adults have carefully coordinated their lives so they can be as free of inconvenience as possible.

My family, over it.
But Paddle Georgia gives these grown-ass people the chance to sleep in a gymnasium together, use locker room showers, wait in lines to eat, wait in lines for buses to the river, wait in lines for shuttles into town, wait in lines to talk to someone who can give them answers.  It's stressful, and I honestly don't know why they come back every year.  But tons of them do.  Like my friend Ricky says, these people are going to be ready to negotiate the outfall of a dystopian future.  So long as the dystopia involves refugee camps.

So, over the past week, I've catalogued a few coping mechanisms that people use when confronted with a refugee camp situation, and I wrote them down in an email to a friend who idly asked whether Paddle Georgia had given me any insights into the secrets of the human heart, etc.

Well, here's what I know about what 350 people do when they have to live together in gymnasiums for a week:

1. Find the Loopholes: Is there a weight room at this high school you can sneak into and sleep in? If you volunteer for the second shift of breakfast, can you break in line and eat before everybody else? If you ask an authority figure the same question a number of different ways, will she get confused and let you do whatever you want? The answer to all these questions is almost certainly "yes."

Yeah, I dunno...
2. Form a Dissident Sect:  Lord of the Flies-style.  Basically, you hole up with 5 or 6 other people on the outskirts of camp and mutter mean things at people under your breath as they walk by.  This way you can do whatever you want and people are too scared of you to tattle.
This child was particularly intimidating
3. Be the First in Line: if you get on the first bus to the river (7 AM), you don't have to wait in line to get to the river.  Then if you paddle really fast down the river, you won't have to wait in line for the bus back to camp. And then if you get in line for dinner at around 2:30, you'll be the first to eat at 6:30. If you play your cards right, you could spend your entire life being the first in line.

4. Ask to Talk to the Manager: if someone tells you not to camp there because the sprinkler system is going to turn on at 2 AM, ask to talk to her manager.  By the end of the trip I actually started telling people I didn't have a manager.  "NOBODY'S above you?" Nope.  Nobody. 

Some coworkers, hanging out super hard.
5. Napping: This one guy named Bill just took a nap in the middle of the floor whenever he felt overwhelmed.  He was a retired school bus driver and one time he fell asleep in front of the fanciest restaurant in this little costal town, which upset some lunching ladies, so I had to go wake him up and find him another place to sleep.  I put him in an alley between two condos, which made him perfectly happy. God bless him.

6. Be Late for Everything: You don't have to wait in line when you're late for everything.

So, yeah.  If you ever find yourself either back at summer camp, or in a post-apocalyptic hell-scape, keep these strategies in mind.  They're all pretty effective.

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