Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Humanity!

Darla spent a nice rainy Monday with me in my studio this week, and at one point, she said, "I know you're busy and stuff, but you haven't updated your blog in 8 days."

Sorry, dudes.  I know you can't get enough of me and my blog.

What do you wanna talk about? How about Paddle Georgia, because that's happening.

Well, Paddle Georgia starts on Friday, which means I'll be away from a computer for week.  I don't think I've ever written about PG on here because most years, by the time it's all over, I just don't even want to talk about it anymore.

But here's the short version:  it's a huge, completely unmanagable river trip the nonprofit I work for puts on every summer.  We take 350+ people on a river in Georgia for a week. It sells out in 10 days or less.  We arrange the peoples' camping, food, shuttles to and from the river, and sometimes we help them portage their canoes around obstacles.  That's it.  That's all we're supposed to do.  Of course, it ends up being much more than that.

We usually only have 5 staff people, which is a staff-to-participant ratio of...I don't want to think about it.  Anyway, during that week, I get to bear witness to fascets of peoples' personalities they usually keep hidden.

Picture a darkened high school gymnasium.  It's 11:00 PM. Hundreds of retired veterinarians and German tourists and refrigerator salesmen and inner city kids from Atlanta are sleeping together on blowup mattresses on the floor.  About a quarter of them are snoring.  I'm sitting at a plastic folding table in the hallway outside the double doors, rummaging through my backpack for the key that turns off the lights in the gym, which keep turning on automatically every 15 minutes.  I'm starting to get kind of panicky because it's been almost 7 minutes since the last time the whole place lit up like the White House Christmas tree. The janitor who gave me the key to the lights has gone off to find the override code for the lighting system. Of course, I've lost the key already because that's just how I do.

A harried looking man carrying an iPhone in one hand and a toothbrush in the other bustles over and asks me what the temperature is going to be at the campground tomorrow night at 8 o'clock. I don't have an iPhone and suggest he consult his.  He looks at his phone indignantly, grumbles something under his breath--possibly, "I hate you and your stupid idiot face"--and walks away.

In the meantime, a 14-year-old boy has wandered up and is staring at something on the table I'm sitting behind.  He picks up a mesh bag with a wet t-shirt in it.

Him: Can I have this?
Me: I don't know who it belongs to.  Could you put it in the Lost and Found box over there?
Him: Where?
Me: Right there behind you.
Him: If it's in the Lost and Found box, can I have it?
Me (rummaging through my backpack again, this time with feeling): Mmmmm.
Him: I mean, if it's in Lost and Found...
Me: Is it yours?
Him: [silence]
Me:  If it's not yours, put it in Lost and Found.  And go to bed--it's like midnight or something.
Him: It's 11:09.
Me: Close enough--

The gym doors slam open and shut and tearful gray haired woman hurries up to me, starting in the middle of a story about why her sleeping bag is soaking wet. Something about the showers in the locker room flooding. I stop looking for the key long enough to dig the spare blanket out of a different  bag on the floor and hand it to her.  She nods and says, "Okay."  Not "thank you." Okay.

When I sit back down, the key to the timer pokes me in the thigh. It's in my pocket.  I sprint down the hall to the basketball coach's office to turn it off, but it's too late.  The lights in the gym are already on.  But whatever, I turn them off.

And there you have an 8 minute segment of the middle of the night, Paddle Georgia-style.  It's like that for 7 straight days.

I kinda love it, kinda hate it.

1 comment:

  1. thank you darla dear for coaxing miss j into entertaining us yet again...