Camp memories: Dorm – hallway chicken, laundry, life lessons

By Andrew Martin

Looking back, I understand why my parents, Mom in particular, had some reservations about sending me to basketball camp in Canada for seven days.

Not only had I never been away from home that long before, but I was going with four friends. The thought of five teenage boys running around Lennoxville, Quebec, apparently raised some red flags for the parentals.

But, against their better judgment, they relented and I headed to Bishop’s University for the first week of August the summer before I turned 15.

To say I was unprepared to be on my own is an understatement. Freed from parental supervision, my friends and I stayed up that whole first night, binge-eating candy and chips and guzzling unhealthy amounts of soda. That 7 a.m. wakeup call came very, very early.

The sugar rushes also led to one of the dumber activities I’ve ever taken part in. None of us had the courage to talk to the girl campers down the hall. So, one afternoon between basketball games, we decided to impress them by playing chicken.

It was a fairly simple game: Two of you stand at opposite ends of the dorm hallway and then run at each other. The guy who dodges into a room or doesn’t commit to the collision is the loser.

After watching two of my friends try the game (one of them jumped into a dorm room before impact), I found myself staring down the hall at my best friend. The most accurate way to describe me growing up was probably “scrawny,” so not only was this a bad idea in general, but my friend outweighed me by a solid 30 pounds.

Normally, self-preservation would have kicked in and I would have backed down. Being all jacked up on Mountain Dew and Skittles seemed to have robbed me of whatever good sense I normally had. The fact that the cute girl down the hall was watching may have also played into my reasoning.

Unfortunately, my friend also threw caution to the wind, and the results were fairly spectacular. I’m pretty certain I bounced off the wall and skidded down the floor several feet after we collided, amid lots of laughter.

The entire week was a crash course in laundry for me. I had brought four or five pairs of shorts, but it was 85 degrees or hotter each day, and I went through my clean clothes fairly quickly. After the second day, the smells from my laundry pile made it apparent I had to do something about the stench or risk passing out in my sleep.

I’m ashamed to admit I had never before done laundry. So, I improvised. Things were going swimmingly until a camp counselor found me wringing out my shorts in the bathroom sink. After he stopped laughing, he had the courtesy to show me to the laundry room and then helped me puzzle my way through the process.

Somehow, despite my best attempts to end my career early, I made it through the entire seven days. And, while it was rough going at first, I even managed to grow up a bit. I was in bed by 10 the last few nights, I didn’t touch candy or a soda after the third day, and I even managed to avoid any more high-speed collisions. Out of concern for my family’s safety, I even started washing my own gym clothes once I made it back home safe to Vermont. Most of the time.

This article was originally published in the Stowe Reporter.

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