When a summer camp counselor has the day off – they become a king or queen for 24 hours.
The world is their domain.
Sure you get up and go to breakfast with everyone else, but by the time your bunkhouse is gathering at the flagpole, you are gone for the day.
First thing is first. You go into town and stock up on essentials from Wal-Mart. You spend too much of your tiny paycheck and wander around for too long enjoying the cool air of the building.
Wendy’s is in the Wal-Mart parking lot, so you stop there for a cheeseburger, Coke, and a Frosty as lunch nears.
In the heat of the afternoon, you might go to the river for a swim with some of your friends.
You end the night at the movie theater and make it back to camp at 11:59.
You know that you will be sleepy tomorrow – but you don’t care a lick.
I worked at a summer camp for six years during college and grad school.
Of course, I never was in a bunkhouse, worked 8-5 in the front office, and slept at home.
But I did play chauffer for all of my counselor friends…
There were so many hot summer nights driving home late. I was exhausted and happy and young.
One summer I worked overtime a few days a week as the camp operator (5 P.M. till midnight).
The phone rarely rang.
But you can bet your sweet shorts I was reading a book too.
I remembered a day off as a summer camp counselor, fifteen years prior, sitting on the shore of a lake in Northern California, with a bunch of joyous kids using me as an obstacle in a convoluted game of Capture the Flag, while I read a book called Death and Philosophy. I used to laugh at the incongruities of that moment: a twenty-year-old amid the splendor of trees, lake, mountains, the chirping of birds mixed with the squeal of happy four-year-olds, his nose buried in a small black book about death.
-Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air (Amazon)