Chapter 6: New Acquaintances
After lunch, Mr. Lehman sent the campers to their cabins for rest time and after they left, he called the junior staff over so he could tell us something. I sat down in the front of the cafeteria, looking around at my fellow staff members.
To my left was Trent, Rodney, Rachel and that other round girl who I didn’t know the name of at the time. To my right was Karis, Marisha, and a beautiful girl, about 17, with brown hair down to her shoulders. Sitting next to her was a tall, blonde haired dude with glasses, a baseball cap, and plaid shorts. Don’t ask me why I remember the shorts, because I couldn’t tell you why. I do remember either liking them or hating them. Whichever you think is true, because I can’t remember.
Anyway, Mr. Lehman flipped through his big notebook as he addressed us.
“Junior staff members,” he began, “I hope you all are enjoying your time here at Camp Swampy. Most of you know what your role is, but I found a need to go over it again with you all here together.
“First, you know that I have divided the campers into two teams: the Brits and the C’nooks. After deciding on an Olympic theme, I didn’t think it would be fair to let one team be American while the other isn’t.
“You junior staff members are here to help keep the kids in line, and if they have any questions, you are to try to answer them, especially if they’re asking about spiritual things. We’ll have a junior staff meeting every night after campfire service.
“Now, let’s run through your names real quick so you know who each other are. Trent, let’s start with you.”
Trent was also wearing a baseball cap with brown, curly hair sticking out from under it and he also had glasses.
“Um,” he said, “you already told them that my name is Trent.”
“Well,” said Mr. Lehman, “tell them your last name, Mr. Melnotte.”
Trent looked confused. “Melnotte,” he said.
“I’m Rodney King,” said Rodney who was sitting next to Trent thus being next in line to reveal his name. “You can call me Rod or Junior or whatever.” Next came the short, round girl.
“I am Marissa Crowe,” she informed us. “You can call me Rissa for short.”
“Rachel Stevens,” said Rachel. “I don’t care what you call me, just beware to NEVER call me Shorty or something degrading like that.” Apparently she was very defensive about her height.
It was my turn. “James Giegerich,” I said. “You can just call me……….uh……….James.”
The rest followed suit.
“Shannon Belding.” This was the brown haired girl speaking. There was a short pause and Shannon elbowed the dude in the plaid shorts.
“Huh? What?” he said. “Oh. Aaron Bjorkquist.”
Mr. Lehman told us, “Now is the time when you Junior Staff have your free time. Every day while the kids are in bed, you guys can play the different games, you can go boating, whatever you want to do.” He paused and then said with a slight smile, “That is, you can do whatever you want as long as it is within camp rules and standards.”
We laughed at this, and he sent us off to do whatever. At first we all kind of stood around outside and looked at each other, wondering if any of us were worth getting to know. Shannon broke the silence.
“Aaron,” she said. “Let’s go play carpetball!”
“Um, okay,” was his reply.
So off they went. Karis started talking to Rachel and Rissa, so I tried to start a conversation with Trent and Rodney. I had made friends with them on Sunday, so I didn’t need much time to do this. We talked about several unimportant, insignificant things before I made the suggestion,
“Why don’t we go play carpetball? There are two tables.”
Everyone thought this a good, sensible suggestion, so we all walked toward the empty table, saying random things like “I haven’t played in forever” (This would be me talking) and “I’m gonna own everyone” (this would be Rachel speaking) and “Let’s just get on with it” (this would be Trent.)
Rachel and Rodney started a game, so I alternated between watching them and watching Shannon and Aaron. Every time Shannon would miss, she’d say, “Oh, for dumb!” Aaron proceeded to stand there in silence.
We all tried making small conversation, but nothing of significance came up. I decided to end this, because this wouldn’t do. We were going to be working with each other the whole week, and I figured that we’d better get to know each other now. I quickly and earnestly looked for common ground.
Rachel was throwing a carpetball. Hmmmm……..maybe I could ask her about…………..technique of………..never mind. I moved on.
Rodney was wiping his glasses. Let’s see……….I don’t wear glasses. Nothing here.
Shannon was saying something to Aaron about how Rissa is a terrible driver. Negative in this department.
Aaron was scratching his ear, saying nothing. No common ground there unless I said, “Man, those stupid itches, they just start itching really bad and it just…….itches. I know how you feel, Dude.”
Rissa was telling Marisha how horrible of a driver Shannon is. I figured they should get together and talk.
Marisha was listening to Rissa. Oh, wait, that was redundant. Moving on…….
Karis was……never mind. I didn’t need to find common ground with her.
Last came Trent, who was holding a broom handle pretending it was a guitar. Hmmm…….I could find common ground here…………
“You play the guitar?” I asked.
“Yep,” he said. “It’s one of my favorite instruments.”
“Sweet,” I said. “I play too.”
“Who’s your favorite artist?” he asked me.
“Uhhhhh,” I had to stop and think. “Of what?”
“Like, uh, song artist,” he replied. “Like, uh, composer, songwriter, band?”
“Oh,” I said. “I, uh, don’t really have one.”
“Uh-huh,” he said. “You like them all?” “Well, no, not really,” I had to answer. This wasn’t going very well. I turned my attention back to the carpetball tables, thinking hard. After some probing, I found out that Shannon, Aaron, and Rissa went to the same church and had all driven to Swampy together, so they were well acquainted. Trent, Rodney, and Rachel all went to the same church, as you already know, so they were all friends and also knew the former three from previous years at Swampy. This left me with the conclusion that Karis and I were the “new kids” in town. I felt an obligation to make sure Karis and I were just as much a part of the staff as the rest of them. I launched into a very odd, but useful acquaintance method that I recommend only as a last resort known as………..I don’t have a name for it.