Monday, October 10, 2005

Scouting Outing (Girls)

For about three or four years when I was a boy, I was a Cub Scout. And I hated it. More than anything, Cub Scouts helped reveal my misanthropic loner side. I have never been into group activities. I never liked class participation in school. I have never enjoyed being in the position of being judged by others. Cub Scouts were all of those things. Once I made it through my Webelos year, I dropped out. Never graduated to Boy Scouts. Why the hell was I a Cub Scout in the first place? If I recall correctly, there was one kid in my second grade class who sometimes wore this cool blue uniform and got to do some kind of undoubtedly interesting stuff after school on days when he wore it. How shallow of me. Having grown to hate it so much three years later, I decided never to have anything to do with scouts ever again. Whatever I might do, I would do on my own or at the head of a family. Speaking of which...I'm not sure that I am the head of a family. My wife has gotten my two older kids involved in Brownies and Cub Scouts, and didn't even consult me first. Good thing she didn't, because I would have said no. Especially since the groups that they are affiliated with are based way out in the suburbs, far from home, in a place where my wife feels comfortable and from which I am very far removed. It's not my community. It's not even my religion -- these packs/troops are based in a Catholic church. All of the other kids there are from Catholic families. It sounds like a premeditated effort to alienate my children from me. I wish that were the case. Instead, my wife tries to get me involved in this stuff any chance she can.

Lack of time, lack of interest, and lack of money prevent me from allowing her to shanghai me into most scouting activities. Somehow, over the last two weekends, I found myself wasting a considerable amount of gasoline, which I am almost at the point of not being able to afford, in order to get each of the two older kids to scout camps.

Friday before last, I came home from work with every intention of laying down and taking a nice long nap in order to get caught up on much lost sleep. Just as I am about to relax, my wife calls to tell me that I need to take my daughter to some girl scout camp in the next county somewhere north of Pittsburgh. And she needs to be there by 7 PM, which is unfortunate since the family will not be home until after 6:30 and it takes over an hour to get there. Plus, the directions were pretty vague.

So we leave at around 6:45 and head north on I-79. I knew exactly which exit to take, but things were rough from that point on. For one thing, we had to have the kid fed before we dropped her off. So take a ten minute break to get her a sandwich at Subway. And it was getting dark. Not just dusky dark, but oh-my-goodness-who-just-turned-out-the-lights dark. We drove past the turn-off from the main road twice. We went back to the town to ask for directions. Look for some kind of roadhouse. Nope. But there was a small sign! We just couldn't see it until we were right on top of it and had no time to turn. Finally, on the fourth attempt, we made it. In spite of pitch black darkness, the glare of oncoming high beams, and the Lilliputian nature of the directional sign, we made it. At this point it was well after 8 PM. All we had to do was make a couple of turns onto back country roads before having to negotiate our way along a narrow dirt road in the middle of the woods against oncoming traffic mostly consisting of SUVs. Just before the Girl Scout camp, we came to a fork in the road. My wife told me to go left. So I did. And I parked on the edge of a grassy cul de sac while my wife took the girl to the Brownie lodge.

My sons, who had fallen asleep in the warm moving car, suddenly woke up. Realizing that they were in the middle of darkened woods with no clue as to where they were or why, they started to cry. Loudly. And I started to yell. Even louder. I must have scared the living daylights out of those girls at the camp. Finally, after an inexplicable twenty minutes, my wife emerged from the darkness. I assigned her the responsibility of calming the children. And I became rather less than social on the return journey.

In fact, I became quite the grizzly bear after we got stuck in traffic on the interstate. Between the time we exited and the time we re-entered, a nighttime construction crew had gotten to work on the side of the highway that I had to drive on to get home. Not only did the two lanes of traffic on I-79 have to merge, but also two lanes of on-ramp traffic. Four lanes feeding into a bottleneck. Not happy was I.

Two days later, after church, we went back in broad daylight to get the little girl. The experience was a somewhat more pleasant one, as we could actually see where we were going, and I parked in a rather more civilized parking lot closer to the lodge instead of the circle of grass that caused my sons to shriek in horror two nights earlier.

Little did I know that I was going to have my own camping adventure just a few days later.

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