7:30 AM: The moment the squeaky gates open up to the parking lot that was newly painted 3 years ago is the minute I know the next 5 weeks are about to be the most tiring, energetic, and cherished weeks of my year. I always pick the slanted parking spot closest to the stairs, which is also normally adjacent to camp director, Roger Smith’s, black escalade. I fling my backpack around my shoulder and the suitcase I have been living out of for the previous weeks of summer is stuffed full of NBC gear. The smell of freshly cut grass fills the air and I prepare to enter the soon-to-be muggy music building that we refer to as the store.
Immediately, I am greeted by everyone who is scurrying around trying to pull together the final details before campers arrive. Strong handshakes finish with a tight hug to make up for the last 10 months we were deprived from each other. Now that I have said my “hello’s”, I enter what is known as the orphanage (AKA the room where the store girls sleep). I place my freshly washed sheets on the musty, stained, mattress that is laid on the hard cement flooring…which is also carpeted by stained fabric. Before leaving what will be my room for the next 5 weeks, I make sure an additional mattress is placed in front of the door that leads to outside because it fails to have blinds and doesn’t actually lock, it’s just so jammed it could convince any criminal it is most definitely locked. After I ensure my safety is taken care of, I head up the stairs and down the wide hall that takes me to the most special room of all. The store. Here is where all the magic happens. Down the 3 steps and through the double doors is my true home for the 5 weeks of camp considering we spend less time sleeping than we do working. I get what you are thinking right now: “is this even legal” … and it’s probably not, but oh, well, I LOVE IT. Separated by sizes, the camp T’s are prepared to be represented by staff for day 1 of camp. I toss mine on and spray a puff of perfume so I don’t smell like the cardboard box it had been stored in since it was shipped. Chattering fills the store that we had set up the previous day so it was fully functional the second camp was ready to roll. Tables are full of candy packages peeled open and ready for purchase. Fridges are stocked fully with Gatorade, water, and soda. Camp gear is hung on the walls. The blender is ready to be on smoothie overload. I refresh my brain on product codes. Candy-1160. Soda-1175. Gtaorade-3645. It’s 11:30 and campers arrive in an hour. Camp opens and closes with prayer, which is the only time silence is in the air…along with the Arby’s sandwich aroma that distracts everyone during the first prayer because they are salivating over their soon to be lunches. Now, it’s about the time campers start arriving. 12:30 means balls being constantly dribbled on the concrete path outside the glass doors, yelling over the ball pump and blender as we try and make sales to 5 different people at once, and trying to stay conscious due to golf cart fumes seeping in through the frequently opened door as it putters around setting out signs to direct everyone. For a good 2 hours, us store girls are in a fluster to meet the needs of each camper and parent, leaving us dripping in sweat because the AC unit that went out 5 years ago still hasn’t been fixed. Not to mention the 90-degree weather which doesn’t necessarily pair well with pregnant-mother-goose (the head store girl who has begged the academy to fix the AC the last 2 summers she was also pregnant). Don’t mess with her on days over 95-degrees or you will personally be assisting her to the nearest lake for a cool down. Once the rush is over and parents have set their children free to be babysat by us for the week, we get down to real business. Campers fill the gym and whistles are navigating their every move. 2 whistles signify triple threat, “ATTACK” is yelled in synch by everyone in range of the whistles frequency. When the long days in the gym are over, the store is again congested with small, ripe smelling, humans. The nightly meeting is over and we are their last stop for the night.
We tend to their garbage guts in hopes to relieve the stench they brought into the store as soon as possible. From us, we send them on their way to (hopefully) get a shower in their grimy community dorm bathrooms and be in bed by lights out only to be up bright and early to grind the day away again. By the end of camp, the pungent scents coming from the rooms are only proof that we did our job right and they took intensity to a whole new level when it came to putting in work on the court. 11:45 PM: Lights out.