The summer camp experience

In this long stretch of winter after Christmas before spring, with nothing but the prospect of two months dreary cold to look forward to, and without the respite of a single good snowstorm to distract us, many children and teens are longing for the simple joys of summer camp. To relieve some of this sorrow, we bring you a copy of the welcome speech often given to new campers arriving at their summer homes for the first time.


Oscar Fabricant, Reporter

Welcome to our Summer Camp! Here at H.E. Lily Summer Camp For Youths, we are committed to giving every child the unique  ́Summer Camp Experience ́ everyone covets, but few can actually define. Campers here are sure to return home with new friends, lasting memories, and a heightened appreciation for the luxuries of civilization- such as running water, soft beds, and daily meals. Now that you´re here, you should know about the cute nickname the campers use for our wonderful summer home, as an abbreviation of H.E. Lily. We call it hell camp!

You´re probably here because you saw the camp website and thought H.E. Lily looked like the place for you. You know, a big part of the Summer Camp Experience is the dawning realization you experience on the bus ride to camp that, despite the color photos, ten-page article, and quotes from past (and possibly imaginary) campers you found on the website, you have literally no idea where you´re going. Since the beginning, summer camps have abided by the unspoken rule that all informational pieces published about the camp contain only assurances that it is “a fun place,” carefully avoiding any mention of what actually makes it fun. Campers who are selected to make phone calls to potential new campers are highly trained to dodge all specifics in a similar manner. If you’re very lucky, you might get to participate in one of these exercises! 

Wait, goats? You want to see the goats? I´m sorry, there are no goats here. The photo on the website showed goats? We found that on the Instagram page of a much, much better camp. Isn’t it nice? 

Speaking of Instagram, tonight a group of counselors will come by your cabin, playing a traditional and frankly very bad camp song about handing over your personal possessions to people you don’t know on an out-of-tune guitar. They will force you to give them all electronics, food, games, and anything else that could potentially be used to have a good time. You could theoretically pick these up at the end of camp, but that’s five weeks from now and there is no reminder to do so, so you should probably think of those items as gifts to the counselors here at H.E. Lily. Don’t worry- the loss of expensive personal possessions is a big part of the “Summer Camp Experience”. There are certain items you are allowed to keep, but it won’t matter anyway because on the way to the camp all bags are ceremoniously and repeatedly dropped into puddles of diseased water until all spare clothes, books, and hygiene products are virtually unusable.  This is also part of the “Summer Camp Experience”, which by now you should have realized is nothing more than an imaginary and very profitable entity we invented and subsequently converted all East Coast parents to the worship of. You may start referring to it as SCE to save time because it will be attributed to any and all experiences you have here.

Bathroom? We don’t have a bathroom. Ah, I see you´re at the stage where, in a desperate effort to seem like an experienced camper and not a coddled city kid, you´re responding with an absolutely neutral “okay” while you internally scream for your mother. Don ́t worry. You ́re not fooling anyone. Anyway, what we have are compostable toilets- wait, let me take a picture for my ‘expressions of barely contained panic ́ collection. Hold it- ah! Wow, that´s a beauty. As I was saying, the things we have here are called “Kybos”, a name that was delivered to counselors past via divine inspiration from the Summer Camp Experience, for only a divinity could think of a name that so acutely fails to inspire any feelings other than a sort of numb despair, like the death of a family member. The Kybos are like toilets, except that they are holes mounted on top of boxes with no roof or walls, located a few meters into a very thin forest just off of the busiest parts of camp. The ancient curse wrought upon them by the Summer Camp Experience means you will only ever have to use them in the dead of night, whilst every dry twig within a five-mile radius gathers before you to awaken everyone else who might need to use the Kybo. These people will not realize you are using it until they have already seen you and it is far too late to preserve your dying dignity. And by the way, the Kybo basins contain everything that has ever been done in them since camp started. We use it as fertilizer. They’re not much like toilets at all, actually, apart from what you do in them. They do have porcelain seats, though, to put on top of the holes. This camp is located smack in the middle of Nowhere, Vermont, so the seats have reached temperatures as low as -40 degrees on some mornings. Which brings us to today’s fun factoid- negative 40 degrees is exactly the same temperature in both Fahrenheit and Celsius! This particular experience is part of Roughing It, the all-powerful patron deity of hippies and ̈outdoorsy ̈ people- you know, the people you consider to be homicidal maniacs? You shouldn’t worry too much about them, though, because they had you surrounded from the moment you entered Vermont and are at this very moment watching you, concealed within the trees, hiding in plain sight. Here, let me tell you about our backpacking trips.

Everybody loves hiking, and we´re no exception. The only difference between these trips and hiking trips you´ve been on is that we completely ruined a perfectly good activity by making you do it for several days straight with weights in excess of fifty pounds strapped to your back. To make sure you get the full experience, we handpicked the very tallest mountains, reachable only by the very twistiest roads in only the very crampiest vans driven by only the very worst drivers. You will get lost so many times on the way there that by the time you finally arrive you will have to skip lunch and take a shortcut directly up the sheer cliff face we pretended we were going to let you avoid. A side note: any camper who points out that the time saved by the shorter travelling distance is probably cancelled out by the time added by the decrease in walking pace owing to fatigue will coincidentally fall of a cliff that same day. When you finally arrive at your campsite you will be greeted by a ceremonial monsoon, and the camp´s special tents- which appear to have roofs but actually have nothing at all, so everyone will sprint around outside in the driving rain trying to find the sealing mechanism, never fully discovering that there is none. This will replace sleeping as the nighttime activity for the duration of the trip. You will have to skip dinner, and in fact every other meal on the trip, because the bag containing the burners is faulty and they have been soaked beyond salvation. The camp, of course, completely ignored the results of a camper poll on preferred meals and instead brought food that is completely inedible unless tossed in a wok and lightly sauteed. This routine will repeat over the course of the next nine days, only it will become progressively more hellish as you continue along the route. The primary purpose of these trips is to select the most elite campers, for only the best may serve our lord Summer Camp Experience. The weak will be sacrificed to the almighty during nightly rituals around the sacrificial campfire- at least, those who have not already perished in the perils of the day. On the final night, all separate backpacking trips will reunite in a single forest clearing. There, a great bonfire will be built one hundred stories tall, lit and stoked until heat lightning flashes through the sky. Around this, all remaining campers will dance and chant a hymn to the Summer Camp Experience, whereupon masked counselors will dart from the woods, whooping and shrieking, and the fire will be quenched suddenly. In the resulting clouds of steam, rabid animals will begin brutally devouring the final campers until only one or two remain from each trip who managed to survive the blind slaughter. The ones who survive usually include the strongest, smartest, and the ones who discovered how to use pine needles as deodorant.

Whoops, I got carried away. Some of that was supposed to be a surprise- sorry! Anyway, I see it’s getting dark. The other campers whose buses didn’t take eight hours to get here will soon be finishing up their activities. Get yourself settled in your cabin, then go to the bloodstone circle at the top of the big hill to gather around the sacrificial altar- better known as the fire pit- and intone the divine chants to Summer Camp Experience, the infamous Campfire Songs. Please don’t be late. Failure to complete this nightly ritual will bring the eternal wrath of the Summer Camp Experience down upon us all. 

You´re in cabin seven. Have fun!