Adventures in Day Camp

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When my family moved out of the city, I was seven years old. We had previously spent every summer at our family cottage on Lake Rosseau and this cottage became our permanent residence until we purchased a four-season home in the same town. We still spent every summer at the cottage, a five-minute drive from our house, and life was great.

A few years after we had moved, leaving many of our family members behind, my parents thought it would be nice if I spent some of my summer holiday with my grandparents…..in the city! We lived in one of the most beautiful vacation destinations in Canada and they wanted me to spend part of the best time of the year in Muskoka in the concrete jungle! I was too young at the time to question the reason behind their decision and, with packed suitcase in hand, I climbed into the back seat of the station wagon to head back to my hometown.

The small silver lining of me spending some of my summer holiday in the city was the fact that I had been signed up to go to a day camp. When I was given the run-down of all the awesome activities I would be doing, I had pushed aside the memories of spending most of my summer days in the lake and was actually excited to go to camp.

On the first day of camp, my Nana made sure I had a good breakfast, helped me to organize my backpack and walked me to the bus stop for 8:00 am. Together we stood and waited and, as the bus came around the corner, I could feel my excitement building. We said goodbye and, from the bus, I waved to her as excitedly as Forrest Gump waved hello to Lieutenant Dan from his shrimp boat.

The day camp was a fifteen-minute drive from my grandparent’s apartment. Even at my young age and not wearing a watch, I knew the bus ride had exceeded fifteen minutes. The outlines of the city buildings had faded into the background and the landscape outside my bus window began to look much more like my scenic cottage-country home. When the bus finally arrived at its final destination about an hour later, we were in the middle of nowhere.

Unsure of what was happening, I was the last kid to exit the bus. The Camp Director was standing at the bottom of the steps with her clipboard in hand and when I gave her my name, she looked at the sheet in front of her and looked back at me. She lifted the page, looked at another sheet and looked back at me. My name was nowhere to be found in the list of children expected to be at this day camp. Unlike all the other kids who seemed enthusiastic about their surroundings, inwardly, I was starting to panic.

I was taken to the Camp Office and I fidgeted in my seat while the staff tried to find my grandparents contact information. Had the internet been invented in the 1970’s, this process would have been far more expedited than it was. I don’t recall all the details of the investigation, but I do know they eventually found my camp information in my backpack and discovered I had boarded the 8:00 am bus when I should have actually boarded the 9:00 am bus in the same location. I spent the day with a group of kids I would never see again and was actually thrilled to get back to the city.

The next day, I boarded the 9:00 am bus for my day camp and loved every minute of it. The added bonus at the camp I was meant to attend in the first place was the fact that we learned to sing all the songs from the musical Annie. Looking back at it now, I think the payback for my Nana putting me on the wrong bus was the fact that I sang Annie songs at the top of my lungs for the two-and-a-half hour drive from Oakville to Muskoka to return me to my parents. I’m sure there were many moments when my Grampa thought of throwing himself out of the moving vehicle onto the highway just for a moment of peace.

To this day, I can’t hear those songs without picturing myself with my arm hanging over the front seat and singing like I was Little Orphan Annie on Broadway.

 

When did I become THIS person?

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I would never have described myself as being overly adventurous in my youth.  I wasn’t afraid to try new things in my teens and early twenties but my limits for risky undertakings were much higher then and now my willingness to live on the edge (or a reasonable facsimile of the edge) has completely diminished.

I have not felt the desire for wanderlust that seems to be an affliction for so many of my friends.  I am content to live vicariously through the tales of their adventures and to witness their triumphs through the photographic journey that they provide as a backdrop for the narrative of their experience.

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I have always been a homebody.  I prefer a “staycation” to a long line in an airport terminal with the risk of acquiring some form of contagious bacteria to bring home as a souvenir.  I would not go so far as to say that I have become a recluse but the evidence is mounting and the verdict could completely contradict my argument for my defense.

Where once I would brave the terrain and the elements, I now shy away from driving in bad weather.  I don’t like driving at night anymore because my eyesight feels somewhat compromised in the dark and I make the excuse that it is for the safety of the other drivers on the road.  And I shrink into my couch every time gale force winds undulate through the bare branches and howl outside of my window.

But I have come to realize that my plight is not one of fear.  It is one of freedom.  I have allowed myself to be just that, myself.  I am not going to jump behind the wheel of my car because someone thinks I am paranoid and I want to prove them wrong.  I make no excuses.  I ask for no sympathy.  I simply live the way I want to live.  I am quite content to sit in my living room with my computer in my lap and blog about the fact that I am comfortable becoming THIS person.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good for the economy but bad for my temperment

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I am going to do my utmost not to turn this post into a rant, but I make no promises.

The population in our tiny town explodes from May to October.  Cottagers and tourists alike flock to our little oasis to drink from our serene waters, to sip from the fountain of relaxation and to let every ounce of their city stress slowly dissipate until they resemble nothing of their former city-dwelling selves.  This is what we are selling and this is what they are buying.

This year seems to have hit an all-time high for human traffic.   Stores are reaping the benefits of the excess numbers of shoppers, our local Foodland check-outs are all lined up six shoppers deep but I have learned to adjust my shopping schedule accordingly.

We get it.  We are not new to this phenomenon and we learn to adapt to our new routines to keep our sanity.   But there are moments that we cannot control – moments when we have to shop during the peak times and it is during these times I lose my sense of humor.

Blatant rudeness and uncaring attitudes run rampant.  You may think I am simply frustrated from working long hours and dealing with unbearably hot temperatures, but I have first-hand experience of the uncaring attitude of some of our summer guests.  My latest encounter today prompted me to vent write this post.

I pulled into the liquor store and was shocked to get a parking spot without having to wait.   I noticed three carts left on the sidewalk in front of the store, collected them and returned them to their rightful place inside the store.  Wine in hand, I moved to the tills and the line moved quickly.  I was lucky to get in and out without incident.   The woman who was parked beside me had just loaded her box of goodies into her BMW SUV and lifted her cart up over the curb, leaving it on the sidewalk.  I got into my car, made eye contact with BMW lady and then she and I both watched as her cart slowly rolled backwards, tipped over the curb and landed on my front bumper.  Not missing a beat, she slid her vehicle into reverse, no apology, not a shred of remorse, backed out of her spot to head back to her restful vacation spot.

Shopping Cart Walk

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I could feel my blood pressure rising before the color of my cheeks betrayed me.  I got out of my car, checked my bumper and wheeled her cart back in to the store to avoid having this happen to another car.

These are the people who frustrate me.  These are the people who make me believe that, to them, other people just don’t matter.  I may have ranted in an earlier blog and received many varying comments, perhaps rightfully so, but my rants are justified.  Ask yourself how you would have reacted in that situation.  For me, I would never have left the cart in the first place but, I would certainly  have jumped out of my car to make sure the other vehicle had not sustained any damage.

Rant over.   What would you have done?

 

 

 

 

“Touricide” and a brief message to the transient population

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It has already begun and the long weekend is still days away.  The simple act of easily turning left onto any of our local roads is a shadowed memory of its former self.  They have descended upon us and the seemingly mundane tasks we used to perform with ease now require an expletive filter and a great deal of patience (or high blood pressure pills) (or both).

Almost three years ago, I wrote this post about the tourist season in our small town.  It was that post that sparked some interesting conversation about these wayward travelers and also got me Freshly Pressed.  To those not ensconced in the WordPress blogging world, being Freshly Pressed was a nice pat on the back.  We were recognized for writing something interesting that would encourage a discussion.  And that it did…..on many levels.

I will preface the words that follow by reminding you that I work in the hospitality and tourism industry.  My job is to serve people and I truly enjoy it.  Our lodge guests have slowly become like friends and family and it is a pleasure to go to work.  But the myriad of other temporary inhabitants of our little village are a like a box of chocolates and, as Forrest Gump so eloquently put it, you never know what you’re gonna get.   I realize that these summer vacationers are the bread to our butter, the wind beneath our small town wings, but, as each year rolls into the next, the level of courtesy and manners shown by a substantial percentage of these visitors leaves much to be desired.

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The act of “Touricide” has crossed my mind at many points throughout our busy seasons.  I’m sure if the facts of my potential case were presented to a jury of my peers the charges against me would be dropped and the crime would be ruled as justifiable.

I don’t mind that our population explodes exponentially in the summer months.  I plan accordingly knowing my routine tasks will take much longer because the lines have quadrupled in length.  I leave my house much earlier to deal with the sudden onset of traffic in a town where six cars on the road in the spring is considered gridlock.

What I cannot tolerate is the arrogant attitude of so many of these visitors, thinking we live in this town only to serve them in the summer.  You have entered our home.  We have greeted you with courtesy and respect and all we ask in return is the same level of civility.  We will bend over backwards to meet your needs and we ask so little of you.  Smile.  Say thank you, and mean it.  Take a moment to appreciate that you are on vacation and relax.  Things may not get done at city speed but they will get done and we will make sure they get done properly and that they meet or exceed your expectations.

I wish everyone celebrating the long weekend a safe and happy holiday.  Take the time to smile and say hello to a stranger.  Perhaps all they need is a little small town warmth to melt that cold city shell.

Back in the saddle

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It happened.  Winter finally ended and the deluge of a new reality is seeping in the front door.  Today, the lodge officially opens for business and life, as I know it, will drastically change for the next six months.

No longer will I be able to hear my dog snoring from the corner of the office.  The dark days of winter, which seemed so cold and lonely, are a thing of the past and our first group arrives today, marking the beginning of a very busy season.

I am always torn this time of year.  Being busy is wonderful.  I enjoy interacting with a myriad number of personalities and I do enjoy engaging more in the active part of my job.  However, the increase in my hours at work means a decrease in my creative hours at home.  My reading suffers, my dog sees me far less than I would like and my blog always seems to take a bit of a back seat while I am perched high in that saddle, ready to ride into action.

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But I shall carry on, knowing that the sunset of my busy season is a mere six months away and the idle time, which can sometimes seem monotonous, will once again be waiting for me to bask in its splendor.

 

Awfully glad to be unhappy

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I work in the hospitality industry so it should go without saying that I am a people person.  I love interacting with new guests and getting to know them, having a few laughs and making sure they feel at home at the lodge.

There is something very personal about our small resort that allows us to really become friends with our guests.  We know them on a first name basis by their first or second day, we know their kids’ names, we get to know where they are from and eventually we remember that they prefer rye toast and how they take their coffee.

It really is like spending a weekend with an extended part of our family.   When it comes time to say goodbye, I really am sad to see them leave.  Knowing they will be back again slightly eases the sadness but I am glad that I can feel that melancholy feeling because it truly means we have had an authentic effect on each other during their stay.

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I know that the long hours pale in comparison to the number of smiles I have seen or the many sounds of laughter that have echoed within the walls of the lodge during their stay.  And although it may be another year before we see them again, we are genuine when we say we look forward to having them come back “home” again.

 

 

 

Just get in the car and drive….

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Today is my first day of two days off in a row!  Sadly, I think the last time this phenomenon occurred was during the Christmas holidays when I had a horrible case of Pneumonia and couldn’t get off the couch.  Not even the sun shining through my bedroom window this morning could pull me from under the cover of my duvet.  I did rise at 7:30 to tend to my four-legged roommate but, after returning to bed, the clock read 10:39 a.m. when I finally emerged from my cocoon.

It’s amazing how quickly you can lose your grip on reality.  Work happens day in and day out and, if you let it, work can consume your life.  I awoke this morning almost struggling to come up with something fun to do since my day off usually consists of laundry, house cleaning and other mundane tasks.

I did mow the lawn and weed around my mom’s tree to feel some sense of accomplishment today but the day rapidly evolved into a day of carefree abandon which I have not been able to enjoy in a while.  My travelling companion and I hopped in the car and headed out onto the open road.  The sun was shining, the sky was a remarkable shade of blue and the roads were all but abandoned.

country road

I finally felt a true escape today that I have not felt in a while.  I didn’t think of what would happen at work tomorrow because my tomorrow work-day was extended for another 24 hour period.  I didn’t care that I hadn’t vacuumed my house because I still have tomorrow to vacuum.  It was a memorable day of reckless abandon and not having to share the open road because all the tourists are happily ensconced in their city homes.  It was just me, my dog and an endless stretch of sun-streaked pavement.

It’s amazing what you take for granted.  Those seemingly meaningless pleasures suddenly become treasured moments when you realize that you are unable to enjoy them as often as you would like.  Driving along winding country roads with not another car to be seen was my perfect moment today.  It gave me time to breathe.  It gave me time to reflect.  And it gave me time to just be myself.

When was the last time you had a perfect moment?