Jambo Journal – Day #11, Wednesday, August 4, 2010 – The Voyage Home.
Yesterday’s entry: Life Happens When You’re Having Fun
In the journalism biz, of which I’ve had an off-again on-again affair with since my salad days, there’s a trade secret regarding writing non-news stories on a tight deadline: write the story before the event actually happens. That way, you can quickly tweak it for facts based on what really happened and still have an excellent piece before the editor demands, “The presses are running now! Give me whatever you got!”
I figured nothing says “tight deadline” than shipping out day, when chaos lords over the earth and misdirection rules the day. In that spirit, I figured I’d use that ol’ trade secret. Here’s what I wrote Tuesday with what I intended to serve as the first paragraph for this entry:
The day begins early after a dewy night. We’ve already positioned our gear in the staging area near Troop 314. Now we just wait for our trucks. The buses will be coming an hour later. There’s a chance the military may require the trucks to wait for the buses. This would prove problematic if true.
Events have overwhelmed my corner-cutting strategy and would soon have me question the wisdom of the last paragraph of the yesterday’s post.
Here’s what really happened on this final day.
At 3:00am the PA system blares the following alert: “Lightning is within ten miles.”
There’s a small hustle and bustle outside that shortly dies down so I remain in my cot. Soon, I can hear the faint soundings of anxious activity at the far end of camp. With every second, the noise gets closer to our site. It’s like a series of dominoes falling towards us at a measured pace. Curiosity wins and I get up. As I exit my tent, the commissioner makes an unscheduled round to warn us of impending thunderstorms, possibly lasting up to two hours. I figure this is not a drill or a ploy. The MPs trailing to ensure all the boys are secure make it official.
All those boys who made the temporary lean-tos last night need to relocate under the shortened canopies. We have one hour to tie everything down. Anyone not certain of their personal security or safely has been asked to relocate to the staff dining tent to avoid the coming deluge. No one from our camp leaves. We do, however, convince the 1st and 3rd Assistant Scoutmasters to go there because that’s where the transport bus will soon pick them up and bring them to the main gate to ride with the two trucks coming to get our gear.
I keep toying with the idea of taking a peek at the radar on the computer. I eventually succumb. I start my computer, successfully log on to the AT&T wifi, and see a scary sight. The radar image shows an extended wave of yellows and reds heading straight for us. Given the pattern of the radar, though, it’s not clear to me if it’s a severe thunderstorm. We further secure the boys. Everyone – boys and leaders – pack away their cots. There’s no question they’re going to get wet.
The fact I’m the only one with a tent discomforts me. I don’t want to miss the excitement of being outside during the storm. Yes, I know all the rigamaroll about “being prepared” and keeping the tent up is the ultimate “being prepared,” but, still, I’ll not be participating in the suffering, and that upsets the daredevil in me. As though he can read my mind, the Scoutmaster looks at me and says, “Good thing you left your tent up. At least one of us will be fresh and dry if things get really hairy.” Once again, my “special” tag becomes crystal clear. I bring more essential troop gear and even leaders’ gear into my tent.
We go back to “bed” at close to 4am with the rain just starting. The rain’s intensity crescendos until, at 5am, the actual storm hits. The thunder is far off, but the pelting rain hits our bullseye. Remarkably, and maybe a bit fortunately, the wind does not seem as bad as I might have expected. Safe inside my tent, the rain makes so much noise I can barely hear the leaders outside. Still I can imagine they’re spending the bulk of their time in the middle of the slim pop-up shelter pushing the puddling water from the sagging cover. This is what prevented the shelter from breaking during last week’s storm.
At 6am it doesn’t sound like it’s going to let up. I try logging on to the AT&T wifi network, but it has limited connectivity. The Scoutmaster, by coincidence, comes up to the vestibule of my tent and asks me to get his cell phone out of his bag. I can barely hear him in the pounding rain. I tell him of my problems logging on and suggest he try to get a radar update from the commissioners. He tells me the buses haven’t arrived yet and leaves.
I decide to finish packing while waiting for AT&T. The boys are still in their barracks. Packing goes quickly since, like any other camping trip I go on, I start packing as soon as I begin removing items on the first day. The rain bombards us with unwavering consistency. The need to see a radar image gnaws at me. I imagine this is what an addict in detox might go through.
I finally give up on AT&T and go to the Verizon network on my cell phone. This network is more reliable, but the app I have is not as good as the internet site. I look at the radar. It extends back several hundred miles, meaning at least another two hours of rain given prevailing patterns. (One of the drawbacks of the mobile app is that I can’t get the radar in motion, which means I’m only guessing on the prevailing patterns.) I inform the Scoutmaster, who confirms the truck hasn’t arrived yet.
At 7am, I’m typing this. The Scoutmaster returns and prepares the boys with new instructions. First, he informs the remaining adult leaders as to the situation. Our 1st and 3rd Scoutmasters have not yet seen the trucks and can’t get hold of the drivers. The Scoutmaster then leaves to talk to the other troops.
He returns and, about a half hour later, shares this report: The good news: the trucks are through the gate. The bad news: They didn’t pick up our 1st or 3rd Scoutmasters. It turns out our 1st Scoutmaster was right. Since he had given the trucks the proper credentials (i.e., the placard), the army let them in without the need of a troop representative on board. So, the truck has to turn around and pick-up the guys we sent to meet them. This will delay things.
By now, the roads in Fort A.P. Hill have become parking lots. Consider this. The roads are skinny. The roads are clogged. And we have two tractor trailer trucks that need to turn around. We can only envision the worse. We briefly have the idea the buses might arrive first. We prepare the boys to loads the buses before we load the truck. Most of the subcamp has now packed up and left. It appears will be an example of the first (to check in) will be the last (to check out).
We see the buses pull in.
We get word from the commissioner the army will not allow us to load the buses until we have finished loading the trucks.
Let me repeat.
The buses are here. The trucks are missing.
And it’s starting to rain again.
We send the boys up to road with their gear. Even if they can’t load it, at least it’ll be positioned in the right place. I stay in the camp area until I can see that all the gear has been removed. Then I bring my gear up to the bus. I discover our ever diligent boys are loading the bus – just as the truck has arrived for the rest of our gear. Things go quickly now, with all our contigent’s troops loading gear in the busses and the trucks. I didn’t see how they did it, but the boys somehow managed to split themselves into two optimal groups – one for loading the truck and one for loading the buses.
With everything loaded, we line up the boys outside the bus to make sure all are accounted for and with their buddies. The 3rd Scoutmaster has a brilliant idea and sends them all to visit the port-a-john before we take off. I have a different brilliant idea. I see some of the boys have decided to bring their large wooden mallets in the passenger cabin instead of stowing them below. I make a command decision: All mallets will be checked in and retained by the adult leaders prior to boarding the bus.
We’ll have no smashed bus windows (or bashed skulls) on our watch.
On the way home we watch two-and-three-quarters movies. We borrowed them from the other buses. We started with Bushwacked. After lunch, we saw the Italian Job. The movies do a good job in sedating the boys. Remember, these guys had just completed ten days of acting like free range chickens. Keeping them cooped up in a bus for 8 hours, while not a problem on paper, might present a challenge.
We learned this when we stopped at the rest area in NY. With maybe ninety minutes until we arrive at home, we put in Down and Derby. The movie has ten minutes left when we pull into MCC. Some of the boys ask the bus driver to take one more orbit around the campus. They are quickly vetoed.
We get home to parents and share some happy memories from Fort A.P Hill:
I spoke to the boys about what they think they’ll remember most about the 2010 Boy Scout Centennial Jamboree and Fort A.P.Hill. Here’s a few things they said:
- Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders
- Sargent Slaughter yelling “You maggots” at the Opening Ceremony.
- Miss America’s “Young Women” flub at the Opening Ceremony.
- The deafening chirp of helicopters incessantly flying overhead.
- The attractive servers at the ice cream stands.
- The long march back and forth to the arena.
- “I lost the game.”
- Merit badges.
- The Compass Mysterium.
- Technology Quest.
- The Activity Centers.
- Making new friends.
- Having fun with people from all over.
- The freedom and independence to do whatever they wanted.
- The genuine desire to do this all over again.
And they’ll get a chance to do that again in three years. Sure, many from our contingent troop will age out, but others will have a chance to go again – and tell all their home troops how much fun they had.
For me, I’d certainly like to go again.
Epilog: Immediately after arriving home, I had to prepare for the annual meeting of our fund, which includes three days of business and pleasure activities and a houseful of guests. This, like the Jamboree, was also a memorable time. It was also responsible for the delay in this final entry.
I did want to add this about my first night home:
Lying in bed, I discovered I missed my cot (this only lasted one night).
In the first of many showers had to remove the Virginia dust and pollen, in tribute to Fort A.P. Hill, I ended the event with the faucet on cold for 30 seconds.
Lastly, thank you all for the kind compliments on these posts. And thank you for putting up with the spelling, punctuation and grammar errors. I’ll let the French majors like SoCal explain the title. Until next time…