The Cast: Morning (it happens everyday), Traditions (repeat offenders).
Have you ever eaten something that just sent you?
You know those foods that just make everything grand? I think we’ve all had those circumstances where the food was good, not just because it was actually good (or maybe it wasn’t at all), but because the situation made the food good? Like the time of day? The company you’re in? The location? Ya’ know what I mean? Those moments in life when you look back and think, “Man, that sure was good. I wanna have (insert name of that food here) again.” Then, when you do, it’s not as good—for whatever reason. It’s kinda sad, but I think that’s just part of living.
One of my favorite lines (in anything) is from the 1982 animated film The Last Unicorn. In the film, there is a scene where the skeleton is being bartered with, and he wants wine. It is correctly pointed out that he cannot taste it—since he’s dead. He agrees, and states, “But, I remember.” I think that is the nature of some things, we are not meant to get to experience it over and over, but, we are meant to remember. I bring this up because a few weeks ago I remembered.
I was shopping at the grocery store when I came across a package of danishes. Inside the clear plastic container were a variety of flavors, one of which was the typical (well, I think typical anyway) cheese danish—Yum. Now, I am not much of a fan of cream cheese. I love it when it’s strawberry cream cheese and spread on a blueberry bagel. Or, if it’s made into a cheese cake… Super yummy! Anyway, usually I don’t like it. No, anyway, the cheese danish got me to thinking, which got me to remembering about some simple traditions at the Boy Scout summer camp my wife and I used to work at in—duh—the summer, Thunder Ridge Scout Camp.
The Scouts would arrive Monday mornings and stay until Saturday mornings. And, over the years we (the camp staff and management) found ways to make things more fun and add little bits of joy for the Scouts. One of which was the Otter Pops. Otter Pop Mondays were fantastically messy—and one of the worst things we ever did. Trying to freeze hundreds of Otter Pops every week could be exhausting. And, if you didn’t get them into the freezer with enough time to freeze, they wouldn’t. Then, we had to haul hundreds of them what felt like a mile, but was really more like 1/16th of one, to where the Scouts would arrive for check-in, all so we could provide the Scouts with a nice, cool treat. Many of the Scouts would arrive from Las Vegas—or parts of Arizona—and so, the cold Otter Pops were a welcomed refreshment.
Sadly, the plastic wrappers wouldn’t always make it into readily available trash can. That’s when the staff would be provided the pleasure of picking them up (hur-ray). However, there was this one glorious moment… Oh, man…
I had a junior staff member who walked up to a newly arrived truck while he carried a handful of Otter Pops—fanned out in a chilly and colorful peacock-like tail manner—ready to deliver the goods. A window rolled down, a bunch of fourteen-year-olds stuck their heads out all wanting to take part in the repairment. One boy asked, with a large smile plastered upon his face, “What flavors do you have?”
My staff member responded, looking the boy right in the eyes, “What do you mean what flavors? Look at the colors. There’s red, blue, green, orange, purple, and pink. Just pick a color.”
“What flavors do you have?” The boy challenged, not blinking, smile intact.
“I just told you. There’s green, blue, pink, purple, red, orange… Just pick a color.”
“I’m blind. What flavors do you have?”
Oh, that was funny! The boy, when he had put his head out the window just happen to appear to be looking my staff member in the eyes. The young man actually was blind. The face-to-face alignment, as he popped his head out the window was just by chance.
A few years later, we added danishes to the Saturday morning exodus. We would have boxes of variety flavored Sysco danishes, and milk. The Scouts would more quickly pack up and leave if free food was provided. We weren’t necessarily trying to get the Scouts out of camp quickly, but, the sooner they left, the sooner staff could go home and get stuff done for the next week (like planning for practical jokes or other stuff). So, we did want them out, but, not unhappy about it.
Well, the danishes were individually wrapped and kept in our deep freeze. When they were brought out, they were not frozen completely through, but they were cold. These danishes had a slight drizziling (I know ‘drizziling’ isn’t a word but it sounds more like what the icing looked like so, I’m sticking with ‘drizziling’), yes, a drizziling of icing in a zigzag pattern across them. Oh, yeah… the cheese ones! The cheese ones were—for some reason—devine. I don’t know what it was about them, the morning chill, the clean mountain air, the slightly chilled cheese dollop-disk in the middle, the preservatives… Something! Something about them made them the greatest thing ever. EVER! Sadly, no cheese danish has ever tasted as good since. At that age, I could have eaten them all. day. long. Seriously. At my age now, the doctor would frown upon it. Seriously.
Eventually, when I became part of management, I instituted: Morning Dew on the Meadow. It sounds simple. But, it is not what you think. Morning Dew on the Meadow involved getting up extra early (in time for the dew—actual moisture—to set in) and bringing several cases of Mtn Dew out to the area where the staff—first thing in the morning—would gather. And, you had two choices, one: Carry a few cases at a time and make multiple trips, or two: Carry the whole kit-and-kaboodle in one go and hope you don’t trip on anything, or drop anything and burst a can or more (once you’re on the mountain, there’s no ‘quick run to the store’). Plus, you can’t do this everyday, it would devalue the experience. But, knowing it could happen made every morning just a little more exciting.
At any rate, I would place several cans of Mtn Dew about the meadowy area where the staff would gather, and then I’d leave. I liked to arrive at the designated no-later-than-this-time time, so as to arrive later than my staff (they were always early so as not to be late). My arrival let them know it was time to start the day. No power trip, just a ‘set your clocks by it’ sort of thing. So, when the first time I did ‘Morning Dew on the Meadow’ the staff just stood there, staring at all the little cans of Mtn Dew.
“Are these for us?” Came the question from one particularly wide-eyed, and extra happy junior staff, as he steepled his fingers and sort of bounce-hopped in place—never taking his eyes off one of the cans of Dew.
“Well, I’ve always enjoyed a little dew on the morning meadow. And, I figured that most of you probably would too.” Then, I nodded my ‘go ahead’ for the collection of the Dew. Oh, the excitement! It was so much fun, and chaos—a whole heap of limited chaos. Every bodies were running about and trying to get their hands on the closest can they could—or any extras. Everyone just understood that everyone should get at least one (good people…). All except two (my medical staff—turned out they prefer Pepsi). The next time there was ‘Morning Dew on the Meadow’ there also happened to be some Pepsi. Interesting… Pepsi on a morning meadow? Who ever heard of that?
Sometimes, it’s the traditions at a workplace that make the work better, or easier. Sometimes, it’s all about the little things. Little things like a semi-frozen cheese danish, or an Otter Pop after hours of driving in the hot sun, or even a ‘little Dew’ first thing in the morning.