‘Tis the season. Camping Season.
Everyone camps. People have tents, people have trailers, people have motorhomes. In our neighbourhood, we are most likely the only family that t a) doesn’t have a trailer or fifth wheel; b) doesn’t have a lake lot at Lesser Slave Lake; or c) doesn’t even own camping equipment of the basic type, such as sleeping bags.
My husband loves camping. His parents have a lake lot with a fifth wheel and a park model trailer. My parents have a trailer and a lake lot. My sisters both own tents and all the gear for camping, and have gone camping together with their spouses in the mountains. Unfortunately for my dear Tony, we do not camp. Not together, not as a family, nada. I hate camping. And this is the awesome story that I get to tell every time someone gives me the incredulous look, wondering what the HELL is wrong with me that I hate it so much.
When I was 12 years old, I went to a summer bicycle camp. The whole premise of this camp was that we, as a group of 12 year olds, would bike about 30 km a day for six days, make camp each night, and take off the next morning. Sounds like fun, right? And as an adult, I can’t help but think of the exercise and calories you would burn. Fun times, right?
The first two and half days of camp were fun, but there were some disgruntled kids at camp who thought that the primary counselor was a total bitch. That may be partially true. As a result, many kids were wanting to call home to talk to their parents (understandable). The main problem with this was that we had to use pay phones (remember, this was before the cell phone made its way out of the car bag). Pay phones involved getting an adult to help you figure out how to dial collect or use a calling card or whatever. The Bitch was scared of all the kids calling home. There were some threatening to call home to get their parents to pick them up. She did not want to have this horrible counselorship on her resume, so she made the unilateral decision to not let ANY kids call home. Period. Full Stop.
Enter Sarah. First time camping, I was getting the hang of it. I was 12, I didn’t have BO yet, so I really did not mind not showering every day. Or just pulling my hair back into braids to get the yuck off my back. No biggie. Until I went to the outhouse and saw blood in my panties. Oh. Sweet. Fuck. It was a period. My first period. And I was out camping with no amenities. No running water, no pads, no tampons (although I seriously doubt there are many who wear tampons that first time). All I had were stained panties.
I collected myself and went to talk to one of the counselors (she was the NICE one). She was 16, and told me it was no big deal, and that she would talk to the other counselors and other teenage girls and see if anyone had pads I could have. I asked if I could call my mom, who was about an hour away. Bitch started freaking out a bit, would NOT let me call home. After wondering what to do with me, she got her mom, who was helping with meals, to run to the store about 20 minutes away to buy me something. Too bad the mom must have been WAY past menopause, because she had no clue what to buy and came back with a pack of panty-liners. And a small pack to boot. Bitch gave her mom shit for buying the wrong thing, but never asked her to go get the RIGHT thing. So there I was, in the middle of the forest, with coyotes and bears, with blood in my pants and 10 panty lines to clean it up.
That night, it rained. It rained hard, and the tarp on our tent did not work so well, so our tent flooded. Now I had bloody panties and I smelled like a wet dog. Wait. Scratch that. A wet dog who has just been attacked by a coyote and is bleeding everywhere. I got up the next morning, threw out my panties and my pants, changed into new ones, put on that useless panty liner, and wrapped my windbreaker around my waist rather than use it to shield myself from the rain. There were BOYS there that would have made fun of me, so I made the sacrifice. We had to bike a shorter distance that day (about 15 km) but it was ALL up hill. In the pouring rain that came sideways and slapped me in the face. The only perk to that rain was that I was so wet when we arrived at our destination that my underwear and pants had been presoaked and there was no trace of blood.
That night, we stayed in a seniors drop-in center, which had plumbing, but no showers or anything like that. I threw out my wet underwear and pants, put on another useless liner and went to bed. I woke up all bloody, again, and repeated the whole routine of throwing out my underwear, putting on clean ones and clean pants, wrapping my windbreaker around my waist and set off for a leisurely 48 km bike ride to the next camping point.
The next camping point had pay showers. Since I was 12 and was not TOLD that we needed money for pay showers, I had none. The Bitch gave me one token and told me to go wash up. I threw out my panties and gleefully got myself all lathered up in tepid water, shampooed my down-to-my-butt hair, and the water turned off. Sweet merciful CRAP. I dried myself off, got dressed, and went to the water pump to rinse the shampoo out of my hair. I hit the old sleeping bag (complete with secret blood stains!) and longed for morning. Morning would be the beginning of the LAST day, when I could go home and clean myself up and actually DEAL with the fact that I had my period.
When I awoke, I was eager to get out of there. We were 30 km away from our destination, and I could not WAIT. Then, just as we were leaving, my dad pulled up in our minivan. Before he even had a chance to say hello, I blurted out “DAD! I got my period. I NEED PADS. Can you go get me some and bring them back to me?” He looked at me and smiled, then went back to town to get me what I so desperately needed. He returned when I was on route, so I hopped into the back of the van to put on a pad, then I kept biking.
Why I didn’t just pack up and go home, I am not sure. I must have not wanted to let on to the other kids that there was something wrong. Or I wanted to eat the hot dogs at the wrap-up BBQ. Who knows. I do love me some BBQ hot dogs.
But THAT is why I hate camping. And I have yet to tell that story to someone who has not responded with “Man, I’d hate camping, too.”
Yes, you would.