I recently wrote about the time I spent completing Camp Potlach’s “Leadership in Training” course.
Here is a short, seemingly unbelievable, (but one hundred per cent true) anecdote from my time spent as a camper.
You’ve been warned.
During the summer of 2001, myself and five other teenagers – along with our two counsellors – camped, kayaked, canoed, and hiked our way around BC’s beautiful Howe Sound.
While our group had a base location about a twenty-minute hike away from the camp’s regular cabins and common rooms, this space was rarely used, and we spent the majority of our three weeks together sleeping under the stars on the many different islands and inlets populating this stretch of provincial land.
It was a magical time, truly.
The weather has hot, but not blindingly so; our skin cooled by an ever-present breeze and the long reaching shadows of sky-high Douglas firs and willowy evergreens.
In the mornings we would hike, or complete long (and sometimes treacherous) channel crossings. In the afternoons we would swim, or write in our journals, and in the evenings we’d each take turns practicing our fire-starting skills, while others would perfect their bear-hangs.
One morning, about two-thirds of the time into our course, I started my period.
I approached my counsellor Jane and asked her if she had a tampon that I could use. Although sympathetic to my situation, she informed me that I would have to do without, seeing as though one of the central tenants of our program was to be as environmentally friendly as possible.
We were to produce minimal waste.
Smiling a smile that clearly articulated, “I’m feeling for ya girl”, Jane handed me the next best thing: one of her unused bandanas.
“For inside your shorts,” she explained.
“Oh.” I said. “Thank you.”
So for the next two days I ran about with a balled-up piece of cloth in my underwear – washing, rinsing and drying it during my afternoon dips in the Pacific Ocean.
It was the most ‘White Fang’ I’ve ever felt in my life.
The morning of the third day, we awoke at the crack of dawn in order to pick blackberries before setting off on a three hour channel crossing.
We had been eating plain instant oatmeal every morning for almost two weeks, and as such, we were eager to add anything adventurous flavour-wise to the mix, in order slow what was our rapidly deteriorating interest in this staple.
As I hastily ran off into the bushes to pee one last time before we shipped off, I noticed that I had a huge stain on the back of my shorts. However, being susceptible as we were to tide charts, and cruise ship courses, time was of the essence, and I didn’t have time to change.
If you remember from my earlier post, my canoe partner was named Christian – a Denis Leary loving, would-be paramour (in his dreams only!), who would sing me “German” opera in the morning (think Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda), pick me “wildflowers” (weeds) and regale me with an endless litany of racist, sexist, and all-around offensive jokes.
The minute I sit down in the canoe Christian noticed my spotted shorts.
Immediately he began to make fun of me, despite the fact that he’d majorly missed the point. You see – he thought that the red stain on my clothing was, if you can believe it, blackberry juice.
His highly original, and completely obtuse commentary included gems such as:
“Jeeze Vanessa, it looks like you took a handful of blackberries and smeared them all over your ass!” and “Oh man! What did you do? Sit in the bush for fun?”
Cue more of the same derivative, inane one-liners for three whole hours!
At one point I even turned around and told him, as icily, and as calmly as I could: “Okay, thanks Christian. I’ll be sure to wash my shorts as soon as I can. That way, you’ll be able to go back to living your life.”
Unfortunately, this did nothing but encourage him.
Finally, we arrived at our destination.
An absolutely beautiful little moss-dotted inlet, home to the most beautiful collection of driftwood I have ever seen, and a number of different heron nests.
We all got out of our boats and either began tying them together or unpacking for lunch.
We’d planned on eating and then hiking up to a river where we would all go swimming.
I thought about how I’d be able to soak my shorts once we got there.
It was just as these thoughts were entering my mind, and as I was getting all of my gear together, that I noticed out of the corner of my eye, Christian walking over to my canoe seat.
And it was at this point, that everything seemed to start taking place in slow motion.
I turned and watched as Christian bent down and wiped his index finger along my seat.
He then brought his finger to his mouth, paused – and then he licked it.
I swore I felt the earth both rumble and sink between my feet. I don’t know if I was going to faint, or turn to stone, or explode from a tsunami of laughter.
What he said next, I will never forget.
Christian said: “Shit. That tastes like blood.”
It was at this point that I completely lost my mind.
The tsunami won out.
I started laughing, and laughing, and laughing and I could not stop.
No one in the group could figure out what was wrong with me.
Paralyzed by what I could only imagine to be the most epically insane thing ever to have been witnessed by a human being in the history of human beings, I couldn’t even eat my lunch.
My giggles came so fast, so furious.
Unfortunately, I started laughing even harder because in Christian’s completely clueless mind, he thought the blood he ate off of the seat came from a cut from a fellow camper’s finger – the one she had gotten while tying up her boat.
He actually sat down next to me and asked me: “Shit man. Do you think Amanda has anything wrong with her blood? Do you think it’s okay that I just ate it?”
This just made me howl even the more.
Now, the whole scenario should have just ended there, but it didn’t. During the post-lunch hike, Christian just wouldn’t leave well enough along and instead of badgering me about my shorts, he now wanted to know why I was laughing.
“What are you laughing about Vanessa?” and “WHAT’S SO FUNNY VANESSA?”
He repeated these questions, until finally I reached my breaking point.
I turned around and faced him, and yelled, in front of the entire group:
“OKAY CHRISTIAN! OKAY. I have my period! I have my period and I perioded all over my canoe seat! My period was on my seat and you ate it! YOU ATE MY PERIOD CHRISTIAN! IT WAS ON MY SEAT – AND YOU ATE IT!”
All I can say was that the look on his face was absolutely priceless.
Abject horror mixed with confusion, anger and amazement. He then immediately took out his water bottle and rinsed out his mouth – as if my menstrual blood was somehow still in there – before just taking off, like a shot.
Up the trail to the river, never to be seen again. (Just kidding of course – it was Christian after all. He was back after about thirty minutes.)
And I just kept laughing for the entire day.
At one point Amanda came up to me as asked me, incredulously, “Aren’t you at all embarrassed?”
To which I responded, “What? No! Why? I didn’t eat period off of a dirty canoe seat.”
And I definitely never, ever, ever will.