Canoeing with Susan: a lesson in why kids should be sent to summer camp
October 29, 2010 5 Comments
My little sister is turning 40 soon and we planned to head to Florida to recover from the horror; her from turning 40 and me from having a little sister who is 40. The house we are staying at is on the beach but also is adjacent to a brackish water lake and they rent canoes. I love to canoe and all things water-related. I also know how to canoe. I assumed that Susan knew how to canoe because my parents also sent her to camp where I had learned to canoe. Big mistake. Susan has no idea how to canoe.
My Dad is a salt of the earth type whose parenting skills included spouting such gems as “life is hard in the far west” when confronted with a reasonable request for assistance. Dad also believed I should go to 4H camp so I could “toughen up”. At 11, I discovered that 4H camp meant get in a canoe, try to stay afloat and catch and make your own dinner. My formative summers were spent in exotic locations like Kansas and Missouri canoeing and illegally trawling for bass to stay alive. I assumed Susan got the same treatment, but I never asked since she was younger than I am and was completely beaneath my notice. So when Susan said “hey let’s rent a canoe”, I was hit by a wave of nostalgia and though it would be a lark, especially since I could spend an enjoyable day in the sun paddling around the beach and then head out for a nice dinner without having to catch it first. I did not consider the danger of Susan.
To start with, Susan is a completely charming and utterly dangerous human to hang out with. She thinks nothing of lighting a cigarette with a map gas torch while driving down the highway. She once blew the doors off a microwave while boiling eggs in a Pyrex bowl because “it seemed like a good idea.” This is the person I decided to canoe with. In my defense, I had no idea she had never canoed because she had been to camp.
Getting in the canoe was the first trick. She almost took a header out of the canoe because she did not understand that the canoe was balancing in the water. I pressed on with the adventure because I thought she was just rusty and would remember how it all worked soon. The concept of balance remained elusive as she continuously lurched over the side to try to reach things in the water. Then, because there is such a thing as a “tide” and she did not heed commands to paddle hard, we foundered on a sand bar. People from the beach could see us. They were laughing at us. Susan picked that time to jump out of the canoe to “push us off the sand bar”. Genius. Never mind that there were drop-offs everywhere around us. Drop offs with sharks. She did manage to free us and somehow get back in the canoe just as this swam past us.
The bigger question for me was why did she not know how to canoe? The answer was that she got to go to civilized camp. With air conditioning, and three meals a day brought to her by people interested in her survival. Obviously, as the first born, I was expendable since they had a spare. So Dad, remember it will probably be me pushing your wheelchair and I am holding a grudge.