Of pranks and paranoia

I just got back from my fourth year as a counselor at Gateway Hemophilia Association’s Camp Notaclotamongus at Living Well Village in Imperial and I’ve got to say that it went pretty well.

Counselors arrive a day early for a little orientation, a little training and a little team building. This also gives us a chance to set up some of the occasionally elaborate decorations and make sure our bunks are exactly as we want them to be.

And it’s practically inevitable that a herd of counselors is going to find some time on counselor day to meander over to the local Walmart for some supplies. You can also hit the Target, or the K-Mart, or even one of the home improvement stores, but tradition dictates that Walmart is going to be the main place to hit for essential camp supplies.

So there I was: my fellow Cabin 1 counselor and I were strolling around the store, slowly checking off our mental supply lists. One of the last things that we put in the cart was a container of catfish stink bait.

So on the first night he snuck into a neighboring cabin and put some of that stinky stuff on a napkin and hid it where it wouldn’t be obvious, but also not so well hidden that the victim wouldn’t eventually find it. That’s the payoff, and it is essential.

And for the first couple of days he talked about how his little prank must have been insufficient — on the second or third night he set out again, with more stink bait and a larger target range.

As the head counselor of Cabin 1, it was my responsibility to go to the nightly head counselor meeting. I got my first indication that his mission was accomplished during one of these meetings.

They had apparently began at least a half hour earlier than usual, and as I walked in there was dead silence. It felt like there was about to be an intervention and that I was the target.

So word was going around that someone had found some … well, they thought it was the solid product of the digestive system of some sort of animal in their cabin. The stink was real and the color was brown so that assumption came easily.

I acted like I was offended that they were assuming the noble residents of Cabin 1 would do such a thing and then quickly assured them we weren’t caveman and the mystery substance was actually catfish bait. Clearly, the cabins he hit were not stocked with fishermen.

But the best parts of the story came later, as we casually talked in the closet counselor lounge. It turned out that the real prank wasn’t the smell, even though it was significant, but the paranoia that took hold when it came time to assign blame. One counselor just assumed the smell was coming from one of his campers; another burst into the wrong cabin and started accusing the counselors contained within. Buffalo Springfield will tell you that paranoia strikes deep, and strike deep it did.

The tales of paranoia were making the prank even better for me, so I was cracking up. It was like the best case scenario for a prank — it had worked better than we could possibly imagine. But the pièce de résistance was revealed when one of the other cabin counselors said this:

“You guys are like the Al-Qaeda of Camp Notaclotamongus.”

That’s the kind of thing that should be on a plaque, right? We instantly adopted it as a nickname for Cabin 1.

Sedalia Democrat
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