Writing

Day Off #5

  • October 11, 1998

This is a story about my last day off.  As my two friends, Amanda Kendrick and Stephanie Borts call it, “Day Off #5”.  It happened when we were working at the legendary Camp Chateaugay.   They were both kitchen staff; I was a counselor.  Not only was it one of the best days off I have ever had, it turned out to be one of the funniest times of my life.

I learned a good lesson in adventure on my last day off from my summer job.  The entire day off required absolutely no planning whatsoever, and neither I, not the two other girls I was with, had any idea where we were going.  Keeping adventure in mind, I packed up everything I could ever possibly need for the trip.   Along with two changes of clothes, I packed a pocket sized GPS (Global Positioning System), a set of Motorola 2-way radios, a flashlight, and a large supply of batteries.

The next step was getting the car from a parking lot accessible only by dirt roads.  I had to borrow the car from a friend who had never believed in taking care of cars.  The gauges didn’t work, nor did the windows, the air conditioning was questionable, but curiously enough, the radio was brand new.  Not only was the entire car in complete despair, but the gas tank was really small and we would have to stop often to fill it.  I prayed that I would not become stranded from not knowing we were out of gas.  I waited at the camp gate for the girls to bring their stuff to the car so we could leave.  I waited for what seemed like forever and they finally showed up.  Each of them had to very sizeable bags, compared to my bag which was relatively small.  The bags thrown carelessly into the trunk of the car, we started out on our little adventure.

By late afternoon we were about 30 miles away from our hectic jobs at camp.  However, we were hardly at the hotel and we still had a little bit left to go.  It was a very hot afternoon as we cruised down the highway.  The car began to overheat, just as I feared it would.  As I realized this problem, the very familiar smell of burning rubber began to flow very rapidly through the air vents.  I pulled the car just off the side of the highway at an intersection.  There we waited for what seemed like forever.  The hood was open, and the engine was spewing blue smoke.  The girls sat on the pavement smoking cigarettes as I tried in vain to find our location on an old road map I discovered under the passenger seat.  Just as I sat down next to the girls to relax by the roadside, a car pulled up along side us.  Both the girls looked at me as if I was the one who was going to see what was going on.  I jumped to my feet to see who had stopped to help us.  Two senior citizens occupied the car.  An elderly man was driving.  He asked me, “…Are you okay?   We see you have your car parked.  We have a cell phone.  Do you need help?…”  The questions and information were thrown at me.  I was too tired and fatigued to answer any of them.  So I simply said, “Thank you for stopping, Sir!  We are just waiting for our car to cool down before we continue on our way.”  As their car pulled away, Amanda and Stephanie were laughing at me.   I smiled and said, “Ok… we’re outa here!”

By this time, we were within the Plattsburgh City Limits.  At least we hoped so.  I was completely unfamiliar with the city streets at night, so I let Amanda drive.  She nearly escaped a few car accidents, not to mention a few speeding tickets.  Before I knew it, we had found the hotel where we were planning to crash once the day was over.  I pointed out a perfect parking space which was easily within 50 feet of the door.  Just as I suspected, instead of slowing down, Amanda hit the gas and made it to the space in record time, but before she had time to hit the brake, the front tires hit the curb and we stopped there.  I paid for the room in cash.   Thankfully, I had also packed my ATM card, from which I deducted $80 for our room.   We carried our bags down the hall to the room.  Even though we were planning to spend one night, Amanda and Stephanie decided to move in to the room for the night.   They put all their clothes in drawers, while I simply threw my small bag onto the floor and took a nap.  About half an hour passed; they were hungry, and I felt like getting a bite to eat.  As we raced down the hall to the lobby, Amanda threw me the keys and we all jumped into the car.

Driving to Pizza Hut at 10:00 at night isn’t something I can say I’ve done before.  It was definitely a new experience I shall never forget.  I drove around looking for Pizza Hut via roads that connected the hotel parking lot to other places I had hoped might lead us into the parking lot a of Pizza Hut.  Much to my dismay, they led us back to where we started; hence the phrase, “Not all roads lead to Pizza Hut”.  I got out of the car in an adjacent parking lot and said, “Okay.  Amanda it’s your turn”.  We had pulled out into traffic and were traveling about 20 miles an hour according to the speedometer which was never really accurate to begin with, when Amanda decided it might be kinda cool to throw the car into ‘park’.  We stopped instantly, much to the confusion of the man in the car behind us.   The car stalled, and the man behind us stopped and got out of his car; he waited for a moment, then started walking right towards us.  I was finally able to get the car running, and we peeled out of our predicament.  It turned out that Pizza Hut was just two blocks away.

After dinner, Amanda and Stephanie mentioned that they needed some personal items from the supermarket.  (Dear reader… for the sake of this story, I have chosen not to mention what items were purchased.)  I had just a small idea what these items were, but I wasn’t going to venture too close into their personal lives to ask exactly what they needed.  Driving to the Grand Union was easy, considering it was just down the street.  That is, after we managed to leave the parking lot of the Pizza Hut.  Amanda thought it was funny to annoy us by driving forwards and backwards through the parking lot.  We were all laughing hysterically, that is, until the manager walked out to see what was happening.  I waked to the door of the Grand Union with Stephanie.  As we peered in, we noticed that only the front bank of lights were on, and a young man in a red apron was mopping the floors.  He motioned to us to go away.  Another store was next door, and it was open 24 hours a day.  We went there instead.  After the girls got their things, we gathered around the, “kiddie” venting machines and purchased a few dollars worth of 25 cent toys.  We had quite a good time playing with the plastic baseball helmets and giggling.  We sat for awhile before leaving.

Returning to the hotel, all three of us were on really huge caffeine highs, and we decided it might be kind of cool to play some video games in the hotel arcade.  I played several games of air hockey with Amanda.  Needless to say, she beat me every time.  Stephanie simply walked aimlessly around looking at all the different games.  She kept complaining, “There’s nothing to play!”   Then, she sat down to play a race car game.  She wasn’t a very experienced driver, and she lost the game a few times.  The arcade closed at 1:00 in the morning, and we were kicked out at that time.  We returned to the room bored.  Just as we closed our door, we realized that we had left the pizza in the arcade on the air hockey table.  We weren’t really hungry to give it much thought.

We all stayed up really late that night watching television shows that any normal person would never watch.  They reminded me of the dull advertisements that were always on really late at night, or those really stupid and boring movies one can see on Sunday nights.  I fell asleep.  I awoke before the girls, so I decided to take a shower.  I left my watch on the table, so I had no idea what time it was.  I must have been in there for a long time because when I opened the door, a huge cloud of steam rolled out and formed fog on the mirrors.  Through the fog, I could see both Amanda and Stephanie waiting in line for the shower.  “Are you done?”, they asked with really annoyed faces.  I just smiled and went into the other room to get dressed.

By the time the two girls were packed and ready to go, it was 11:55.   Noon was the official check out time, and according to the sign on the back of our door, it was strictly enforced.  I mentioned that we had better hurry if we were going to make it.  We turned in our room keys, and left for the real adventure.   I again, had no idea what we were going to do, so I simply asked, “Um… does anybody have any idea what we’re going to do today?”.  I got a blank look from both of them.  Then Amanda said, “How about ice cream for breakfast?”.   Stephanie and I were both new to this idea, so we were open minded to the idea and said okay.  We found an ice cream place, and walked in.  I ordered a strawberry milkshake, and the two of them both got some really large and impressive sundaes.  We sat in the corner of the restaurant singing camp songs, much to the distaste of other customers, and the manager who kept peering around the corner to see what was happening.   While Amanda went to get something, Stephanie and I thought it might be kind of funny to hide the car keys.  I put them into my pocket; I knew that Amanda would never search there.  When Amanda returned to the table, Stephanie and I acted like we had lost the keys and would never see them ever again.  Amanda freaked.  She began looking everywhere she could, trying to retrace her steps.  Stephanie and I helped her look for the keys, while Amanda feverishly dumped out her purse searching for them.  I smiled, took them out of my pocket, and in shaking them, Amanda looked up and saw Stephanie and I running out to the car.

The next stop was a pet shop we noticed along the way.  We turned around and stopped in hopes of looking at the cute puppies, and all the dumb fish.   Much to my surprise, Amanda fell in love with a small fuzzy thing which I had never seen or heard of in my entire life.  She picked up this little thing which was about the size of a golf ball, some bedding, a clear plastic crate, and some food.  I ended up paying for these items because she was completely out of money.  We returned to the car with yet another strange occupant.

A problem arose in that we were all starved and could hardly afford to eat at some place nice.  Much to our dismay, it was a hot day, and the sign on the supermarket door stated in bold letters, “No Pets”.  Since we couldn’t leave the little fuzzy thing in the hot car, Amanda took the crate with the thing living in it, and hid it under her shirt.  I giggled as we walked into the air conditioned store.  I bought a nice bottle of soda, while the girls bought some sodas for themselves, and some bottled water for their new pet.

It was getting around time to head back to camp; our jobs were waiting there, and our day off ended promptly at 9:00 that night.  The drive home was anything but planned.  We were lost, so I turned on my GPS and entered the location coordinates to camp.  It pointed an arrow in the direction of camp.   Unfortunately, I still did not know where I was, only the direction I should drive the car.  As the distance to camp became shorter, according to the GPS, the scenery became more and more familiar.  It took us three hours to travel 30 miles.  We traversed roads, farm roads, unpaved and unmarked roads, just about any place you would not expect a car to go.  I was surprised that our, “hunk-o-junk” made it through some of the obstacles we went through.

Only 7 miles away, we stopped at another, familiar ice cream stand.   We had been going to the place for years.  Even as campers, we were taken here as a reward for being good.  We stopped and ate some cheese sticks.  That was when our money ran out.  After we finished, we drive to a local gas station for fill up the car.  I knew the car had a small gas tank, but I never realized how small.   The gauge read empty even after we filled it, but then again, it was broken anyway.   I spent $4.00 on the gas, and paid for it using some change I had discovered earlier in the back seat.

The last stop in our adventure was a boat launch.  A sign read, “Upper Chateaugay Lake Boat Launch Site — State of New York Department of Environmental Conservation”.  We parked the car on the grass, got out, and relaxed on the hood of the car.  The radio was set at a nice level, and I sat there wondering how in the world I ever managed to accomplish any of the things I had done on this day off.  It all seemed so incomprehensible to me that the three of us (not including the car) had survived this trip.  As we sat, I observed a redneck and a boat.  He maneuvered the boat right up to the launch point, then stopped the outboard engine.  Much to my surprise, he jumped into the water to fetch his truck.  Now with his truck in place, he loaded the front of the boat onto the carrier and cranked the rest of it on.  Once he had everything secured, he took a step back to admire his work and a job well done.  He stood proud admiring his handy work.  Just then, the brake on his truck gave way, and the boat with the truck attached, rolled right back into the water.  He frantically jumped into his truck, and somehow managed to get it started.  With a roar of the engine, he was out of the water, and I never saw the man again.

The three of us returned to camp around 8:00 that evening.   This completed one of the most memorable and exciting days of our lives.  We shall never forget that day; our last day off from work.  Every time we write each other letters, we always bring up something funny that happened during the trip.  It always seems to bring back memories that make us laugh, regardless of how many time we have been reminded of them.  And if Amanda or Stephanie are reading this, I love you guys and we have got to go on another day off someday!

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