Monday, August 31, 2009

"Summer Times - Pink Eye"

Virtually every summer, usually in August, a pink eye epidemic would coming sweeping through my camp like a sticky tornado. At its worst, close to a third of the camp would be engulfed by this dreaded scourge.

Apparently, there are different kinds of pink eye – viral, bacterial, pink eye caused by allergies. There’s a lot of information about it on the Internet. I thought I’d put some of it in here, but then decided not to. I mean, what am I, a medical blog? Okay, recently, but, normally, I’m a whole different thing.

The best thing about pink eye is that I never got it. Pink eye is extremely contagious. You touch something contaminated, you touch your eyes, you got pink eye. I never touched my eyes. Back then, I wore thick glasses. This gave me a bifocaled wall of protection between the contaminate and my eyeballs.

I always hated my glasses, but they kept me from getting pink eye. That’s inanimate objects for you. You hate them, and they help you anyway. The animate can learn from the inanimate in that regard. Though it’s unlikely we will.

Okay, so I didn’t get pink eye, but a substantial chunk of the camp did. You could easily identify the afflicted. Their eyes looked red and itchy-looking, and when the pink eye ointment was applied to them, goopy. One glimpse of these pathetic wretches compelled you to recoil from their presence while uttering the word,


As much as possible, pink eye campers were rigorously segregated from the rest of the populace. They ate separately, using their own separate eating utensils. They played separately. (I clearly remember receiving the severe warning while I was playing badminton: “Don’t touch that ‘birdie’! That’s the pink eye ‘birdie’!”)

Pink eye were restricted from going in the water. It could be the hottest day of the summer, a real scorcher – the pink eye tribe was relegated to the sidelines. As the “healthies” frolicked in the refreshing coolness of the lake, the “pink eyes” looked on helplessly, their bodies sheathed in sweat, their half-closed eyes, mere slits of encrusted envy.

One summer, during a particularly virulent pink eye infestation, our camp received a visit from a basketball team, made up of staff members from nearby (non Jewish) Camp Tawingo. An exhibition game had been arranged between their camp and some hastily assembled staff members from ours.

Our camp owner was always encouraging demonstrations of universal brotherhood, trying to forge a consistency between our behavior and the “we’re all the same” principles expressed in many of our camp songs.


I’m proud to be me, but I also see

You’re just as proud to be you.

We may look at things a bit differently

But lots of good people do.

It’s just human nature

So why should I hate you

For being as different as I.

We’ll take and we’ll give

And we’ll live and let live

And we’ll all get along if we try.

I’m proud to be me, but I also see

You’re just as proud to be you – it’s true –

You’re just as proud to be you.

We once had a local Protestant minister come and speak to us. But when he adamantly insisted that we were all going to hell, the ecumenical encounter was immediately cut short. The guy may not have even been offered snack. (Although knowing the camp owner, he probably was.)

Judging from their ball-playing contingent, Camp Tawingo seemed to have sprung from a Nordic branch of the Tree of Man. They were all giants. The players on our team varied from not tall to not much taller, Eastern European stock growing close to the ground. There are a few exceptions, a smattering of uncharacteristically tall Jews, owing to the fact that their gene pool had been visited by marauding Cossacks who’d been awarded “pogrom privileges” with the local femalery.

It wasn’t enough that the Tawingo team was tall. They also had plays. How do you define “mismatch”? Tall and trained versus short and disorganized. (“Scrappy” could not make up the difference.) The game was a blowout. Something like, fifty-eight to twelve.

One shining moment rises from the debacle. When the game was over, the entire pink eye community – sitting separately, as usual – rose as one, and raced towards the victorious Tawingans, shouting,

“Let’s congratulate the winners!”

I retain the memory a team of terrified strangers bolting down the road, pursued by an exuberant pack of sticky-eyed crazies.


A. Buck Short said...

Somewhat anachronistic Hitchcock alternate scenario:

1. Game is halted temporarily after star Tawingo point guard loses contact lens somewhere on the court.

2. All campers crawl around gingerly on knees looking over 3 ft. x 3 ft. grids for the missing prosthetic vision enhancement devise.

3. Lens is miraculously recovered by pink eye-afflicted camper.

4. Rubber-gloved authorities seize the lens and immerse in boiling water for 25-minutes, during which time the game continues.

5. Star point guard continues playing with just the one lens, missing all shots by approximately 3 degrees. He is benched.

6. Without star point guard, gentile camp staff win by only 238-12, the home team losing by that little only because this was prior to the introduction of the three point play – or as later known at Tawingo, the Trinity.

7. Earl’s camp staff sues for whiplash.

8. Due to their nose-to-the-grindstone close scrutiny of 3’x 3’ court grids, the next day, all participants in lens recovery mission are afflicted with rare epidemic of athlete’s eye.

Anonymous said...

I've got to quit reading your blog when it's quiet in my office. Everyone thinks I'm losing my mind since I'm making strange noises as I try desperately to stifle the laughter.

Max Clarke said...

I never got pink eye, I got half red eye or red half-eye or something.

One night, I started a coughing fit that wouldn't stop, it came right after I had a couple of cans of Fresca. Must have been the strong stuff. In the middle of the night, I started throwing up.

The next morning, the lower half of each eye was red, it looked as if the iris and the pupils were floating on a red sea. Gruesome, and it detracted from my normal passive expression.

Eventually, I found out what had happened. A friend said his wife had the same thing happened when she was going through a tough pregnancy. The coughing popped blood vessels in the eyeball, and hence the red eye.