I was used to bedwetters.
Two summers as a Senior Counselor for six year-olds brought me into direct contact with that unfortunate though not infrequent phenomenon. I make no judgments. Except, in retrospect, what kind of parents ship six year-olds away from their “comfort zones” for two entire months? Who wouldn’t pee in their pants? Or, in this case, their beds.
We had the “low down” on them before they showed up. My roster listed three bedwetters, who arrived packing a mattress-protecting rubber sheet, along with extra, regular sheets and a half a dozen pair (rather than the standard two) of pajamas.
In case of “accidents.”
To avoid such “accidents”, the bedwetters were required to be “lifted” at eleven o’clock each night.
Somehow it had been calculated that, if the bedwetters were “lifted” at eleven, they would wake up the following morning with dry sheets. Who knows, maybe this was determined by “trial and error”, an experiment I was happy not to have been involved in.
“Lifted” did not mean they were literally lifted. They were roused from their beds and escorted to the bathroom. (I don’t know what they did in the days before the cabins had bathrooms. I imagine the counselors “lifted” the kids outside, and they peed in the forest.)
It was also important that the campers, including the bedwetters themselves, remain oblivious of who the other bedwetters were, for fear of ostracism and abuse. Fortunately, the “liftees” were half asleep, so even the participants had no idea who the bedwetters were, other than, of course, themselves.
Normally, the procedure was successful. Occasionally, it wasn’t. In which case, while the other campers were elsewhere, a counselor – we worked in pairs, a Senior and a Junior – would remain behind to clean things up. After surreptitiously being aired out, the “evidence” would be stuffed in with the dirty clothes and shipped to the camp laundry for rehabilitation.
Fast. Efficient. Nobody “outed.” Everything good.
The “variation of a theme” occurred when – and in my four years as a counselor it only happened once – a camper – forgive me if you’re squeamish or have loftier standards – pooped in his sleep.
As I mentioned, it only happened once.
Though once was enough.
Leave us retreat from the biology of the matter. I am both unqualified and uninterested in the specifics. What concerned me were the consequences.
What was I supposed to do?
Unlike the “pee-pee” sheets, the “poopy” sheets could not simply be aired out and stuffed in a laundry bag. Extraordinary measures needed to be taken. And, having never dealt with this before, or been trained for the possibility during pre-camp orientation, I had no idea what they were.
Being me, I was eager to pass the problem off to somebody else. I was hoping, for example, that the camp director/owner, whose name was Joe, and who had an elaborate cabin on the camp grounds that I was certain included a washer and dryer * would take the sepiaed bedsheets off my hands.
* I could not imagine Joe sending his laundry to the same place the rest of us did, as it was hardly a reliable enterprise, our laundry consistently coming back shrunk, the whites dyed pink, or it did not come back at all.
After breakfast that morning, I took Joe aside and apprised him of the crisis. Being the instinctual leader that he was, Joe immediately grasped the severity of the situation, and had an instant solution, though it was hardly the one I was hoping for. His two-word instruction stays with me to this very day:
He then walked away, his hunched-up shoulders paroxysmally rising and falling. Joe's affection for me did not keep him from finding my predicament hilarious.
A forlorn counselor, standing in an untraveled area behind the Mess Hall, holding a garden hose, watering a damaged, bedsheet spread out on the ground, buttressed from the breeze by four anchoring rocks, its troubled partner waiting patiently for its turn.
Occasionally, the cook would emerge to throw out some potato peelings, momentarily glance my way, and re-enter the kitchen, shaking his head at the unimaginable range of Senior Counselor responsibilities.
I could have, I suppose, passed the buck to an underling, but I am not at home giving direct orders, especially in situations where I am transparently angling for a reprieve. Quite surprisingly, it being my specialty, I could not imagine pulling it off passive aggressively. “I sure wish I didn’t have to do this” was not going to do the trick. With the unenviable task at hand, it was unlikely the words, “I’ll do it!” would come rushing out of anybody’s mouth.
I leave you with the picture of a forlorn Senior Counselor, standing alone behind the Mess Hall, hose in hand, his face, an unenviable blend of discomfort and disgust, spraying detritus off a young, sphincter-challenged camper’s bedsheet.
I could sense, however, that I was not alone. Somewhere, undetectable as always, was Joe, hiding in the bushes, chortling up a storm.