Thursday, November 29, 2007


I quit my job this week. I have worked a total of about ten months in wilderness therapy and adventure therapy, and I need a break at the very least.

Here is what happened Monday, Novermber 26th (names are changed):

7:00 am: I wake up and it is still fairly dark. The air is biting with cold. I lie awake for one hour.

8:00 am: We call out for everyone to wake up. Two students do and the other three pretend not to hear us.

9:00 am: Everyone is finally awake without us having to "zip and flip" anyone out of their sleeping bag. Andrew asks me for the third time what ingredients to use in his rice pudding. Rice, milk, cinnamon, sugar, and raisins, I tell him. I cook and eat two sachets of Quaker apple cinnamon oatmeal, then eat some dried fruit. I stuff my sleeping bag.

10:00 am: Shane comes up to me to tell me quietly that David has taken my black cigarette lighter and is hiding it in his peanut butter jar. I wait a few minutes after Shane leaves and announce to the group that I am missing a lighter, and that unless someone can find it in their things then there will be a "gear search". David subtly opens his pack, searches through it, and furtively puts something in his pocket, then packs his things up again. A short time later he hands me my lighter, saying that he must have pocketed it by mistake. I thank him.

11:00 am: As we drive away from our camp site, a bottle of iodine tablets rolls off the roof of the suburban onto the ground outside. A few other odds and ends follow. Someone has just thrown their extra sundries onto the rack without packing them or tying them down. Shawn stops the car and refuses to drive any farther until they are picked up.

12:00 am: We are bouldering in a field south of Loa, Utah called the Cradle of Life. One student points out to me a spot between two rocks where the carcass of a large mammal is half sitting half standing in place, with its right hind foot trapped between the boulder and the ground. It is a dog, probably a stray from Loa. The skin, with fur, is stretched drum-tight over its very much intact skeleton, but the flesh has long since rotted away. I realize what a great photo it would make.
Shawn, our lead guide attempts a boulder for the third time. Then I hear pounding. And cracking. And adolescent voices cheering.
Harold, one of our most unsociable students, has picked up a part of a 2x4 left by redneck campers and is smashing the dog carcass to pieces. The speed and vigor of his swinging and the look of rage on his face are disturbing. "Harold, cut that out", I call to him. He takes another ten or so swings amid cheers from some of the other students. "What was that all about?" I ask him. "Nothing." he mumbles. My photo is ruined.

1:00 pm: While the students boulder I confide to Shawn that I plan to quit that day.

2:00 pm: We are low on gas. We stop at a phillips 66 in Castle Dale, Utah. Harold says from the back of the suburban: "T.R. Um, you should buy us a two liter to share." I reply: "Soda is bad for you." I wonder silently whether I will drink a Coke or a Squirt once we get back to base camp. Shawn returns from inside the store with a hot cocoa and we drive off. Harold says, "Shawn, if you need help finishing that, just pass it on back."

3:00 pm: We arrive back at base camp and begin unloading the car. I watch David steal some of Shawn's granola bars when he thinks I am not looking. He begins eating it. I tell him what I saw and he denies it. I tell Shawn. They argue for about 5 minutes without progress.

4:00 pm: It is cold. I stand outside the bathroom while the students shower. I dance around to try to stay warm. I can hear every word the students are saying inside. Some make fun of me. Others defend me.

5:00 pm: We go to the lodge to make sandwiches for our snowboarding trip the next day. Harold steals extra bread and cheese. I take the uneaten ones out of his hand and say, "C'mon, Harold. This is why we never let you guys in here." Shawn gets angry. He argues with Harold over the definition of "stealing". No progress is made.

6:00 pm: I meet with Mike and tell him that I will be quitting in two weeks. He is very understanding and writes it down as a six month sabbatical, encouraging me to come back. On my way out, I tell Dallin what happened. He is envious.

7:00 pm: I lay out my sleeping bag next to the students and begin drifting to sleep. I ask Joe to stop swearing. He responds by swearing. The other students laugh. I ask him over and over. He begins shouting the F word. I say "Why do you act like that?" He proudly admits that it's for attention, even if it's bad attention. He calls some of the worst things I have ever been called. I respond with silence and get back into my sleeping bag. He calls me a wanker. I ask if he knows what that means. "A penis", he replies. I tell him that's incorrect, and that he ought to learn the word's definition before using it again. He swears. He shouts swears across camp at the girls group. The other students laugh. He sings the entire 99 bottles of beer song. I drift in and out of sleep. I ask him again why he acts like that. He resists. He eventually begins answering my questions seriously. He apologizes for what he says to me. I thank him. It has been one hour since I asked him to stop swearing.

8:00 pm: I fall to sleep.


jeremy said...

Yeah, soda is bad for you. I think it's all the carbonation.

Seriously, though, it's too bad you can't just exude guruness and wisdom in a tangible form, like sweating it out, and then freeze it and place it in plain site by your bag. Then when somebody steals your congealed wisdom, you attain your purposes through guruing, and they obtain wisdom through stealing. Or you could just hit them over the head with it.

cate said...

Hip. Hip!

I celebrate your "sabatical" primarily for selfish reasons as I believe you will be in town more; but I am glad you are not so desperate for work or anything the like to put up with misused profanities by a bunch of Utahn NEDS in the FRIGID Unitas. That is a comforting thought to me indeed.

Welcome back, TR. We are glad you are home for more than this week.

an illdressed foolishwise said...

my goodness..

what exactly IS a wanker??

the anna said...

you know, if we were friends and you were on my jump rope team, i just might tell you about how i just had a very similar experience. i don't know whether to congratulate or console, but take your pick and i hope all is well. recruitment post

*MILLY* said...

interesting day. hope that the next step in your life leads you where you want to be...yeah for snowboarding!

Loki said...

I think I get it. After 2 years working the graveyard shift at a rehab. center, it feels good to walk away doesn't it.

Write down a few more of your stories. I am working on a book about these kinds of things.

kel said...

i'm pretty sure you were really good at your job. i'm pretty sure it was a tough one too.

allyson elizabeth said...

8 PM? You Brookses DO go to bed early.

jo said...

...teaching seventh grade doesn't sound as difficult anymore somehow...

David Littlefield said...

This is why I beat my kids when they were young. Now they have respect. Someone should have beat these kids.


The Mediocre Gatsby said...

Well, you lasted with those kids a lot longer than I would have. I envy people like you who can put up with kid's crap like that.

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