It was the summer after what should have been my final year at Western Michigan University. I had completed all but my internship for my the requirements of my major, and I just landed the perfect job at YMCA Camp Manitou-Lin in Middleville, Michigan, my hometown.
I was to be the Visiting Groups and Weekends Director for the camp. This put me at third in line to inherit leadership of the camp behind the director and Assistant/Summer Camp Director. Like all great camp jobs, YMCA Camp Manitou-Lin would provide me with nice housing and free food, plus a small amount of money so I could buy things like clothes and Tom Hanks movies. But best of all, the job would count toward my internship requirements.
My job was to coordinate the visits of all outside groups to the camp during the summer. YMCA Camp Manitou-Lin is the official camp for all YMCAs in the Greater Grand Rapids Area, which at the time meant around five or six different youth centers. Each center would send a group of kids to the camp once or twice a week. And then there were the groups on the weekends: boy scouts, girl scouts, youth groups, future farmers of America, and so on. So, while the camp was already full with kids staying at summer camp, kids visiting for day camp, and kids attending horse camp, it was my job to squeeze in these outside groups, giving them varied experiences using the camp’s many resources.
But I digress. I was setting up my office when a package came in the mail for the Visiting Groups Director. I opened it to find an informational kit dealing with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS. There were brochures, there were diagrams, there was even a VHS tape for sufferers of IBS. I was confused.
I took the package to the Summer Camp Director who had just been promoted from the job which I now occupied. She instantly recognized it as part of some program associated with Women’s Health that a visiting group had signed up for. Why they sent it to the camp instead of to the group who had visited was a bit of a mystery, but that was the explanation for why we got it.
As I was in her office, getting this explanation, the Camp Director welcomed me to the camp. Outside of the initial interview, this was the first time we had spoken.
“Welcome to the team,” he said.
“Thanks,” I said.
“Hey,” he said. “Did you see the thing about the camp that was on the news the other night?”
I told him that I hadn’t. He handed me a VHS tape.
“You should watch it. I haven’t seen it yet, but I heard that it was a nice piece and it might help you know a little more about the camp. Just return it to me when you are done.”
“Sure thing,” I said.
I took the VHS from the Director and the IBS package back to my office to finish setting things up.
The next day, I took the VHS from the IBS packet and put it into the sleeve of the VHS that the Director gave me and gave it back to the Director. That night, he popped the tape into his VCR, ready to see the great news story that everyone had been telling him about. Instead, he watched about five minutes of a video for sufferers of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, fast-forwarded it a bit, rewound it a bit, and finally popped the tape out to look at the label.
Sure enough, it was not the video he had lent me. Now, he was confused.
He found me the next day. I asked him how the news story was. He laughed.
“When I first saw what it was,” he said, “I was confused. I double-checked the sleeve, but it was the one that I let you borrow. Then I looked at the video itself and I thought ‘Did the new guy really just make me watch a video about IBS after meeting only once before?'”
“Well played,” he said. “That was a risk, you know. But you made me laugh. I’m glad you are here.”
I was glad to be there too.