I am a Working Fool

As I did last year, today’s post is a story about past jobs in honor of Labor Day.

2002 was the summer of three jobs. Upon arriving at the camp in Montana (and promptly breaking camp property), I learned one of the great truths about working in the camping industry. The perks have nothing to do with finances. Sure, camps are great at covering things like room and board, but if you want money to pay for gas or Lego sets, you better find a way to supplement your income.

So supplement I did. The camp director had recently been approached by an mentor-ship organization in town. He didn’t have the time to do it, but suggested that they give me a shot. The organization was something like a state-run Big Brothers, Big Sisters program, except mentors got paid for spending time with children whose parents were in jail. And so, after a quick interview and credential check, I was hired.

Of course, spending a few hours a week playing billiards with a nine-year-old at the local college only brings in so much money. Don’t get me wrong. It was a great job, but it wasn’t going to bring in the money I needed.

thAnd so I got another job. This time, at a diner a half hour away from the camp and in the opposite direction from my mentor-ship job. I was a short-order cook at Jan’s Cafe, the finest little diner in Lima, MT. Again, it was my connection to the camp director that got me the job. I had limited experience (working for a few months in my uncle’s eatery in high school, most of which was as a waiter/host), but I was available for evening shifts for most of the summer, so I got the job. My specialty was “chicken-fried steak”, which was a dish that people said was wonderful but one which I had never personally eaten.

Between the two paying jobs and free room and board at the camp, I was able to save up enough gas money to get me from Southwestern Montana to Central Iowa, but not all the way home to Michigan. The rest of the way was paid with by my parents’ kindness and understanding (which is great currency that renews regularly if not overused).

I probably would have made it all the way home if I hadn’t been pulling an early 60’s camper trailer behind an underpowered Chevy Blazer through the mountains, where even semis were annoyed at my slow up-the-mountain speeds. But that is a story for another time. Suffice to say, I have neither held three simultaneous jobs nor pulled a camper cross-country since.

Innermost Secrets 23 – 27

DSC00863And so we wend our way down the back alley of my past, baseball bat at the ready should something jump out from one of the darker shadows. If you are just joining us, you may want to start at the beginning (Innermost Secrets 1-8, 9-15, 16-21, & 22).

23rd Innermost Secret:

  • I don’t know how to read (or write).

Or blog.

24th Innermost Secret:

  • Sometimes I feel hungry. Otherwise, I’ve no feelings at all.

This is true of all men, not just me. Next time you see a man emoting, congratulate him on his acting ability. Either that, or call him some medical attention. Or both.

DSC0095425th Innermost Secret:

  • Every girl in camp is on my Top 5.

I don’t remember who started the Top 5 thing, but it went like this: Male staff would rate the female staff and come up with the five they would most like to be with romantically. The girls rated the male staff in the same way. It was mostly a good-natured thing where everyone wanted to be on everyone else’s Top 5 list. Of course, anytime you aren’t on someone’s list, it hurts. In truth, I wasn’t really ready to be a good boyfriend while I was at camp anyway, so I should have avoided the game altogether. I’m at least glad that I was all-inclusive.

DSC0095526th Innermost Secret:

  • I wear a toupee.

Technically, it is two toupees.

27th Innermost Secret:

  • I’m really the Arts & Crafts Director.

Not really. I really was the Visiting Groups and Weekends Director. But it has always been my dream to be an Arts & Crafts Director. No, that’s a lie. It has always been my dream to be ten feet tall and have a backpack that dispenses frozen Coke whenever I want it. But neither of those dreams is coming true any time soon.

Innermost Secrets 16 – 21

And so we continue our trip into my deepest, darkest places. Or at least, those deep, dark places that I didn’t mind sharing with people about a decade ago with people at YMCA Camp Manitou Lin. Need to brush up on Innermost Secrets 1 – 15? Check this post and this post.

16th Innermost Secret:

  • I am the spider that bites the British staff.

I shared in my 9th Innermost Secret about how the camp employed a group of British staff through an international work exchange program, and how I was jealous of them because being British is cool. One thing that I was not jealous of was the spider bites that they all got. Whenever the staff would sleep in the tents near the high ropes course, one of the British staff would get bit by a spider, but none of the American staff were ever bothered. Perhaps the Brits have sweeter blood, or perhaps the spiders are some kind of uber-patriots who still think we’re fighting the Revolutionary War.

17th Innermost Secret:

  • Kate Crawford is my ex-wife, also Pat Crawford is my ex-husband.

Pat and Kate ran the high ropes course at camp. They were an incredibly kind couple who were a few years older than the rest of us, and as such, they stayed above most of the camp drama. They also sold me a really nice hiking backpack. I wasn’t really married to either of them… or was I? No, I wasn’t.

18th Innermost Secret:

  • Innermost Secret number 2 is a lie.

Self-referential humor is the best humor. Also, since many of my innermost secrets are lies, I think it is funny to lie about lying. Does that make my 18th Innermost Secret true? No.

19th Innermost Secret:

  • Danger is my middle name.

I still like telling people this secret. But in truth, my middle name is not Danger. My middle name is Dumbledore.

20th Innermost Secret:

  • My second wife died in a pillow fight.

Aside from the past tense phrasing of this secret, this may well be true. But I haven’t actually been married twice, nor do I plan to be. Besides, my wife and I have agreed that neither one of us is allowed to die before the other. Either we both go at the same time, or not at all. Although, if I were to choose a way for both of us to die simultaneously, a pillow fight would be a pretty good way I feel.

21st Innermost Secret:

  • When I was a paperboy, I delivered papers to a dead woman for 3 days without knowing she was dead.

Hmm. To be continued next week!

Innermost Secrets 9 – 15

I was thinking that this was going to be a Thursday post, but since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I’ll do it a day early. That way, you have one more thing to be thankful for. If you have no idea why I’m starting at nine, you should probably start back at the beginning.

9th Innermost Secret:

  • I derive pleasure from demeaning the British (but only because I’m jealous).

The YMCA camp was part of a really cool program that hired English-speaking international staff for the summer. We had one girl from Australia, and a girl and some guys from England. Sometime before they got there, one of the English guys called the camp and I happened to pick up the phone. His Manchester accent was so thick, I had to tell him to call back because I had no idea what he was saying. By the end of the summer, I could understand him just fine, but I helped to watch him speaking. Over the phone I was at a complete loss.

10th Innermost Secret:

  • Jason is really my twin.

In an act of pure nepotism, I hired my former college suitemate, Jason. I’ve written about Jason before. He was the vice-president of the Valhalla Norwegian Society, and he and I shared some frightening similarities. People really did believe that we were related. And we had a lot of fun that summer. In addition to all of the normal fun of being at camp, Jason and I had a folk-rock comedy band in which we used bad British accents (see Innermost Secret #9) called The Electric Fandango. Jason is now a Latin teacher at a school nearby me. Maybe we should get the band back together.

11th Innermost Secret:

  • I like to wear pink undies (when I wear undies at all).

I feel no need to explain this secret.

12th Innermost Secret:

  • Jay Turpin is my father.

Jay was the camp’s executive director. He’s been mentioned before on the blog as well. I pranked him though he did not deserve it. Sorry Jay. Anyway, Jay is only like 10 years older than me, so if he were my dad, he would have had to get started at a pretty early age.

13th Innermost Secret:

  • Honey Mustard…

This is simply the title of one of the songs from The Electric Fandango (see Innermost Secret #10). The whole song is a declaration of love to Honey Mustard, God’s own condiment. The reason I wrote the song was because Honey Mustard was the only thing that enabled me to eat all of the processed chicken that showed up on the camp menu. Pretty much every other meal was some kind of processed chicken. But it was free processed chicken because I lived at camp, so I’m not going to complain too loudly.

14th Innermost Secret:

  • Sometimes I drink bleach.

This is stolen directly from a thing I saw David Letterman do one time. I only saw it once, but for some reason it really stuck with me. Letterman was going through his desk routine, playing the little games that he does when all of a sudden he reaches down and brings a jug of bleach to his lips, takes a deep drink and puts it down. No one says anything about it, so he does it again later. Finally, he says something like, “Isn’t anyone going to try to stop me? I’m drinking bleach for goodness sake.” I thought that was hilarious. I couldn’t tell you why now.

15th Innermost Secret:

  • I clean the bath house for fun and profit.

As the Visiting Groups Director, it was my responsibility to make sure that all of the facilities that my visiting groups used got cleaned up. I never wanted to be the type of boss who simply assigned the dirty tasks to my underlings, so I cleaned the bathhouse personally. And though it wasn’t always that much fun, I think it was a good way to help my staff feel appreciated. Plus, someone had to do it, and I was getting paid the most of any of my staff so it might as well have been me.

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned next week for the continuation of my innermost secrets.

Innermost Secrets 1 – 8

I was cleaning part of my basement the other day when I happened across a relic from my time as Visiting Groups Director at YMCA Camp Manitou-Lin. What I found was a little notebook filled with all of my innermost secrets. I filled this little notebook with my innermost secrets because that is what the cover told me to do. And though there is a picture of a lock on the cover, it isn’t all that safe of a notebook.

You see, I used to leave this little notebook around the camp for people to enjoy before they returned it to my desk. I liked to see if people would read the secrets or whether they would respect my privacy. In most cases, curiousity triumphed over privacy (which shouldn’t that surprising to anyone who has worked at a camp). Anyway, I thought I would share these secrets with you too.

Today, I’ll cover the first two pages of the notebook. More pages will follow in future weeks.

1st Innermost Secret:

  • My name is Josh Mosey.

I wanted people to be able to identify the owner right away. That way they could easily return my secrets to my desk. Also, I liked the idea of using known facts as innermost secrets.

2nd Innermost Secret:

  • I’m the Visiting Groups Director.

Just in case anyone didn’t know who I was, they could find my office by my title.

3rd Innermost Secret:

  • I’m straight.

I don’t think there was a lot of question here, but in case there was, I wanted people know that I am a straight man whose secret inclinations are also straight.

4th Innermost Secret:

  • I really am 23.

This was actually a lie. At the time I wrote this, I was 21. I think I told people that I was 23 because that was the minimum age for certain camp restrictions, like administrating the ropes course.

5th Innermost Secret:

  • My favorite animal is a human woman.

I read this to my wife and she said, “So we’re just animals to you?” I didn’t know how to respond at the time, but I’ll try now. “Um,” I would say. “Nope, you aren’t animals at all. But if you were, you’d be my favorite.”

6th Innermost Secret:

  • I had scones once.

I know that scones are delicious pastries that go well with coffee and tea, but the word scones also kind of sounds like a horribly painful disease. Like shingles or boils. Scones.

7th Innermost Secret:

  • Norway rules!

This isn’t a secret so much as an opinion. Actually, no. This isn’t so much an opinion as a fact. Norway rules!

8th Innermost Secret:

  • My “gut” is really all muscle.

I like this one because it is quite obviously not true. And even if it were, how would that explain the extra chin that hides neath my beard?

Hopefully you’ll enjoy this series, because I have a total of 54 innermost secrets to share. Until next time, thanks for reading!

I am unsure where the boundries are when it comes to new people and practical jokes.

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?'”

“I did,” I said. “I did.”

“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.

I am a Celebrity in Southwest Montana. (2 stories)

It started in my senior year of high school. Graduation was approaching, which meant that open houses would be starting soon. I decided that as graduation gifts for my friends I would give t-shirts with a picture of my face and the words “I love Josh Mosey” proudly displayed. I wouldn’t want any of them to forget me after all.

Click for the CCBC Facebook PageWell, my friend Julie spent the summer after graduation working at Clark Canyon Bible Camp in Dillon, Montana (great camp, by the way). Since it was a great shirt for every occasion, she brought it and wore it regularly. When another camp staffer started borrowing the t-shirt, the camp nurse took note. But when my friend Kristy, who also got the t-shirt as a graduation gift, came out to visit Julie, bringing along her own t-shirt, the camp nurse thought that a trend was emerging.

One night, the camp nurse cornered Julie and expressed her frustrations with pop t-shirt trends and companies using impressionable children to express inane messages. “Like this,” she said, pointing at the t-shirt with my face on it. “This is exactly what I’m talking about. You probably don’t even know who this Josh Mosey is, much less what he stands for. That’s why I home school my kids. So they don’t have to be exposed to stuff like this.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

One year after Julie went out to Clark Canyon, I went myself. I was pursuing a degree in Recreation from Western Michigan University and I needed an internship in order to graduate. So I contacted the camp director, Dale, told him who I was (a friend of Julie’s and the guy from the t-shirt) and he invited me to come out and be the assistant director for the summer. He had never for had an assistant director and said that it sounded like fun.

Mine was no where near this cool.

I packed up my newly fixed 1980’s Chevy Blazer and drove three or four days across the country. I learned a fresh hatred for the length of Nebraska, but I got to Clark Canyon in more or less one piece a few weeks before kids would start showing up for camp.

Now, the camp provided me with free room and board, but they couldn’t pay me any money. So, I did what any sensible man might do, in addition to my full-time responsibilities at camp, I got two other jobs. Once a week, I was employed by the state of Montana in a program that helped kids who had one or more parents in jail. And a few nights a week, I was a short-order cook at the greasy dive about a half hour from the camp (a half hour drive is practically next door in Montana, where the nearest Wal-Mart was six hours away).

I was working in the restaurant the night that the carnival rolled into Dillon, but I heard all about it the next day. I had my guitar our and was fiddling with it while Dale and a fellow camp staffer told me about the rides, the rodeo, and the carnival workers.

Dale said, “We should write a song about the girls who work at the carnivals.”

“We should make it a love song,” I said.

So we took a few minutes and wrote the song, “She’s my Carny Girl,” an instant camp classic, with such lines as “She looks like a princess, but only from a distance / That’s why I try to keep her out of sight / The smell of her hair is like my underwear / After eating pork and beans all night.” You get the idea.

Now, Dale had connections. Within a few weeks of writing the song, we were strolling into the local radio station to record it in one of their sound booths. We got a couple of tapes of the song for our own amusement, but the radio station kept one for themselves.

And they played it every so often.

Now, I don’t know if they still play it (that was a decade ago), but I like to believe that they do. I like to believe that if I ever go back there, I will see people who have copied the shirt that bears my face listening to the song that I co-wrote.