Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Gone in 37 Seconds

I was involved in many pranks over my years at Quaker Lake, and when you play pranks on friends you always run the risk of really ticking people off. I remember two such occasions very clearly.

Mike Newsome was a cabin counselor with me in 1978 and '79. He was a great guy and an awesome counselor, and we had lots of fun together for those two summers. Mike loved camp and everything about it except for one thing- Mike hated snakes. Not just the normal fear that most of us have- he was terrified of even the smallest snake. One day a few of us were walking back to the boys cabins when we happened on a small, dead snake lying on the road. I say a few of us because I have no solid memory of who else was to blame for what was about to happen, so I will just take it all myself. Upon seeing the snake, it occurred to me that we should use it to scare Mike. So we picked it up, took it to his cabin and placed it in his shoe. Then all we had to do was sit back and wait for the screams. But it all blew up from there. When Mike found the snake he was startled, but his fear quickly turned to anger. I couldn't understand it at the time. This was a prank- it was normal behavior for us. What I didn't see was that he felt betrayed. His friends had taken one of his deepest fears and used it to make fun of him. It bothered him so much that he didn't even bother to try for revenge, as I recall. He eventually forgave me (us) and everything was cool- but I learned a valuable lesson. Pranks that hurt people are not funny, no matter how good they sound at the time. Mike and I remained good friends, at least until we both developed a crush on the same female staffer- but that's a story best left untold!

Denise May was a very important person in my life. She was a dear friend who is very much responsible for my meeting and dating the current Mrs. Jones. She also served for several years as the Head Cook at Quaker Lake. She had a little car (a Datsun, if I recall correctly! Google that to find out what they are today...) that she loved. One day, for reasons I don't recall, we decided to steal her car and hide it in the woods. We had often hidden staff cars behind the pool house, but this was different. We would drive it into the woods and to the campout area, which meant we had to drive over a bridge that WE (the staff and Neal) had built. This was stupid on many levels, but there were two main problems. Number one, Denise was not known for taking pranks well. And number two, she was the HEAD COOK! There are a lot of things you can mess with at camp, but you never want to anger the cook. Nevertheless, we pressed on, and as a few of us distracted her, others sped away in her car and successfully drove it into the woods. I could give you lots of details of the next few days, but I'll keep it brief and just say things were not pleasant. We had pulled off a nearly perfect car heist- gone in 37 seconds- and all it brought us was grief, and no seconds on dessert. (Another factor- in the dog days of summer, at a camp with no air conditioning anywhere, one of life's great blessings was to be asked to go to the grocery store for the cook. Never tick off the cook...)

One of the many lessons QLC taught me was that no game, no stunt, no prank and no words are funny if they humiliate and anger someone else- no matter how funny it may seem to you. It is so easy to get carried away with ourselves, when in fact, Jesus commands us to always put others first. A laugh over a snake is not worth loosing a friends over; Denise's cobbler was much to valuable to lose over a hidden car. And knocking the screens out of the boys cabins with water balloons ceases to be fun when the full wrath of Neal comes falling down upon you...but that's tomorrow's story.

Because of Jesus,

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