24 LONGISLANDPRESS.COM • JULY 2018
WHAT I LEARNED FROM MY SUMMER JOB
The first week of July, the campers
arrived. Most were driven by their
parents. The kids all knew each other
from the neighborhood and lost no
time exchanging gossip.
About half the boys were 6 feet tall.
The other half topped out above my
waist. No kid was between those extremes.
The taller youngsters spoke
in Brooklynese baritones, sounding
like auto mechanics weary after a day
of fixing engines.
The smaller ones could have joined
the Vienna Boys Choir had that vocal
group operated out of Canarsie. The
dudes were 13 or 14 years old and stood
staring at me. I don’t remember introducing
myself or learning their names,
but we ended up getting along just fine.
The staff went off duty at nine.
Every evening at five minutes after
nine they raced to Ellenville
in a noisy rally of backfiring
second- and third-hand cars. Two
counselors – one guy, one girl –
drew night duty and stayed on the
One evening the second week of
camp, the night-duty guy was me. My
campers were talking quietly in their
bunks when a ruckus arose from the
I tore out of the cabin and raced
over. Outside the screen door a gaggle
of preteen girls in nightclothes and
bathrobes shrieked: “Bat! Bat!” and
circled the cabin screaming.
Effecting a bravado I didn’t possess, I
strode in like a sheriff in the Old West.
Somehow I was holding the other kind
of bat, the kind used to play baseball.
The bat in question was roosting upside
down in a ceiling beam. I swung
one bat at the other. I missed.
The bat screeched. The girls
I stretched up and aimed the
handle of the bat toward the flying
rodent, whatever it was. I tried
poking it. It screeched some more. I
poked some more, then swung the bat
again. The bat flapped its wings and
fluttered towards the screen door,
which miraculously swung open. The
flying menace screeched a final time
and flew off. The girls ran around the
At this moment Hannah arrived.
She took a quick look around.
She opened her wallet and pulled
out a $10 bill. She held it out with
“Take it,” she said. “I want you out
of here before breakfast tomorrow.”
This was both unfair and unpractical.
Ten dollars would not have gotten
me south of Kingston.
It occurred to me that there was a
principle involved. I did something I
hadn’t done much of during my 18 years.
I spoke up for myself.
“I’m not fired, Hannah,” I said. “I
haven’t done anything wrong. There
was a problem before you got here
and I solved it.”
Drawing a breath, I added: “That’s
Hannah glowered but repocketed
the bill. The girls stopped screaming
and watched in complete silence.
Hannah turned and trudged
back to the lodging she shared
with Sam. I watched her back grow
smaller and disappear into the dark
A few girls shouted: ““Hooray!”
Two weeks into my first real
summer job and I’d already learned
a pair of life lessons. One: Speak up
for yourself if you want to be treated
right. Two: The best way to get rid of
flying bats is with baseball bats.
I’ll let you figure out which lesson
stayed with me.
Warren Strugatch is a partner
with Inflection Point Associates in
Stony Brook, a marketing and management
consulting firm. Visit him
online at InflectionPointAssoc.com
Two weeks into my first real summer job
and I’d already learned a pair of life lessons.
continued from page 23
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