Summer Camp for Adults, & The Return of Management Math

The Sunday Boston Globe includes a really nice magazine, called, interestingly enough, the Boston Globe Magazine. So, on the first day in months when it has been warm and nice outside, I was stuck inside my apartment. With a very nasty head cold. I always seem to get the “deluxe” variety, complete with chills, totally blocked sinuses, and a feeling that I have just been put through a wringer. Swell, just freakin swell. You know these people, who, when they have a head cold, dance and twirl about, saying “Oh, it’s just a head cold! I plan on going dancing tonight!” They must be on some wicked good cough syrup. Jeesh, I hate those people, but I wish they would share some of that cough syrup with me.

So, I read through the magazine, and came across something toward the back, which runs every year at this time. It’s all the ads for various summer camps, and some of these ads are hilarious. For Suburban mommies who are convinced that their little bundles of joy are the next Venus Williams or Anna Kournikova, there are plenty of Tennis Camps. For aging jock dads, convinced that their McDonalds fed sons are destined for a spot on a big NHL team, or the New York Yankees, there are sports camps galore, always bearing the name of a well-known sports figure. Heh, if the kids who attend these camps are lucky, the famous sports figure will make one appearance, and maybe grant a few autographs, if he’s in a good mood, and if his contract demands have all been met, and (Most important) if his blonde bimbo is not “getting too impatient” while she waits in the Corvette.

From there, the summer camp ads get a little strange. For the daughters of very upscale suburbanites, there are numerous “riding camps”, where young women learn riding techniques and horse care. (They only “learn” about horse care. They don’t actually “do” it. They have “imported help” for the dirty end of horsemanship.) These ads never seem to mention a price. . I guess it comes under the heading of “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.’ There’s one called. “Computer Camp”. The ad says ” Boys and Girls, Ages 8-17, Programming and Robotics. Digital Movies! Video Games. Web Pages!” I’ll take a guess that the male / female ratio is around fifteen boys to one girl. If anyone has an actual figure, by all means send it along.

Personally, I think it’s great that nerds and geeks now have their own summer camps, where no one can bother them with sports and bullying. If one of the kids attending a computer camp becomes the next Steve Jobs or Avie Tevenian, then it was worth the fee to send him (or her) there for the summer.

There are weight loss camps too numerous to count, all promising to boost your child’s confidence and self-esteem. Shall I take a guess that McDonalds and Pizza Hut do not run the food service at these camps? Or maybe they do, through some kind of dummy corporation. Guess you’d know, if the camp song has some kind of verse, saluting Ronald McDonald.

There are a lot of Golf Camps. I’m missing something on this one. Golf Camps? For kids? Sorry, but despite the incredible understanding of the laws of physics (plus talent for the game) which Tiger Woods has, I just can’t get past Golf being a sport for old, very rich, white guys. (I’m also reminded of that great scene in the Michael Douglas movie, “Falling Down” where Douglas’ character confronts the arrogance of two old, rich, and mean coots on their private golf course. It’s one of the few times I have ever laughed out loud in a movie theater.) Hey, if you like it and you’re good at it, more power to you, but kids should be doing other stuff, not playing golf. (I do watch it, when it’s the episode of The Three Stooges where they play golf. A Classic! The whole bit where Curly puts his own clothes through the golf ball washing machine, is the best cold medicine there is.)

The ads include a few ads for “Film Camps”, and a few for “Drama Camps”. I only spotted one ad for a camp for aspiring writers. There are a couple of “Sailing Camps”, which I’m certain attract a large number of inner-city minority youths. (That’s a joke.)

Perhaps the most bizarre camp advertised in this issue of the Boston Globe Magazine is one called “Dayjams”, which bills itself as a “Rock and Roll Day Camp”. Hoo-Boy. Who are the staff members of this one, MTV stoners? There was another one that made me think “uh-Oh”, and that was one called “Camp Good News”. Located on “beautiful Cape Cod”, (Have you been to Cape Cod Lately? “Cape Rich Yuppie” would be a better fit.) It has the usual stuff one might find at a summer camp, such as tennis, water and land sports, sailing, and computer class. The ad ends with “encouraging positive Christian values.” Now, I’m not making any statement here. I’ll just say that this sort of thing makes me think “Uh-Oh.”

I must mention that as a youngster, I attended a summer day camp, which was run by the local YMCA. Was it fun? You betcha! It included all the usual stuff, such as archery, arts and crafts, and the highlight of the day, Swim time. Of course, I made the usual stuff out of “Gimp”. In arts and crafts though, the girls made all kinds of pretty things, and the boys? We did what we were best at: making a mess. Believe me, you put some boys, about ten years old, in a room with some finger paints, some plaster of Paris, and some paper Maiche, and you have a recipe for one heck of a mess. Fun though.

So, reading through all of this, I must wonder something:

Why not have summer camps for adults?

No really, this bugs me. Why should kids have all the fun? What we need, are some summer camps for us grownups, featuring grown-up stuff. Thus, I present, (Insert Drum Roll here.)

Bruce Black’s Summer Camps for Adults!

Camp IcanDoItHoney. Located at a local college of engineering, Camp IcanDoItHoney is for all those suburban dads who “just can’t do it”. Of course, it’s all those things such as assembling the swing set you bought from Wal-Mart, or fixing the garbage disposal, or (Gasp!) programming the VCR. Our skilled staff even shows you how to hang a picture. (Our most requested skill!) For a little extra fee, you can even learn how to attach a bicycle rack to a typical SUV! Remember last summers disaster with the bikerack on the turnpike? If you almost landed in divorce court, you need a month at camp IcanDoItHoney. Because, let’s face it dad, unlike the dads of a generation ago, you can’t do it!

Camp SudsandBuds. On a beautiful fresh water lake in New Hampshire, (we keep the exact location secret. We don’t want “Them” to find us.) Camp sudsandbuds is a one-month “retreat”.

You’ll spend an entire month hanging with real guys just like yourself.
Some of our campers are unemployed, but they still manage to camp with us every year! We offer the life you “real men” really want: Just hanging with ordinary guys, drinking beer, eating chips, and watching sports on TV. (Each cabin has it’s own, big screen set)

No one gets after you to “clean up this place’. You don’t want to hang your clothes up? Don’t, no one will care. You want cold ravioli from a can for breakfast? Dig in, and help yourself to a frosty, at ten AM. Feel like spending the day working on a car? We’ve got lots of old clunkers, up on blocks, for you to fool around with. If you get one to actually start up, you keep it, no questions asked!

And we promise, during your month with us, there will be a visit by local Hooters Girls! They’ll do a dance number you won’t believe!

So come on up! Get away from that “you-know-what” you’re married to, and those rug rats, and live the way men were meant to live. Notice: Legal Waivers must be signed before application will be accepted. Management cannot legally block the serving of court papers or restraining orders. Campers legally accept all personal risks. “Fist Fight Insurance” available at extra cost.

OprahLand. Ladies, had enough of that loser you’re married to? Want to get away from the rat, for an entire month? Then come on up to OprahLand! Located on a beautiful lake in Connecticut, OprahLand offers an entire month of nothing but “Girl Stuff”, with no interference from smelly males, and their beer swilling ways. Our TV sets are rigged to block all sports, except for figure skating and ballet. And the food? You’ve never eaten so well! You can count on all your food being prepared by our French chefs. Wait until you see what our master chef has for chocolate!

And we promise, during your month with us, there will be a visit from local Chippendale’s dancers, and soap opera studs. In addition, we have a staff or very handsome, non-English speaking, master masseuses, who will “take care of you”.

During your final week, Oprah herself visits. You’ll have a huge dinner with Oprah, (And we do mean HUGE!) and she’ll present each camper with a personally signed certificate, and one year membership in her book club. So, come on up! We provide Mu-Mu’s, you provide yourself!

Camp Spin Control. For men and women. You know that if you had the chance, you could be a top politician, or even a top executive at a major corporation. But, you just don’t know how these people get where they are, do you? They’re no smarter than you, so how do they do it? Well, after a summer at Camp Spin Control, “They’ll never get anything on you!”

Located in an exclusive rural town in Massachusetts, and set back from the road, behind a guarded iron gate, Camp Spin Control was founded by former political figures and American corporate heavy hitters. (We can’t list their names here.) They’ll teach you how to dress, who to connect with, who to avoid, and how to get into the inner circles of companies and local governments. You’ll learn how to hide things such as hiring a lot of relatives for cushy jobs, and how to arrange office space so that you always have a hiding place. Instruction on “Decision Avoidance” and “How to write memos which use a lot of words, but don’t commit you to anything”. You’ll even learn the fine art of what to tell your secretary to say when people come looking for you. As a bonus, this season only, you’ll even learn about the secretive, inner workings of human resources departments. You don’t want to miss that! Your season with us will be summarized with a lecture from Former President, William Clinton. Then, you’ll know what “is”, really is!

Fee: Entire summer season at Camp Spin Control, including private room, gourmet meals, and personal use of BMW, $250. 000.00 Payable only by cash transfer to special numbered Swiss account. Special lecture by former Enron CEO Ken Lay is by additional fee, and is held at “a secure, off-site location”. This fee must be paid in advance, by cash only.

Camp Denial. A very special camp for aging baby boomers, who are in constant denial that they are aging, and turning into their parents, complete with conservative values. Look around: If you see a life which used to have such promise, where you were ready to “change the world”, but now is all about the mortgage, SUV payments, and getting enough fiber, then you need a summer at Camp Denial. Located in rural Bethel New York, right near Max Yasgur’s farm. Camp Denial is very secluded, and allows you to still “let it all hang out”. Here, you can “go up the country, where the water tastes like wine”. Feel groovy, walk about totally nude, and paint psychedelic colors on anything you like, make jewelry, make sandals from hemp, or play folk guitar. Our food menu consists of only vegetables that are organically grown, and are easy to digest. Lectures by Hindu philosophers are scheduled in the afternoons. (A few of them still haven’t sold out.) We even have reprints of “Fritz the Cat’, and “Ramparts”. Meditation classes are held every afternoon. (If you doze off, it’s okay. It happens. No hassles from the man here at camp denial.)

On two occasions during your stay, we’ll head on into the city, to protest something, just like the good old days. We provide protest signs, dumb slogans that rhyme, and bail money. We don’t know what you’ll be protesting, but does that really matter?

You’ll be picked up by our specially painted VW micro bus In the village, and taken on up to our campsite, where you can forget about having become a middle-aged, conservative man or woman, just like your parents, and “just be” again.

Note: If you wish to spend a summer at Camp Denial, you may want to sign up quickly, as we don’t know how much longer we’ll be in business. Attendance has been dropping a little each season, and we can’t figure out why. Also, we are not responsible for any bad reactions campers may suffer, when they see their fellow aging baby boomers walking about nude.

We provide beads, leather vests, headbands, granny glasses, bell-bottoms, and long hair wigs, because we know a lot of you are now bald. (Just like dad) So, this summer, come on up. The country! Peace Man!

And now, I must once again get serious, just for a moment.

Please refer to my column entitled “Management Math strikes again”. It would appear that during this past week, April 14th through the 16th, Management Math has once again come out of the shadows, and become visible.

The top executives at American Airlines, in what sounded like an honest effort to keep the troubled airline out of bankruptcy, convinced the flight attendants, pilots, and all the ground support personnel, (I.e. the people who do the work) that they must take concessions and pay cuts, from fifteen to 23 percent, according to Reuters news. The executives made statements to the effect of, “We all have to suffer”, or “We’re all in this together”.

So, what happened? Well, since American Airlines is a publicly traded company, and is owned by its parent, AMR Inc, it is bound by law to file all sorts of forms and whatnot with the Securities and Exchange Commission. It was on one of these filings where the three unions which represent the workers learned the top AMR executives had given themselves enormous “retention bonuses” and devised a pension system which would pay the executives their lavish pensions, even if the company went belly up. And the workers? They got a nice warm bowl of horse shit.

So let’s see, what have we got here? American Airlines, in deep doo-doo since the events of 9/11, pays their top executives retention bonuses to make sure they’ll stick around, then devises a pension plan for the executives which will pay the big bucks even if the company tanks. Then, they tell the workers that the company will go into chapter eleven if they don’t accept some concessions, including substantial pay cuts. Have I got this right?

My question, simply is this: How, oh how, does this possibly work? If a company is in trouble, shouldn’t the high paid executives set an example, and be the ones to make concessions? You know, maybe some salary freezes, cutting out huge bonuses, doing away with some of those obscene perks. I know, I know, how silly of to think that way.

Some of the latest reports on this have the American Airline execs actually stopping their bonuses. Well now, isn’t that nice? Sorry, but I think the damage is done.

To American Airlines employees, on the outside chance you are reading this: I have not flown on your airline for some time, but on the occasions when I have, the service delivered by your ground people and flight crews has been the best. Not an easy task, in what I know is a high-pressure job. I hope this all works out in your favor, and that no one loses their job.

And that’s about it from my end of the universe. Time to pack my things for camp.

Bruce Black

Leave a Reply