Chris, a good friend of mine from college, invited me to work at Boy Scout camp three years in a row before I took him up on it. Hands down, working there was the best decision I ever made.
I knew it was going to be an unforgettable summer as early as the job interview.
The person who is Chris might just be the spirit of camp embodied. Always kind and quirky, he’s just as likely to answer your questions by bursting into song as to give a straight answer. He often adopts cave man speech, grunting and calling himself Krog to fit in with a recurring character he plays in campfire skits. Hanging out with him is always surprising and novel. His obscure knowledge runs deep, and he loves Thai food. (Yes, that is camp-like when everybody on staff eats their single weekly meal away from camp at either of 2 places, one of which is Thai.) I didn’t know any of this was camp-related, though; I just thought Chris was unique and funny.
Anyway, after my first teaching contract (2 years in Malaysia) was completed, I posted on Facebook that I was looking for a summer job that didn’t involve kids or teaching, and I asked if anybody had any ideas. Less than a minute after posting, Chris tells me he has the opposite of what I was looking for: teaching Boy Scouts merit badge classes.
For reference, all previous conversations with Chris, always on Facebook Messenger, usually went like this:
Person A: I just read Insert book title here. Have you read it?
Person B: No, should I?
Person A: Only if you want your mind blown! Insert analysis below…
Person B: Link to most bizarre YouTube video on hand
Person A: Hmmm….
Seeing as how I had just finished a book, I messaged him to talk about an unconventional, muddled mixture of: 1) that book… which reminded him of other books, that reminded me of other books, etc. 2) strange videos and 3) talk about camp sprinkled in. In short, the guy speaks my language: weird.
Suddenly, a new chat window pops up, in which Chris overly formally introduces me to a guy who, in his picture, is hiking in flip-flops, his face turned away so that the camera would focus on his enormous, glorious ponytail. And thus I met Wesley.
I soon found myself grinning stupidly at my screen, laughing a strange, cartoon villain-esque chuckle under my breath, furiously typing faster than I previously ever had as Wesley and I ganged up in a sort of pun war against Chris. Meanwhile, I hadn’t stopped my book/video/camp conversation with Chris, so at this point, I sent him a link to an amazing Bollywood song that one of my students in Malaysia once sent me.
Soon after, Wesley informs me in the chat bubble that he’s sorry I’m missing out on the Skype call he’s currently having with Chris because he can hear Chris’s Indian music playing in the background. I shrieked with completely unnecessary laughter as I had no idea the two could actually hear each other.
Wesley decided he wanted me to come to camp when he realized that I was as outlandish as himself and Chris. Wesley, it turned out, was to be the camp’s Program Director that summer. He asked me if I could jump on Skype for an (in)formal interview, and with a groan, I realized that I’d need to put clothes on. (I’d had a long day, okay? Clothes just remind me of all the other burdens I shoulder throughout life.)
In order to prepare me for what was to come, Chris showed me a video of an interview done by camp staff, in which both interviewers and the interviewee conducted a normal, run of the mill interview (what are your strengths and weaknesses?), but everything they said was screamed at the top of their lungs. Oddly enough, this video provided me my first glimpse of Matt, with whom I’m currently suffering the world’s longest engagement.
This, said Chris, is what camp interviews are like. Oooooookay. As if I needed more of an idea what these people were like–me. They were just like me. I’d found my people.
Once I was decent, I logged into Skype and saw Wesley sitting next to an old guy with hair just as long as Wesley’s, but a straight, flat gray. This interview was less of an interview and more of an, “Ok, this is what the job is. It’s yours if you want it. Do you want it? PLEASE say yes! Camp starts in a week and we need to hire somebody RIGHT NOW!” Nobody screamed at me, though. That was disappointing.
Afore-mentioned old guy found it amusing that I had such an interesting relationship with Chris, who had been working at camp for 9 or so years by that point. He took the contract that would soon be scanned and emailed to me, and wrote in pencil under the job description heading that I was to mess with Chris as often as possible.
That was the deciding factor for me. I’d just spent 45 minutes joking around with an old friend, I’d clearly made a new one, and now Willie Nelson wanted me to continue doing the same thing all summer.
Camp turned out to be physically and personally challenging. It wasn’t all jokes and Bollywood; in fact, there was a distinct lack of Bollywood since there was limited Internet access in the wilderness.
Whatever means they used to get me there, Chris and Wesley are double-handedly responsible for a shift in my development as a human being. They also ruined me for job interviews for the rest of my life. I’ve never felt as if I’d found a workplace where I truly belong since that one.
Job interviews have always been, in my experience (and contrary to what I keep hearing about the excruciating process), a panel of the worst sort of human beings (as they turned out to be 90% of the time) staring at me while I tried to overcome my introverted nature to impress these people who clearly want to eat me, not talk to me. Never again has an interviewer even remotely tried to inject a bit of the work culture into the process. More like being on trial, I often leave interviews feeling insecure, violated, and sweaty, hoping against hope that these demons like me enough to torture me with employment. Chris and Wesley’s interview was the opposite.
Future employers, take notes; Chris and Wesley know how interviews are done.