Columns, Opinion

MAOUYO: Livin’ la vida Boy Scout

There aren’t many activities that I can say I’ve spent a majority of my life doing. Outside of breathing, eating, walking, sleeping and all the other activities that almost everyone does from an early age, I doubt that many people have more than a handful of hobbies that they’ve not necessarily dedicated themselves to, but at least participated in, for more than 50% of the time they’ve been alive. I’ll even go as far as saying that if you have more than two, you’re either a really impressive human being or a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none type.

This thought occurred to me as I was sitting by the pond in Amory Park. Walking around the park reminded me of camping, camping reminded me of Boy Scouts and then I had the ‘holy crap!’ realization that I spent 11 years ‘- more than half my life ‘- as a Boy Scout in some capacity.

I’ll give you a moment to cringe, if you need to. If you weren’t a Boy Scout, the image you conjure up is of a gay-hating, nature-loving, ultra-conservative boys’ club with silly uniforms. Even if you were a Boy Scout, you might consider this picture fairly apt. And no matter your involvement, whether it was nonexistent or substantial, you made fun of the Boy Scouts. It’s hard not to, what with all the uniforms and jamborees and songs, scoutmasters and knot-tying contests, etc. Seriously, the only hard part about making fun of a Boy Scout is deciding where to begin.

If I’ve led you to believe that I hated my entire BSA (that’s Boy Scouts of America, just so you’re in the know) experience, I have to apologize. There were parts that I hated, like setting up tents and cooking dinner in the rain, but if I had really despised being a Boy Scout, I probably wouldn’t have been one for 11 years, from Wolf Cub all the way to Eagle Scout. No really, yours truly is a pure-grade, 100 percent bona fide Eagle Scout. Feel free to regard me with anything from envy to sympathy. I’ll take it.

The summer before my sophomore year of high school, my Boy Scout troop went on one of the High Adventure trips offered by the BSA (I told you it’d come in handy!). Our particular trip was the Out-Island Adventure, a week of bare-essentials camping, snorkeling, fishing and sea-kayaking in the Florida Keys. And though this is probably the coolest thing I did as a Boy Scout, in hindsight, I don’t understand why I wanted to go. I get seasick and I’m not a huge fan of overbearing heat, fishing or exerting myself with the fear of drowning, which I think some people call swimming. Crazy slang these days; how am I supposed to keep up?

To really begin our ‘Out-Island Adventure,’ we had to sea-kayak roughly five to six miles over open ocean to the least developed piece of property I have seen, ever, excluding National Geographic documentaries. There’s just nothing better than kayaking for hours with no protection from the sun, trying to keep all your equipment dry and realizing that your destination will provide you with as much relief as a positive pregnancy test does to a 14-year-old girl.

Just a quick side note: before this trip, I was under the impression that High Adventure trips in Boy Scouts were a luxury, which is only true in terms of the rarity of going on one of these trips. Anyway, a freeze-dried meal and several Nalgene bottles of refreshing 95-degree water put a nice finish on my first day.

The next few days were spent on and around the island, but between organized activities, a fair bit of time was spent trying to get out of the heat, i.e. trying to stop sweating so we’d feel less gross. Did I mention there weren’t showers? Just to summarize: 18 guys going in and out of the ocean, sweating all the time, eating poorly, with no means to feel clean can still be relatively happy. Relatively being in comparison to how we felt on the final day.

We had found out in the course of the week that we’d be paddling Polynesian-style war canoes back to the mainland, which was exciting because it had been breezy all week and we’d heard that rigging a sail to a canoe was possible. And then, the night before we headed back, the wind stopped. Just stopped. Hammocks were too stifling to sleep in and the bugs, which had been kept at bay by the wind, were back and were starving. Most of us alternated between lying in pools of our own sweat and running up and down the beach slapping the bugs off our limbs and cursing, the video of which, if it existed, would have been at least as interesting as ‘The Blair Witch Project,’ and much easier to take seriously.

Morning finally came, and we could finally leave. The sail-rig went up, but morning forgot to bring with it a breeze. So there hung the makeshift sail, comatose. I should say something now about how Boy Scouts taught me blah blah blah we persevered blah blah blah we made it home, but instead, this memory tells me that if you’re limp and lifeless, you’re not helping anything or anyone, least of all yourself, get anywhere. Even if you’re an Eagle Scout.

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