12 things that will never be the same after this summer –

1. Fried egg sandwiches. I was taught to make them with ketchup on wheat bread and always hated it, but the unicyclist Cody showed me the light by using less healthy bread, grape jelly and mayonnaise. Delicious!

2. Healthy cooking. Our resident French chef and twerking expert, Kevin, has showed me some amazing recipes, including a kimchi salad that is healthy and scrumptious. He also made amazing vegetarian gravy, but let’s face it, I don’t want to mess around with gravy.

3. Sunsets. I’ve never seen ones as beautiful as I have here.

4. Bats. I know their smell now. Thanks to a guy in the office, I also know that if you coat a 2×4 in foil and let some light reflect off it in the dark, bats will fly into said piece of lumber and knock themselves out long enough for you to dispose of them however you see fit.

5. Cell phones. Never again will I take them for granted. You have to work so HARD here to get them to pick up anything and most of the time that sucks the battery dry. We currently have a system of duck taping them to the window of an outside door and it’s been working pretty well.

6. Cheese. I’m pretty sure every time I eat cheese I’ll think of all the times we just sat around and ate cheese. By itself.

7. “Crazy Kids” by Ke$sha and “We Can’t Stop” by Miley Cyrus.

8. Batman.

9. Secrets. In reality, there are none. I’m pretty sure almost every person I live around in the park knows everything about my summer and I know everything about theirs. (And if they don’t know, someone else does and would totally clue them in.) This includes but is not limited to sleeping, bathroom, and eating habits, along with previous relationships, family, “that one time at band camp” stories, accidental nudity in front of windows, and online shopping purchases.

10. Bugs. While I still don’t enjoy their presence, I’m much more tolerant now.

11. Ferrets.

Meet Penelope.

Meet Penelope.

12. Boys’ bathrooms. Seriously, the cabin we always hang out in is inhabited by three guys who I don’t consider to be hairy men, but the way their bathroom looks says otherwise.

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Bats; they’re a problem.

Custer State Park has some really cool wildlife, but I’ve kind of had it with the bats.

Earlier in the summer, a group of us younger seasonal workers went on an evening swim at Legion Lake. I chose to sit on the beach and watch, and was rewarded with the sight of a couple hundred bats swooping and diving through the air above my friends’ heads. It was dark enough that no one was the wiser of what was happening, and I got to see these cool little creatures catch their dinner in midair.

Now, move forward in time to last week. We leave the doors on the dorm building open a lot if it gets stuffy or we’re all right outside. Last week, Dennis was laying in our lounge watching Netflix when a group of us walked through to go sit on the stoop outside. The door was open already and I saw what I thought was a giant moth flying around the tiny room.

“Hey is that a…”
“That’s a bat!” somebody chirped.

Sure enough, there was a freaked out bat doing circles in the lounge in a constant search for the door.

And the funny thing was, nobody really did anything. We all just filtered through the room and onto the porch. Once we were through, somebody turned around and said, “We should do something?

“What?”
“Should we shut the inside door?”
“Probably.”
“Think it can get out on its own?”
“I don’t know.”
“Maybe if it stays in there it will eat all those little gnats that get inside.”
“I don’t want it to get into my room.”
“Nah, it’ll be fine.”

And we all just kind of stood there and stared at the thing as it continued its search for the door. This went on for about 30 seconds before the creature lucked out and flew back out of the building and we continued with our evening.

But it’s not over. Yesterday was the first day back in my office after working entrance stations and when I walked down the stairs to “Down Under,” I was greeted with the smell of sewage. I asked Karla the secretary for some air spray moments later.

“It’s probably the bats,” she explained. Apparently, they had been trickling down from the attic into the main part of the office and one may or may not have somehow gotten into the basement.

The air freshener helped, but now it just smells like sewage covered in flowers and peaches, so I hope the bat is gone.

Fingers crossed he doesn’t fly over my head. Any second now…

Bulletin Board Drama

So, apparently, someone creates a collage of sorts and uses the bulletin board in the back hallway of the office to thank the volunteers who work here all summer. This year, I get to do it.

You might think this is a simple task, but it’s the opposite. In previous years, they have taken mug shots of every volunteer and just stuck them up there with some sort of “Thank you!” message. This year, nobody remembered to do this until July, so the volunteers were scattered throughout the park. At first, I tried tracking them down, but this proved to be time-consuming and tedious.

Sometimes people wouldn’t let me take their pictures because they were too sweaty/had bad hair/didn’t do their makeup that day and so they’d offer to come into the office later. The ones that did usually came on my days off, so that didn’t help. Some of them didn’t live in the park and some of them didn’t work that often, so tracking these folks down turned into a fiasco.

So, instead of killing myself trying to hunt everyone down, I thought I’d do a more fun board and use fewer pictures. The plan was to involve a couple group shots of volunteers at the visitor center and at their campers, but I was informed by one of the secretaries that if I didn’t include ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE, people would get angry.

ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE includes a list of names that’s three pages long.

Seriously? Over a bulletin board that most people don’t even see? Are these people five years old? If this summer has taught me anything, it’s that as some people get older and older, they tend to act younger and younger.

But apparently it’s a big deal, and if I include one I have to include them all. I was stumped for a while until one of the girls I live with came into the office and suggested I include everyone’s name and just forgo the photos.

Eureka!

So here I sit, tediously cutting out letters to spell out “Thank you volunteers!” and trying to figure out what I’m going to do. And if anybody has a problem with the finished product, they can come “Down Under” and complain directly to me.

Outsmarted by an inanimate object…again.

I walked into the office a few minutes ago after returning from a much-needed long holiday weekend. This morning had been a flurry of emails and “Oh yeah, I need to do that like, right now.” But after the noon hour and running a couple errands, things had calmed down.

That’s when the secretary spoke up.

“Oh Anna,” she said innocently, “I need your timesheet.”

The timesheet; the bringer of death and mathematics. The killer of souls and keeper of time. The timesheet.

Pay weeks are weird here, and so you have to remember your hours aren’t just counted on a normal 7-day, Monday through Friday work week. Instead, it usually ends up with a week and a third or two weeks and a couple days being on one timesheet while the rest filters over onto the next pay period, and then numbers and Satan get together and make you forget which days were on last week’s timesheet and…have I lost you yet?

I thought so.

For once though, that wasn’t even the problem. I had kept track of the work week and filled out my timesheet correctly, but the universe had found a way to screw it up again. The secretary’s mention of the dreaded timesheet made me remember that right before leaving for the weekend I had put it in one of my desk drawers. This wouldn’t be a problem normally, but my desk is old, wooden and magical. It oftentimes uses its magic to selectively lock some of the drawers and won’t let me into them until it feels like it.

Or at least that’s what I thought.

So, I went “Down Under” and proceeded to try and break into my desk. I pulled upwards, downwards, left and right until I was almost sweaty, but the drawer wouldn’t budge. Mind you, other drawers on my desk remained open with no problem. It was like the stupid piece of lumber and nails was giving me attitude because it knew I was helpless.

I gave up. One of the guys upstairs said he had a hammer and other supplies that I might be able to use to get into my magic desk, so he got them and we returned to see what damage I could inflict with tools I didn’t really know how to use (He had something called a kitty wrench? Or something? Such an odd name for a tool…). As we approached the big, hulking piece of wood, he said, “Did you open the middle drawer?”
“What?” I asked.
“The main middle drawer, like right where you sit?”
“Oh…no?” I answered confusedly. “Why would that matter?”

By that time I was already at my desk and had proceeded to open the empty middle drawer. I was in the middle of still being confused as to why that mattered when I tried the magical locked drawer and it opened with a sad thud, revealing my timesheet.

“Sometimes, if you shut that drawer in the locked position, it locks every other drawer in the desk,” he explained kindly.

I’ve never felt so stupid in my life. I’ve always considered myself slightly mechanically inclined – I’ve taken apart and reassembled too many strings of Christmas lights to count, I can put together desktop computers, I know the ins and outs of hot water heaters, I’ve installed my own headlights and windshield wiper blades, and for Pete’s sake, I’ve sat at desks before. But this stupid piece of colorless wood outsmarted me. I am humbled.

Living Down Under

Let’s talk about my office.

I absolutely love that one of the seasonal volunteers coined it “Australia” because it’s “Down Under.”

You’ll see.

The guy who showed me to my office immediately got this sad, apologetic look on his face when he realized who I was.

“It’s in the basement,” he said as he led me down a twisted, skinny hallway.

That’s fine. I don’t mind basements.

That’s when we turned a corner and were met with a dark, descending set of skinny stairs. I was still on board because, hey, I got a freaking office! But the guy showing me the place appeared to be getting more and more uncomfortable.

“You don’t have to spend all your time down here,” he said. “The laptop can pick up Wi-Fi all over the building, so you can come upstairs whenever you want.”

When we reached the bottom of the stairs, I realized that I was standing next to an old bank vault door that proudly read “Cottonwood State Bank.” For a terrifying second, I thought my office was going to be in an old bank vault, but thankfully he opened the door opposite it.

“I’m sorry,” was all he said.

But I didn’t know why. I have an office, and that’s really exciting for a 20-something college student. Granted, it’s dark, cold, and has no windows. I’ve also been told that its former inhabitant was a hoarder, which is apparent by the amount of paper bits and rubber bands scattered around on the dirty carpet. Its most endearing feature is the mouse trap in the corner; it’s not loaded with anything and has been obviously set off by something.

But I have an office! Cool, right?

I have to say that my bosses have been really nice and said that I’m free to roam wherever I want to work and that I don’t have to stay “Down Under,” but to be honest, I kind of like it down here. I’ve always been a cave-dweller of sorts – my bedroom growing up was in a basement with no windows and I always have a tendency to sit in chairs that reside in corners so that I have walls to my back.

In a way, this office makes this job even better. It’s like they knew me before I even showed up for my first day.

Now, I suppose I should reset the mouse trap…