Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Kotex Candy

My daughter, who is at summer camp now, can make two phone calls home during her session. This communication is in addition to the photographs posted daily on the camp website and the letters she can send us, which seem fewer and fewer as the weeks go on.

The calls are pre-scheduled so we know exactly what day and hour to hear from her. This a tense time because we'll know immediately from her voice whether or not she's really having a good time.

When our eldest son was at a camp, we used to dread this call. We could already tell from the letters, he was miserable. We didn't think the phone call would be any better.

And it wasn't.

He begged and begged us to bring him home claiming there were five deadly bugs around the camp site. He said the counselors were beating up the kids at night and the only reason he smiled in the photographs we saw on the website was because they said they wouldn't give them dinner that night unless they all looked happy.

As he spoke, his voice got more quiet, there were a few sobs. We asked him to speak louder, but he told us the lines were tapped and he didn't want to say too much for fear of reprisal. We were stuck talking to this idiot for 10 minutes, just telling him over and over that he should try and stick it out and have a good time. We reminded him there wasn't anything happening at home and all his friends were away anyway. He just repeated that he wanted to come home. I couldn't take it anymore. Finally, I told him that if the camp wasn't giving refunds, he wasn't coming home.

Fortunately, his younger brother was at the same camp. When he cheerfully got on the line, he told us his brother was full of crap. He said camp was great and he barely had anytime to speak to us because he didn't want to be late to the next event. "Bye, love ya. See ya later."

Now, that's a conversation.

So when my daughter got on the phone this year and told us how much fun she was having and all the boys she wanted to kiss, we were so happy. And considering the alternative, the kissing part wasn't so bad for a father to hear.

My daughter did have one request, though - send candy. We cringed, not because of the sugar factor, but because it was strictly against camp rules to have candy in the bunks. They were afraid of bugs and other sucrose scenting animals that could invade, along with the general health issues posed by candy overload.

My daughter begged and told us other kids had been smuggling in the contraband through gift packages, but now they were running low and it was up to us to come through for her.

"Pleeeeeeeease, daddy. I love you so much."

"But don't they check the packages before giving them to you?"

"Stuff it in a teddy bear. Or better yet, one mom hid it in a tampon box."

"Tampon? You're only 12. Don't you think they'll know?"

"Tori's mom got it through."

I've seen Tori before. She may have been 12 but her body said 16. My daughter looks 8 and only weighs 74 pounds. She's got many years before tampons will be anywhere near her vicinity.

However, images of the Mexican drug cartel, Los Zetas, came to mind. And the thought of aiding and abetting cross-border illegal activities seemed exciting.

"Ok, honey. We'll try."

As soon as we hung up, the strategy began. Tampons or Pads? Pads. We have to find the biggest box on the market, I told my wife. And we have to figure out what kind of candy would survive the journey. No chocolates, they'll melt. M&M's are okay, though. Swedish Fish are good, maybe even some gum. "She's got a retainer, she can't have any of that stuff," my wife said.

I didn't want to hear it. I wasn't going to let a minor kill-joy detail like that stop this operation. I was already committed to the challenge of getting this trojan horse through. "Hey, we already promised her. We have to send something," I responded. My wife rolled her eyes.

"This one's all yours," she said.

The next day, I prepared the package. I deftly opened the Kotex box top, careful not to rip the cardboard. I removed a handful of wrapped pads and looked for a place to put them. My wife doesn't use that product. I thought about flushing them away but figured that the large quantity would probably stop up the pipes. I remember in college we used to borrow some from the girls to clean our fish tank. I was always amazed how much those things expanded when they got wet.
I stuffed them into a bathroom drawer, to be dealt with later. I then poured the loose candy into the box. This was pure genius. The remaining pads would act as a buffer during shipment. With enough candy in there packed by the white soakers, there should be no rustling at all if done right.

I dabbed some glue onto the flap and gently pressed down, sealing it like new. The "package" was placed in a larger brown box along with some comic books, batteries for her flashlight and a couple of sno-globes. She loves sno-globes and collects them from all around the world. I figured these were all natural, inconspicuous things that every parent would send to their kid at camp.

A few days later, the second call from camp came. I saw the name pop up on our caller ID and excitedly picked up the receiver.

"Hi, honey," I answered. "Did you get it?"

"This is Ralph, the camp director." His tone didn't give me a good feeling. "The package you sent your daughter was confiscated."



"What happened?"

"I think you know that our bylaws prohibit the import of non-sanctioned items of which candy is a major infraction."

My head was already spinning. Import. Infraction. Oh, my god, we were caught.

"But , but, how did ..."

"We've been running this camp for 25 years. We've seen it all. The broken sno-globes gave you away," he chuckled.


"The water from the globes saturated the box, which in turn expanded the pads, which burst open the carton. The candy was all over the place. What were you thinking?"

"I, uh, I"

"We'll see you on Visiting Day." Click.

I knew the wrath I would face on Visiting Day. I could only hope they would show my daughter mercy in the meantime.

Every year on Visiting Day, all the parents are first greeted by the camp director out in the parking lot. He tells us how wonderful our kids have been and how lucky the camp is to have them. Then, he lists the violations that occurred during the session. It becomes a kind of perp walk.

Mr. and Mrs. so and so sent little Timmy a cell phone hidden in a pair of socks (another camp infraction); The Wolenski's tried to send Katrina her laptop. Throughout all of this, the good parents glare at the bad ones. My wife would shake her head along with the others. I'm convinced if there were rocks on the ground people would start throwing them.

Perhaps, I'll sit in the car this year while my wife figures out what happened.

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