I was thinking about my days up at Uni-Camp in the San Bernardino mountains back when I was eighteen . I was recruited by Anna Horne, my orientation counselor , during the UCLA orientation session . The university ran the camp for underprivileged inner city kids , and diabetic kids, and blind kids . I hadn’t even started my freshman classes yet , but the camp idea sounded good , and so I signed up as a volunteer counselor .
The camp ran two-week sessions , one after another , all summer long . At the beginning of the summer all the counselors who could , all volunteers , showed up for a week of camp cleaning called Opening . We would all rake fire breaks , open the A-frames and chase out the spiders and mice , wash tables and count cots , etc. Sure . It’ll be fun .
I went over to Sears to buy an inexpensive pair of gloves . But , when I got up to Opening and we went out in work crews , no one else had gloves . I kept mine in my pack , a little embarrassed to be the only one who needed gloves . I know , I know , kind of a stupid decision . I’m not claiming to be particularly wise, or sensible , especially at eighteen .
I noticed a cute girl , though , working along side all of us . She had soft hands . I offered her my gloves . ” No , no,” she said . I negotiated , somewhat insistent . Eventually she accepted one glove if I would keep one . Close enough . I accepted the compromise . Had I impressed her with what a nice guy I was ?
That’s when and where it went all wrong . Within hours I was getting dirty looks from various people . Seemed like I was , anyway . Was I or was I not ? Seemed like it . Glares and whispers . Really ? One fellow volunteer would shun me and the two standing behind would whisper conspiratorially . About me ? Was I imagining it all ? Evil eyes and hostile looks . Weird .
It seems one of the maintenance guys , another eighteen year old , had lost a pair of gloves a day or so before I pulled out my gloves . Remember I hadn’t pulled mine out until a few days after I’d arrived . He , somewhat logically , had assumed that I had stolen his gloves .
I don’t remember if I confronted him or if he confronted me . Nowadays I would confront him ; but in those days probably he would have confronted me . I remember a face-to-face conversation . It was civil . Firm diplomacy : cards on the table time .
” Those are my gloves . ”
” No , those are my gloves . ”
” Mine were from Sears .”
” Mine too . ”
I offered to give him my gloves . He would be up there in the mountains all summer , after all , because he was a maintenance guy . I didn’t need the gloves . I’d be gone in a few days ; up again later that summer for two weeks as a counselor .
I suppose that this offer of the gloves made me seem more guilty . Why else would I give up the gloves so easily ? He wanted an admission , however , a blanket contrition . He was polite about it , under the circumstances , but righteously firm . He wouldn’t take the gloves without my unconditional surrender , my complete capitulation . I had to admit that I’d stolen his gloves .
Word had spread around the camp meanwhile that I was not only a gloves thief , but that I also wouldn’t admit to it when caught red-handed . What kind of an amoral freak was I ? It takes all kinds , doesn’t it ! Let’s avoid that guy . Can you believe it ? And all of us up here just trying to do something good . My soft-skinned girlie gave me back the glove . ” Here’s the stolen glove , oooh ! ” she might have said , but didn’t quite . Maybe she had been the snitch who had initially turned me in , raised the alarm , rallied the forces of righteousness.
I don’t remember now if I had notions of going home , then , in defeat and resignation . Maybe I did ; maybe I didn’t . I don’t think so ; but , who knows ?
Then the maintenance guy found his gloves . His gloves . They were indeed very similar to mine . He came over to me to apologize . He was very sorry . It had been his mistake . I wasn’t , after all , a lousy sneaking lying gloves thief . He was ashamed of himself for jumping to conclusions . He was sincerely sorry for having accused me . He had been respectful throughout the process , I remember , and I always have appreciated that . We were friends afterward .
I suppose there are still people , however , who , telling stories as I am now of those Uni-Camp days long ago , tell the tale of the gloves thief up there that year at Opening . Can you believe the stunts some people pull ? What a sleazeball . It takes all kinds , don’t it ! I wonder what happened to that guy .
I was thinking about my days volunteering at Uni-Camp up in the San Bernardino mountains . Uni-Camp was UCLA’s camp for underprivileged kids from the inner city , and diabetic kids , and blind kids . I was recruited by my orientation counselor , Anna Horne .
I was eighteen . ” Everyone goes up for Opening , ” Anna said . Sure. Every counselor who can shows up for a week to clean up the camp , rake fire breaks , open the A-frames and chase out the spiders and mice . ” It’ll be fun , ” she said .