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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sauerkraut and Rumours

I don't like sauerkraut. Or I didn't. I was eating a pastrami sandwich today and there was some sauerkraut on it and it didn't bother me. And I wondered why I had had an aversion to sauerkraut at all (apart from it being utterly disgusting in appearance, smell, and flavour; a lot can be forgiven for perfectly accompanying thin-sliced pastrami).

And then I remembered the rumours.

No. Not those rumours. But the timing of my sandwich is highly suspicious. Like the god of deli meats is looking out for me, reminding me that life is a bit cyclical.`That it doesn't matter that I'm 31: sometimes high school is inescapable. Because people don't change enough from the teens they were when they become the adults they are.

I was a counselor at a day camp for kids with disabilities the last two summers of high school. By the second year I was completely comfortable in the job, loved all the kids (many of whom returned), was friends with all of the counselors from the past year and made friends with those who were just starting. Probably unsurprisingly most of the counselors were young women or high school girls: young men weren't that attracted to the job, for inexplicable but obvious reasons.

There were a few guys: Bruce, a late-twenties trashy-dude who took the job when his girlfriend Laura did. Nick, a kid around my own age. And another Shawn, a varsity-looking guy, also older, but only early twenties.

It was probably the best job I've ever had (present occupation excepted), and we gang of friends, though of varying ages and backgrounds, really delighted in pranking each other to one extent or another. The bigger pranks were reserved for a special day, toward the end of summer, and on that day everyone was on the lookout.

I didn't look hard enough, though. Because on that day they managed, Bruce and Shawn, to get me on the ground and dump a huge bag of wet brown sugar all over me. And then to top it all off:


God it stank. And it was sticky. And it lingered for what seemed like days.

This brilliant and humiliating prank was engineered by Bruce, and I never thought of a way to get him back. Plus, he was from Rideau Heights in Kingston, the shady side of town, and I just didn't want to mess with him.

Summer closed, and the changes that had been taking place all season beneath the earth sprouted brilliant maples that bore some insane fruit.

A few days before my sauerkraut bath I was called in to the camp director's office. She was a high school friend (although long graduated), and I had the job I did because of that connection and because the company's main office was next to my father's law office, so I saw her all the time. She waved me in, and indicated that I should have a seat.

"I had to call you in today, had to, even though you shouldn't worry about this at all. But I've had a complaint about you."

The wind was sucked out of me. I thought I was pretty affable. If I'm comfortable, as I was in that environment, I'm pretty good with people and I try not to step on any toes. I thought I was doing well.

"Someone has complained that you've been sexually harassing some of the female counselors."

The wind was punched out of me. My mind ramped up speed, re-examining every interaction I had had with any of the other counselors all summer long. I had a girlfriend, and didn't consider myself flirty, and I was taken utterly by surprised.

"Look. I know that this complaint is nonsense. But it was made, and as the camp director I have to investigate and confront you about it."

"Can you tell me who? Who I'm accused of harassing? Who made the complaint?"

"No. But seriously. Don't worry about it. It's bunk."

I left her office a very cautious, paranoid person (but not paranoid enough to avoid the sauerkraut dousing later that week). I couldn't tell anyone about it, because it was just too freakishly embarrassing. Plus, if it made me re-evaluate all of my interactions, even though I was assured that the complaint was baseless, then I couldn't imagine what other people would think. I didn't think I could count on the benefit of the doubt (although I shouldn't have been so worried). And I just didn't want anyone thinking of me like that, even if only to consider it without judging.

But, on the last day of day camp I was sitting outside with Bruce, trying to be a little sympathetic since his girlfriend Laura (the one who was also a counselor and who had gotten him hired) had broken up with him. They lived together, so this was especially painful for him (and alien to me), so I talked to him about it, and about how weird the summer was.

"You know," I said, "I, uh, I got called into Stephanie's office a couple of weeks ago. Someone had filed a complaint against me, for sexual harassment. Can you believe that? I mean, what the hell? Hey, tell me honestly, do you think that I was over the line with anyone here?"

He looked at me and smiled the bitter smile of the recently dumped: "Yeah. I do. I'm the one who filed that complaint."

What. The. Fuck?

"What the fuck? You? Why?"

"Laura. You were always talking to her and I know that you two have been sleeping together all summer. You needed to be put in your place, you little shit."

His eyes were pretty crazy by this point, and all of a sudden the sauerkraut incident wasn't just a prank: it was aggression, spite, revenge.

"Bruce. Look. Laura and I are friends. I have never done anything even remotely inappropriate with her." (Hey, I know this is supposed to be an 18-year-old talking to a 28-year-old, but forgive me if I make the 18-year-old sound a little more sensible and a little less squeaky than the situation really had him sounding.)

He spat something about waiting for me around the corner after work (seriously, dude? High school is over, for both of us, but maybe not for as long in your case.) and then he crawled off. No longer a person to me, but a chameleon. I hadn't realized it; I hadn't been able to pick him out against the red brick of the camp building, or the green leaves of the summer trees.

I wanted to talk to him, and convince him, somehow, that he was just wrong. But he wouldn't listen. Just threaten.

I asked Laura about it later. I told her about the sexual harassment complaint (and her eyes grew wide) and then I told her about Bruce being the one to make it (and her eyes grew angry), and then I told her about his accusation that we had been sleeping together, the 18-year-old kid and the 27-year-old woman-living-with-someone (and her eyes grew soft).

Yeah, they softened.

"Well," she began, "he got it half right."


"I've been sleeping with the other Shawn for half the summer."

I had no idea what to say to that. All I could think about was sauerkraut, and being held down by Shawn while Bruce poured the disgusting concoction all over my head.

I don't mind sauerkraut so much anymore. And I suppose rumours don't bother me either.

But I don't ever want to suffer from both ever again.


Vered said...

Oh, you're funny! It's my first (second??) visit here and I didn't realize you were funny. Yay for funny bloggers!

I don't mind sauerkraut. Rumors - I do mind. Working on it.

Carolyn...Online said...

That was all very Dawson's Creek. Picturing Dawson getting sauerkrauted when it's actually Pacy having the sneaky summer fling. Geez, I didn't even watch that show.

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

Your last commenter totally took my idea. It's very teen movie-ish. I see Zack Efron playing you in the movie, if the kid can grow facial hair.

Forever In School said...

What did you do next? Did you ever talk to him again to explain what has really happened?

This story was like what happens in movies. Very interesting, the other Shawn!

Momo Fali said...

Dude, that is harsh all the way around. Sounds like me and horseradish...that's all I'm saying.

Aunt Becky said...

That's terrible. Rumors suck ass.

Ali said...

i'm sure i saw this on an afterschool special once.

look at you spelling rumors all canadian-like.

seriously, though. that SUCKS. sadly, though, there are always rumors and accusations and shit when men are around women. you should hear the crap that gets talked about in my office...(apparently, i've slept with at least 14 guys. in the friggin' sick room)

only in your case...the rumor was true. he just got the wrong guy...

Foz Meadows said...

That's a pretty messed up story, which goes a long way towards explaining the saurkraut aversion. Personally, it took me until late highschool to figure out what the hell saurkraut actually was, and in my whole life I've never encountered a single specimen. Maybe it's just not big in Australia?

SciFi Dad said...

sex, bondage, sauerkraut...

just like german porn

Danielle said...

What a tool. That totally blows!

Swirl Girl said...

This dude should have been a camper not a councelor.

And sauerkraut ain't so bad. It's good your willing to give it a chance.

Mommy Melee said...

Yeah dude you should stop being so hot.

Ugh but seriously, that blows. I hate it when someone sneezes their crazy! all over me.

Black Hockey Jesus said...


TLC said...

Wow. Rumors suck. Seriously.

You can also see how the guy got it wrong, and how easy it is to get it wrong.

What does your wife say about all this? It is very 90210, isn't it?


for a different kind of girl said...

Check this out -

Tonight at work, I was talking to a friend who is the subject of some rumors going around. When we got done hashing that out, we started talking about guacamole. Now, I realize that guacamole isn't exactly sauerkraut, but I was all, "I don't like guacamole," and I also don't like sauerkraut. Or rumors.

I did used to kinda dig that Dylan McKay character on 90210. You kind of look like him. I think I'll start calling you Dylan. That's way better than being Steve Sanders.

attiton said...

You know how the media is currently all wondering if they can use the words "Obama" and "Muslim" in their headlines for fear of a "New-Yorker-Cover-like" reaction? Even if they're saying, "Obama is NOT a secret Muslim?"

They seem concerned that they might be irresponsibly reinforcing the secret Muslim rumors by even saying those words near one another.

This is like what you are doing here when you write how you don't like rumors and then link to a rumor about you.

Only not nearly as important.

Rock and Roll Mama said...

Whoa. That is some craziness. I threw up once (when I was like 6)after eating shrimp tempura and never went near it again.

Anissa@Hope4Peyton said...

In my alternative ending version, you kick the crap out of the other Shawn for holding you down for the sauerkraut bath when he was the one playing dirty with said girlfriend.

Tara@From Dawn Till Rusk said...

That was an excellent tale. Blimey, it must have had an effect on you to remember it so well (or is it burned into your synapses?)

Mary Beth said...

Man that sucks! At least you found out who started the rumor and the reason behind it. Imagine if you were still wondering now?

MadWoman said...

Dammit. I was all set to come here and leave a Dawson's Creek reference in my comment and some eager beaver up there took the entire idea. Very rude.

Ah well. Did it ever get resolved? Sauerkraut sucks...but rumours suck worse. There's some pretty bad ones circulating about me right now, so much that I feel like I am living in the same time that your story is set in.

Poor Bruce. Poor you. Though I gotta tell you, the visual of you being held down and covered with that concoction was a wee bit funny. Mostly because it's a weird combo. I was expecting eggs and feathers.

Heather said...

I don't like sauerkraut either, but there is a sauerkraut festival in a town nearby, and they even make cookies and cake out of that crap.

Danielle said...

yeah, I'm back.

What I really want to know is:

When you were sitting there on the last day with Bruce trying to be sympathetic, and he was all boo-hooy sad, did you ask him what color his panties were? Did they have a little ruffle on the back?

Just sayin'....

Weith Kick said...

I love sauerkraut. Mustard and kraut make the dog on a cold winter day. Great story, and very horrific. I think I would be in need of some serious counseling after having sauerkraut dumped all over me.

Anonymous said...

I don't like sauerkraut. At. All. But I do love your blog! Its my first time here and you a great writer!

Backpacking Dad said...

vered: thank you, thank you. I'm here all week.

carolyn online: me neither. Which one is Dawson?

chicky chicky baby: Efron, huh? He's no Freddie Prinze Jr, but I suppose he'll have to do now that FPJ is old like me.

forever in school: there was no next, really. Camp ended, he was already on the city bus home by the time I left (I avoided him and Laura for the rest of that day), and then I never saw either of them again. Thankfully.

momo fali: horseradish? ack. that would sting.

aunt becky: yep.

ali: you know, I think he just assumed that his girlfriend was cheating on him and that I was the most likely candidate because I was always talking to her. I don't think he ever really knew that she was sleeping with someone. So that he was right was purely accidental. He was a nut job.

foz meadows: I bet you are right about that.

scifi dad: totally.

danielle: you said "tool" and "blows".

swirl girl: but who would have wanted to be his counselor? Not me.

mommy melee: I know. I think I'll go lop an ear off or something :}

black hockey jesus: I wear it on my sleeve.

tlc: she laughed at me. she has very little sympathy for my predicaments :}

FADKOG: which one was Dylan? Was that Jason Priestley's character? Or the James Dean kid?

attiton: ah, but I said that rumours don't bother me much anymore, which is why I have no problem at all giving the link :} Plus, um, Hi have we met? I'm Shawn and I'm an attention whore.

rock and roll mama: I'll tell you a story about Graham Crackers and Ramen sometime.

anissa@hope4peyton: I like that version a lot. It's too bad I weighed all of a buck sixty five when i was 18.

tara: it's totally burned into my synapses. The smell. Oh, god, the horrible smell.

mary beth: I know. I don't know how that would have affected me later.

madwoman: Sorry you have to suffer some stuff.

heather: sauerkraut cookies sound like the most disgusting thing ever. because that's what a dude covered in brown sugar and sauerkraut is, essentially. A cookie. Just add flour.

danielle: you are awesome. :}

weith kick: word.

kristin: why, thank you very much.

Redneck Mommy said...

No wonder you're such an emo badass now.


My brother once dumped honey and the vaccuum canister all over me in a fit of rage.

I totally deserved it though. I killed his high score at pacman in front of all his friends and bragged about it.

I hate honey. And vacuuming now. Bastard.

Kristen said...

Well, in this case you should be lovin' the rumors, because there is nothing like a blogging scandal to bring some new traffic to your site. Any attention is good attention . . . right?

Badass Geek said...

Like others, I'm having trouble not noticing the rouge "u's" in certain words... Like "rumour" and "colour".

It just strikes me as odd. Kind of like how someone would think to put brown sugar and sauerkraut together.

Anil P said...

Talk of miss-takes :) Made for some reading :)

kittenpie said...

What total crap, and how even crappier that you got sucked into someone else's drama.

And lol at SciFiDad's german porn comment. But ew, will totally be staying away from german guys if he's right...

Julie Pippert said...

I must be in a different frame of mind than everyone else because this didn't hit me as funny. It made me sad (but absolutely brill, spot on fab writing).

I guess because people hurt other people and I know that we shut down to some degree, and that means instead of discussing it and maybe salvaging a friend when he needed one most, Bruce alienated everyone around him.

Such a common pattern and so sad.

Plus, the injustice.

Backpacking Dad said...

redneck mommy: totally emo. It's so lame.

kristen: ah, uh, well, I don't know if any publicity is good publicity :} But maybe I'll go find some cancer patients and laugh at them while someone captures it on their videocamera and uploads it to YouTube. Then Imonnabefamousy'all!

badass geek: I'm just celebrating my Candian-ness. Canadiana. Canadaquadiquacity.

anil-p: thanks :}

kittenpie: I always stay away from German guys. For that reason? Well, maybe now.

julie pippert: I think you're the only one who saw that this post wasn't, um, designed to be funny :} I have to work on my "communicate a sad event" writing, clearly :}

Mr Lady said...

Oh, the drama! This is why I never went to camp, you know?

Also, I am glad you don't hate sauerkraut anymore, because i would've had to blog dump (blump) you if you did.

Dibs on blump, btw.

dana said...

OH my gosh. Those guys were total asshats. But you obviously handled it better than any other 18-year-old possibly could.