Last week, a friend of mine declared spring break 2005 as “The Year of the Merkin.”
A merkin, he said, was a South Park reference to a device used essentially as a pubic toupee. It was the perfect metaphor for our scraggly situation, he claimed, and this was its year.
Personally, I thought it was more the spring break of the squatter. I guess living in a leaky, breezy, and remarkably uncomfortable tent city for an entire week of what may have been the dreariest in Florida history has that effect on a body. It tends to make one feel like a refugee.
Indeed, our shantytown of Wal-Mart tents amidst the Panama City sand dunes was reminiscent of an early 1980s Miami during the influx of Cuban nationals, and our bodies reeked steadily of camp smoke and mildew.
The overall disheveled nature of our predicament was even further compounded and intensified by the use of communal showers and the gritty white sand, which seemed to invade every pore. It was, by all means, an exercise in incivility.
We arrived at our campsite on a Saturday morning.
By the fourth day, things had gotten desperate. Wind and rain tore at the tents as we huddled inside atop puddles of stagnant water.
Sleep became all but impossible due to our soaked blankets and the frigid cold. As keeping a campfire was impossible, we drank beer for warmth. It was miserable.
But then a strange thing happened. We began to look on the bright side. We improvised our daily activities to make up for lost time at the beach. Bowling and arcades substituted for waves and babes. It wasn’t ideal; it was better.
True, when you come to Florida expecting sunny skies and long days at the beach, finding overcast, rainy, 50-degree weather the whole week is a bit of a drag. It tends to lean away from the bright side. But that’s okay.
The true test of an individual constitution is the ability to roll with the punches, to adapt before becoming obsolete. That, my friends, is exactly what we did.
Because of such a simple thing as optimism, a potential disaster was turned into what I would call the most enjoyable trip of my lifetime. Forget Mardi Gras, forget Europe, a rain-soaked week in the Florida panhandle showed me what is most important to having a great time in life.
It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. It’s not who you know, it’s who they are. It’s not how you look at things, it’s how you look at the big picture. These are the lessons of one damp week. They embodied themselves in the surroundings and in the people who moved through them. Expectations were met, exceeded and defied.
At one point, I actually met a decent, intelligent group of students from Kentucky. They do exist.
And most important of all, I met decent, intelligent students from Simpson College. They exist too.
They really do.