This one time, at band camp…
…I had the worst ulcer of all time (cue Kanye West impression).
When I was in high school, I was in marching band. More than that, I was the drum major. I was the head band geek. Which means I had to go to drum major camp.
I always enjoyed summer camps, though I never had the classic Meatballs-type experience. Mine were always Tennis camp or Bible camp or Band camp in that order. Never hiking through the woods or building campfires or living in log cabins and such. But I liked going because I lived my entire life in a VERY small town, and really enjoyed getting out and meeting new people. The kids I went to school with, most of them I’d known my whole life. It’s hard to make new friends when there are no new people to meet.
Not so at band camp. There were always people I’d never met from places I’d never heard of. Different backgrounds, experiences, traditions, and attitudes. I loved it. And I found I was really good at making friends when I needed to. It was nice meeting people who didn’t know about the time I wet my pants in 4th grade. And 2nd grade. Guys who didn’t know that I was the last kid in gym class to go through puberty. People who liked or disliked me based on who I am, not who I was. Even though I wasn’t the most popular kid in my school, it was always a nice reminder that I’m not a total loser – that there are some people out there who get me.
And of course, the older I got, the more the summer camp experience became about meeting girls and possibly having a summer fling. After all, they didn’t know that I was a total nobody where I came from (and vice versa).
So it was a spectacularly bad stroke of luck my Junior year in high school when I went off to drum major camp and developed the most massive, painful ulcer I had ever experienced. Probably half an inch wide right on the side of my tongue, which rubbed up against my teeth every time I even slightly opened my mouth. Forget eating, I couldn’t even talk. And when I tried to talk, it was like my jaw had been wired shut or I was practicing to be a ventriloquist. Try explaining that one to the ladies…
“What, this? Oh, it’s just a giant open sore in my mouth. So what dorm you staying in?”
I wasn’t exactly a pariah at this particular band camp, but needless to say I wasn’t starting the 11th grade with ribald tales of that hot clarinet player I hooked up with at camp over the summer.
It might have been the only ulcer my mom was ever thankful for.