Every year I pass by hopeful Girl Scouts and Campfire Girls flaunting sugary delights. And each year I am tempted to stop and ask a few pointed questions about the end result of their revenues and whether or not an Actual Campfire was ever experienced.
Because I am a Campfire Orphan – and was coerced, at an early age, into becoming a Bake Salesperson without ever earning the constant carrot of a real campout – or the merit badge promised for such an experience.
In the usual way of the most insidious of plots, Mom was In On It. What I had presumed to be yet another harmless PTA Meeting was, in fact, an outreach program conduced by the local Campfire Girls leadership trolling for innocent young recruits for their sales team. Only, they didn’t call it that; they called it all kinds of altruistic things, such as “grooming our young ladies for their future roles in society” (….of which ‘President’ or ‘Interstellar Astronaut’ was obviously NOT on their list.) The brochure cover promised a Campfire and the interior pages mentioning Merit Badges also held out the additional carrot of Fire Safety – which meant Fire Building OBVIOUSLY had to be a precursor.
Since I was a young pyrotechnic wanna-be, I found myself lured by the promises of (a) fire (b) a parent-free outing involving (c) dirt.
Campfire Girls?? I was THERE.
The first meeting seemed to revolve around Cookie Sales, where it was explained that the Sales helped fund the Outings, so were a requirement. For the life of me I couldn’t get a grip on where Cookie Sales could influence the presence or absence of (a) fire (b) a parent-free outing or (c) dirt – all of which was presumably THERE FOR THE TAKING – but chalk it up to another Adult Mystery. If Cookies were a requirement to play, Cookies it would be.
When the other young Girls were sent to the shopping mall with pitiful faces and piles of boxes, I hit up a known secret source on my own: Grandma. Who had a BIG sweet tooth and apparently unlimited funds to spend on it. Single-handedly she bought out my entire supply and filled her hall closet (unbeknownst to Grandpa, who wasn’t nearly as hungry nor gullible.)
I duly won my first Merit Badge – Cookie Salesgirl – and eagerly looked forward to my first Campfire Outing.
Three months later it was explained that another Cookie Sale was required, as apparently some of my classmates weren’t as swift at identifying their markets as I was.
That was disappointing, but I figgered in 3 months Grandma had likely decimated most of her Secret Closet Stash and was due for more, and I was right – but this time, she wisely (and on apparent advice from her dentist, the naysayer) bought only half my stash.
I quickly discovered the concept of ‘staging’ my sales. Again, where my classmates had burned through Family Members and were regulated to the local Mall with facing competing tables every few shops, I set mine up by myself down at the local police station. As in: the parking lot. By the squad cars. My logic: on their way to get the inevitable doughnut, they could get their sweet tooth instantly fixed by moi. I even had a sign: “They Aren’t Doughnuts but They Will Teach Me Fire Safety. Campfire Girls”. I sold my entire stash in under 2 hours and went back to CFG Headquarters triumphant, only to learn I could only win one merit badge per topic. And apparently the Campfire Leader refused to understand the obvious link between Police Cookie Sales and Fire Safety, so refused to award me my merit badge in Fire Safety. Whatarip!
Three months more passed. It was June: prime time for camping and a cookout, to my mind.
You gots it: the next meeting was not about the forthcoming promised Campfire, but held yet another discussion of yet more cookie sales. In fact, a calendar was at this point confessed to with cookie sales dates already allotted for every other month. And NO Campfire Experience in sight!
I was DONE. With great fanfare I proudly stood up, announced my resignation, added a few words to cement the occasion (something to the effect of “relentless bake sales” and “exploitation of the young”, I believe – several choice terms from Dad’s evening newspaper reading), and marched off to find better options. But not before I made my point by dropping ALL my sales brochures into the metal round wastepaper can and tossing in my father’s (borrowed) cigarette lighter, which produced flame with a mere flick of the fingertip.
I can tell you:
1. Glossy brochures not only burn well – they ERUPT.
2. I practiced Fire Safety by (inadvertently) choosing a round metal wastepaper can for my demo.
3. I gots NO Fire Safety badge from the cheapskate Campfire Girls.
4. The entire police department got to know me by name – one way or another.
5. When the Girl Scouts came trolling for membership, Mom refused to answer the door.
Chocolate chippers, anyone?