There was an article in the paper about how unprepared most scout leaders are, when it comes to being able to lead your kids. The examples they gave were mostly of the boy scout variety -- untrained leaders who took the kids on hiking and canoe trips with only rudimentary knowledge of outdoor safety and camping skills. With the dangers their unpreparedness can pose.
Then I remembered my own experience with the Girl Scout Leader from Hell. One of my kids wanted to join a Brownie troop. I thought it would be a good chance to get to know some of the moms, since I was new to the town and divorced moms were generally treated like lepers.
So I signed up to help on an overnight trip to a girl scout camp, where campers spend the night on cots in sleeping bags inside cabins that were just raised platforms with tented roofs. The next morning everybody gets up and cooks pancakes over a fire.
Since camping was something I actually knew a little about, my daughter and I had brought down sleeping bags for the overnight. Most of the other moms and kids only those useless poly-fiber facsimiles, covered with pictures of cartoon characters that are barely warm enough for sleepovers.
It was September and we were up in Wisconsin. So even though it was warm during the day, it could drop below forty at night. That's why I made sure we were prepared for the chill. I just assumed everybody else would be doing the same. It was a scout troop after all.
I remember waking up the next morning in the moms' tent with frost on my bag. I got up before everyone else and took an invigorating walk to the "bathroom" in the cinder block outhouse. On the way back I checked on the girls, who were still sound asleep, for the most part, after talking and laughing most of the night.
When I got back to my tent, there was a lot of commotion because the scout leader was lying on her cot shaking uncontrollably. I could tell she was suffering from hypothermia, but nobody seemed to know what to do about it, although they did keep asking her if she was okay.
I immediately offered my sleeping bag, the only down bag it turns out, and suggested to her mom friends that they wrap her up in it and drag her cot out into the sun so she could warm up.
Meanwhile the girls were getting up and getting into things without any supervision. Nobody was in charge of organizing them to make a fire and prepare breakfast.
The other moms were waiting for instructions from the idiot scout leader who would be totally out of it for quite awhile, since she clearly didn't know squat about camping. The ladies were whining about their predicament and hoping she would recover soon and tell them what to do.
I could see that wasn't going to happen. Instead of waiting for her instructions, I left the moms in the tent and went to start organizing the girls into fire-makers, pancake batter-makers, and cooks.
Soon we had a fire going, the batter was ready and the frying pans were all soaped up on the bottom, so they could be cleaned easier after breakfast. One pan was for bacon, the other was for the pancakes. Someone was making the oj. Other girls were wrapping napkins around the plastic utensils. Things were going well, so I went back to check on the scout leader, expecting everyone to thank me for helping to get things rolling.
Wrong. The idiot scout leader was absolutely incensed, even though she was still unable to get off her cot. She was mad because I had usurped her power. I was not the leader, she was. Apparently NO ONE was supposed to do anything until she told them what to do. Even though it was clear that she was incapacitated, if not entirely incompetent. I was amazed that I was dealing with someone who didn't understand the concept of delegating. Apparently she always did everything herself.
She didn't even thank me for having an expedition quality down sleeping bag that kept her from DYING. Okay, I'm exaggerating. But I could see there was a BIG problem with this woman. And I vowed that my daughter would NEVER go on a trip with her unless I was along.
The next trip was the one every scout troop around here takes to Salem, Illinois, to see one of the places where Abe Lincoln grew up. There was a really nice looking guy in the huge blacksmith's shed who made wooden buckets, but that's another story.
We arrived at a Holiday Inn a couple of hours from Salem at around 10:00 PM after a five or six hour long bus trip.
Incredibly, without telling anyone, the idiot scout leader disappeared. It turns out she left to meet with some friends she knew in the area. She took off, leaving no instructions for what to do with the girls while she was gone, so I suggested that we all take our stuff to our rooms. By the time the girls were in their rooms, it was 10:30 and the scout leader still wasn't back. The girls started running wild from room to room and down the hallways, so I suggested it might be a good time for them to get into their jammies and start to quiet down by visiting with their roommates in their rooms.
Did I mention we had to get up at six in the morning for another bus ride?
By eleven, the girls were all in their rooms, chatting quietly, and the idiot scout leader finally came back. She wanted to know why the girls were ready for bed. I say, because it's bedtime. She gives me an "I'll show YOU" look and tells them they can get up and put on their bathing suits. She then gets the hotel manager to open the pool and the girls go swimming until well after midnight. As an afterthought, she orders pizza which arrives around 1:00 AM. Meanwhile the girls sat around the pool shivering, wrapped in tiny room towels, waiting for it to arrive.
The gauntlet had been thrown.
The next trip I was told there wasn't any room for me. Gee, I wonder why.
However, I let my daughter go anyway. Big mistake. The troop went for a weekend out to some kind of farm that catered to tourists. Turns out it wasn't approved by the girl scouts, but the idiot scout leader never let something like that stop her.
They all came back with food poisoning because there was cow manure in the drinking water. Most of the kids had stomachaches and vomiting. My kid ended up spiking a very high fever and she started talking to me in word salad. She was deliriious, speaking an unknown language. Her pediatrician told me to rush her to the emergency room to get her fever down before it fried her brain. Yep there were lawsuits.
And that idiot scout leader never got fired.
Unbelievably, I was later allowed to help a group of the girls earn a merit badge. That was because the idiot scout leader couldn't help with ten badges simultaneously so she had to have help. I offered to do a drama badge. Everybody wanted to be in my group because drama would be a lot of fun. The idiot scout leader said I could only "handle" six girls. She also had a spy in our midst -- her daughter, who was the best actress of everyone and cute enough to make it in showbiz, I thought. We made puppets, recorded our voices, auditioned for commercials, learned how to use makeup to make people look old, went to plays, met the actors, and had a GREAT time.
Years later my daughter and the idiot scout leader's daughter, who was a smart, sweet and lovely child, were taking my car to visit someone at college. I gave them an atlas and told my daughter which route to take. When she went to pick up her passenger the idiot scout leader told them to take a completely different route.
I'm not proud of this, but I gained a small measure of vengeful satisfaction when I found out that the idiot scout leader's daughter -- who should have been a superstar -- was unmarried with two children and gay, which, besides shocking me, must have been news to her high school boyfriend of four years.