The Canoe Story

>> Monday, February 16, 2009

During a so-called employee development outings, my back gave out and I had to be rescued by paramedics and an ambulance.

I should have seen it coming, really. The whole thing is very badly planned. We were acting on the whim of our boss who thought spending a weekend canoeing down the Susquehanna river was a good idea. Out of our group of then 14 employees only 4 can swim and most of them have families and are single mothers. So there were a lot of reluctance, but then our boss said it was mandatory so we toughed it up and went.

After spending a few hours driving to a campground north of Harrisburg, PA and a relatively peaceful and even fun night building up a tent, a fire, barbecuing and talking, we awoke to our daunting task that is the river. The river was much more shallower than I though it'd be. I've canoed before so I wasn't as much in the hysterics than other people might be.

Through random pairing, insisted by the boss, the two most obese persons got paired up in one canoe. One of them happened to be the best swimmer, so we thought it might just be ok. The champions of this outing ensured that since they are experienced and they know how to swim, they'll stay back and make sure everyone was ok. Five minutes later, the "obese" boat flipped, bags were floating down the river...

All the canoes went passed me and I heard someone screaming hysterically over at the river bank like someone had died. I turned around and saw a little behind me a canoe had flipped and while the non-screamer was screaming her lungs out, the swimmer was nowhere to be found. I picked up the floating paddle and hiked over the rock bank to help. Turns out the swimmer went under when the hollow of the canoe flipped and he came out unscathed. It was hard to get the screamer back onto the canoe afterwards but we managed.

The following 8 hours were composed with me getting out of my boat, pulling my colleague's canoe out the extremely shallow river banks. Somehow I feel obligated, since I'm one of the three men on the trip and the ones promised to stay behind are a few minutes down the river and everyone else is afraid to get in the water and get wet. By the end of the day, my back started to bug me, I find that I can't stand to seat up straight anymore and had to lie down. I thought floating down the river might help and the the cool water did help a little but then I couldn't stand back up.

My good-sport partner is now nervous, but everybody else already arrived got to the second campground and we're just two minutes away. By the time I floated down the site, I was surprised to find my boss annoyed as he asked me maliciously if I was truly ok or make pretend. Offended, I insisted that my back was giving out and he called for an ambulance.

When the ambulance arrived, the paramedics wouldn't go near the river where I was because they didn't want to get wet. By this time I felt quite humiliated, but after much altercation, I got on the ambulance and they had to cut my shirt off so that I don't get hypothermia. By the time I got done in the hospital I was so hopped up with the good stuff that I winked at my lesbian colleague while a tall hunky beary nurse hold me up and put me on the wheelchair, while she was laughing hysterically.

I got put in a hotel room for the night with my lesbian colleague and the others got some Boston's Market and we all went home the following day.

It's symbolic, really. Out of this staff development/team building exercise, I've learned that people who promised to be there proved to be untrustworthy, and that turned out to be very true. And me, the people pleaser who go out of his ways to help others ends up getting hurt. I should have learned.

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