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The Summer Camp Campout

Weekly roundup of rants, reactions and random musings from you, our readers

Memorial Day celebrations
What are your plans for this year’s holiday? Getting away? Staying closer to home? Attending a ceremony to honor veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice? Send your responses to voices@philadelphiaweekly.com. Image | Justin Casey

I was stuck waiting in a line outside my neighborhood rec center last week. Compared to all the other lines I’ve waited in around Philly, the weather, at least, made this one easier. It was warm and sunny, not bitter cold like a November bathroom line at the Linc. It was mid-morning and bright, not like the Sarcone’s bread line in the predawn hours of Christmas Eve. It was even nicer than the summer concert lines at the Festival Pier, thanks to no one being drunk and disorderly.  

Nope, this was a totally different kind of line on that beautiful, spring day. This was the line of parents trying to enroll their kids in a dependable, affordable, and safe summer camp. So, unfortunately, this still ranks as the most desperate and sad line, comparatively. Weather be damned.

We were told ahead of time that this year would be “different.” A similar message was sent last year when capacity was capped at a fraction of the regular number of kids. And of course, back then, masks were worn all day, food was handled differently, there were no trips, and no pools. Yet, here was a line of people hoping for it all again. Even after that back and forth last summer, closed pools left real scars and heartbreak amongst our children. Just add it to the tab as parents we’re facing uncertainty constantly, and having things change in the moment. Despite the mayor’s promises, I’ll believe pools will reopen this year when I see it. Whatever – just please offer us something for our kids. Compared to the school district, the rec center camps are five days a week at least! They’re already playing with house money. 

And so, the line formed longer and longer as texts between parents sounded the alarm. For four hours before the doors opened, we waited. When the doors did open, it was only a matter of minutes for the bad news to filter out: The same restrictions and caps were in place. There were only 20 spots available, despite the marked increase in demand. I was fortunate – privileged – enough to be one of the few parents who walked away with a slice of relief. It was not far behind me that the threshold of despair was drawn. Since last summer, we’ve seen vaccines arrive, jobs start back up, and our knowledge about this disease grow … and yet, we’re still stuck. Twenty spots, just like last year. Apparently, the only real “difference” this year is the desperation parents feel. 

On another sunny day last week, relief looked to be ahead when the city announced it would be removing almost all COVID-19 limits on June 11. There was now no official capacity restriction on summer camp, and the rec centers should be completely back open by the time camp starts up. The line of parents had dispersed, but since I was lucky and privileged to be far enough up front, I also felt the responsibility to look back. So, I asked our rec center about expanding capacity, and I stood ready to send texts bouncing around the “wait list” of worried families to bring them that same relief I had. 

Since this is a story about waiting in Philly-centric lines, most of you probably can guess what happened. No one cared. Capacity restrictions are still in place, and the only hope I could draw out was “anything is possible.” Excuse me, if that’s not exactly the relief myself and others are seeking at this point. Parents have been reacting to every twist and turn this year, but apparently no one else is. It’s a badge of honor to get the freshest bread or the best seats in the house, but this isn’t fun and games. Even the relief of peeing out that Bud-lite in a Porta Potty pales in comparison to the relief of reliable childcare. 

So, I think it’s fair to ask the city – and our leaders – to view last week’s line differently. Please recognize how this was a group of desperate people trying to provide for their children. The weather held up. It did its part. Now do yours.  

Alec O’Neill | Philadelphia 

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Glad the mask mandate has been ditched

Wearing the face mask during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic was a difficult everyday process to endure. Constantly, over-and-over again, the management of many public places would overbearingly remind me to pull my mask over my nose. And, over-and-over again, I despised it. But I kept my cool.

Time-and-time again, I would walk to the neighborhood Family Dollar store only to have forgotten to take a mask. Silly me!

A good friend of mine works as a billing clerk for the Department of Otolaryngology at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia. It seems as though much of my adult life I suffered from seasonal allergies. Some years it’s worse than others. A few years ago, he suggested that I come to his workplace to be checked. 

So I did. 

The assigned medical team gave me a complete examination. When the X-ray was sent to the doctor, I was told that one of my nostrils’ airway cavity was anatomically narrower than the other. That didn’t seem to surprise me. Although it is a public safety issue, wearing the face mask seems smothering to me.

I am glad CDC has ditched the mask policy for fully vaccinated people. For I, too, am one. 

Wayne E. Williams | Camden, New Jersey 

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