Sunday, August 13, 2006

Saturday in the park

To follow along with the lyric, it wasn't the 4th of July, but their were still some fireworks this past Saturday morning. Verbally at least. The fracas happened at a harmless Girl Scout jamboree, filled with learning, bonding, and serious overcharging.

My daughter, Megan, is a Brownie Girl Scout. Saturday, she participated in a jamboree with the other girls in her troop at a day-long festival in Bolingbrook.

Girl Scouts from around the area, at various levels, were to participate in various events -- "try-its" -- to further their progression in, um, Girl Scouting.

Am I using the right terminology? I'd sit here and say how bad I feel not knowing the proper phrasing for all things Girl Scouts, but considering I was one of the only dads in attendance at Saturday's jamboree, I don't feel so bad.

I was there because my wife stayed at home with our newborn, Sarah. Considering this event was to last from 8:00am until 5:30pm, and that Sarah is just three weeks old and needs to be fed and changed every other minute (or so it seems), it was pretty obvious that I'd be the one tagging along with Megan.

I've been to several troop functions, get along well with the other kids and moms, and was looking forward to this event as a chance to spend the day with Megan, watching her work her way through many new elements of, um, Girl Scouting.

The weather was spectacular, and we arrived a few minutes early as the girls were to check-in, and meet up with their troop. Opening ceremonies weren't until 9:00am, and the actual jamboree wasn't scheduled to start until 9:30am. So, after Megan and the rest of her troop checked in by 8:10, we found ourselves spending over an hour trying to keep a group of seven 6-year olds entertained, as I feverishly looked around for a coffee/donut vendor. No such luck.

After the opening ceremonies, which consisted of introductions of councilmen, trustees, and other city officials (hard to imagine a more snooze-inducing 10 minutes for a group of preteen girls), we made our way back to the "try-it" area for a day long jamboree. Or so I thought.

After the girls made their way to their appropriate station for the first set of activities, all of us moms in Megan's troop stood nearby to watch, and lend any needed assistance. Then things turned sour.

About 15 minutes into the day's first task, one of the Girl Scout leaders came around by us moms and told us that in order for us to stick around, we'd need to "register" like everyone else had done. Ok, we thought, no big deal right? Wrong. The "registration" would cost each of us $20. Yep, they wanted to charge each of us $20 just to stand off to the side and watch our kids learn.

Whoa, Nellie. What exactly are we paying $20 for, anyway? We had already paid a fee for our daughters to participate in the jamboree. This covered lunch, etc. But apparently, us parents had to pay an additional $20 just to be on the grounds with our kids.

Megan's troop leader started to voice her displeasure, and started asking the million dollar, or $20 dollar question I guess, "what exactly are we paying $20 for?" The Girl Scout leader had no specific answer. She went on some ramble about insurance, and covering themselves in case of blah blah blah.

Our response was, "okay, fine. Surely it doesn't cost $20 just for insurance, so tell us what the insurance costs, and we'll pay that." That was turned down.

After a few minutes of this taffy pull, I chimed in.

"So, basically, you're charging me $20 to stand off to the side and watch my daughter participate in this jamboree? What does the $20 go towards? We're not going to eat your lunch, or your dinner, we just want to watch our kids."

The lady in red, official NBJ red t-shirt that is, mentioned to me that they had set up many different adult activities that we could participate in if we wanted.

I said, "I don't want to participate in any of that. I'm here for my daughter, I took a day off of work to spend time with my daughter, watching her get better at, um, Girl Scouting, and you're fooling yourself to think that I'm going to pay you $20 for the right to stand behind my girl and cheer her on."

She came back with some typical "I'm just following Girl Scout guidelines..." mumbo-jumbo, and after three or four pleas, we gave up.

So, either we had to pay $20, or we had to stay in the parking lot. Sorry lady, I work in small market radio, I'm not forking over twenty of my hard-earned dollars for "registration", or to "make a profit" as I like to call it.

Look, if you need extra money to cover expenses, then just say so. Don't mask it as some official "registraion" baloney. Doesn't seem very, um Girl Scouting-like does it?

I spent an hour or so in the parking lot, rearranging the items in my trunk several times, then when Megan returned from a hike she was participating in, I told her I would be leaving for the rest of the day, and that I'd pick her up when she was done at 5:30pm. She was fine with that, confused at first, but she understood.

I went home, watched the White Sox win, did some yardwork, changed a few diapers, watched Sarah so my wife could get out of the house for an hour or two, and when the time came, we all went to pick up Megan.

Megan had a blast, which was the most imprtant thing, of course. And having been gone from the event for a few hours made Megan's, "Daddy!", followed by a sprint-into a bearhug-from 50-feet away a great moment for me. So, maybe it was a blessing in disguise that I ended up not staying.

And, at least the whole $20 registration fiasco provided me with a blog topic.

I mean, really. $20, just to be able to sit under a nearby tree and watch my daughter get better at, um, Girl Scouting?

I don't even think that $20 would have earned me a box of Girl Scout cookies.

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