• Lisa Alex Gray

How to Become a Happy Camper


Illustration by Lisa Alex Gray

The other day I went to my local health food store and asked the clerk for a pill that would make me not want to” lash out irrationally”.


She just looked at me blankly then proceeded to walk across the length of the store, weaving in and out of the aisles, until she stopped in front of a shelf containing various holistic mood elevators/suppressors.


She picked up a bottle from the shelf and held it up to me. “It’s Happy Camper.” she said matter of factually.


Then she put the bottle back down and walked away.


I guess she felt her job was done.



Happy Camper??


The fix to all of my problems was to become a “Happy Camper”?


I pondered this thought, realizing I couldn’t deny that ever since I was a little kid, at summer camp, I had always wanted to be a “Happy Camper”.


It seemed to be such an illusive beast.


Memories of my childhood were peppered with pointed comments from the adults in my life, “Looks like someone isn’t a happy camper”.


Well, it looked like someone had finally come up with a solution for the lack of happy campers - which was groundbreaking news!


Why hadn’t I heard about this before?


Shouldn’t this be a headline running across the ticker tape on CNN?


Breaking News….Happy Camper pills now available for the masses…limit one container per family to prevent shortages.


I mean this is what’s been missing in our society - Happy Campers!


They should be putting this stuff in our drinking water.



After the initial excitement wore off I picked up the bottle of Happy Camper to get a closer look.


The jar was bright yellow (my favorite color, another good sign) with a little cartoon camper guy on the front. He had a big smile on his face and was wearing shorts with big brown marching boots.


I want to march!!


I don’t think I’ve marched since I was in first grade and I think that was for a fire drill.


It was obvious this was the product for me - right color, marching boots, shorts.


Who doesn’t like to wear shorts?


The camper guy also had a little derby hat on his head, kind of like a robin hood hat.


To think a pill that would make me so happy that I would want to put on a hat? This just keeps getting better and better.


It took everything in me not to wrench the jar open right there in the aisle and start popping pills, then open more jars and start throwing pills around the store at the rest of the customers, “Happy Camper pills for everyone!”.


But I’m an adult, so I restrained myself, and waited til I got to my car.



Once in the car I cracked the lid on the little jar of freedom and popped two pills in my mouth washing them down with water.


Then I sat perfectly still and waited.


I’m not sure what I was waiting for - did I think I was going to jump out of my car and start marching around the parking lot?


Eventually I decided to drive home.


I figured it was safe - after all they weren’t called crazy camper.


The rest of my day was spent patiently waiting for the pills to take effect...but nothing happened.


I continued to take the pills everyday for a week in the hope that any minute the urge to put on shorts might strike.


I even kept a hat in my car, just in case.


But nothing ever happened.


Eventually I stopped taking the pills all together.


What was the point?


Marching was overrated anyway. It makes your legs hurt after a while. I tried it just to see.


I also put the yellow bottle away, in the place where all good ideas go to die, the back of my cabinet next to the bottle of fish oil capsules (nothing like burping fish all day).


There was only one thing left to do.


The next day I drove by my grandpa’s house and gave him back his hat.


He’d been asking for it anyway.

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©2020 by Lisa Alex Gray