I knew something was wrong Friday evening shortly after the last of our Galaxy Campers went home. The staff seemed anxious. Instead of seeing the usual excitement at completing another camp I saw concern laced with anger in their eyes. Instead of offering a smile in passing I got a cold stare. Many huddled in small groups whispering to each other. Occasionally one head would emerge from the pack to locate me. The group stopped talking if I was within ear shot or quickly and noticeably changed the subject of their clandestine conversation.
I first noticed I was being followed as I walked the hallways locking the doors of the rooms we used for the camp. The young volunteers tried to look like their was some purpose to their standing at the corners of the hallways. One turned and stared at the mortar between the wall's bricks after realizing he'd been caught by my suspicious eye. Another took a knee and quickly untied then retied his shoe.
"What's up?" I asked
"Nothing, just tying my shoe."
"I noticed you untied it first and now you're retying it?"
"I...... well..... uh......"
He stood and walked quickly away. Yes, something was amiss in the land of OZ.
"Mr. Williamson.... Don't go......," The voice came from the general direction of the office. It sounded like Julie Anna but I couldn't be sure. I could tell it was a female and in distress. It was a warning not to go somewhere but abruptly cut off before the danger's location was revealed.
I stopped and looked down the long hallway stretching the length of the school between the Conference Room and the south parking lot exit. I could see Casey Voeks (Rebel Rouser) standing near the Space Center Office's door. His arms were folded across his chest. His cold stare went straight through me. My gut told me to exit the building and run to the Battlestar to call for reinforcements. I could smell mutiny in the air and knew there were still loyal staff and volunteers at home who would come to my rescue if called upon.
My pride urged me to put aside my fear and face them. I did what any rational person would do, I listened to my gut and bolted for the nearest exit by the Computer Lab. I stopped dead in my tracks when I reached the doors. Staring at me in the dark of night through the double glazing were the faces of two volunteers. Their bodies, dressed in Space Center black, bled into the night. My exit was blocked. It seemed my luck had run out.
Casey shouted from the Office. "Mr. Williamson, there is no escape. Come here at once. We need to talk ."
Several staff and volunteers (minions) emerged from the darkest recesses of the classroom's doorways. One tapped a two foot section of metal pipe against his palm. Another had brass knuckles. I noticed one volunteer stood further out into the hallway. As I passed I noticed he was using his body to hide a mop and bucket and a can of chemical absorbent. It was the stuff our school custodian uses to absorb vomit and blood. The boy looked genuinely pleased with his assignment.
With chin held high in defiance and shoulders back, I walked purposefully toward my destiny.
"So this is how it ends," I whispered to myself. "A mutiny led by who else but Casey Voeks. I knew I shouldn't have let him come back after spending two years in Texas. He's come back with new ideas and new ideas can be dangerous."
I walked up to him in the doorway. "Is there a problem?" We stood face to face. He looked directly into my eyes, showing no fear. His overconfident smirk didn't pass my notice.
"Nothing you can't solve with a bit of common sense and respect for the crew. Now shall we proceed?" He motioned for me to enter the office.
My desk was surrounded by black shirted volunteers peppered with the blues and greens of the senior staff. I stopped when I saw Julie Anna (Statistical Saint). She was held captive in circle barricade made of overturned gym chairs, camouflage netting, wrestling mats, and plastic tables laying on their sides. A strobe light flashed rapidly over her head. Her cheeks glowed with intermittent red because of three rotating red lights near her face.
"What's this about?" My voice was firm. "Let her go."
"You're going to sit down and listen. If you cooperate Julie Anna goes free." Casey pointed to my chair.
"Mr. Williamson, what are they going to do to me?" Julie Anna shouted.
"One more outburst and you'll be gagged," Casey shot back. He waved his hand. Megan (Assistant Rebel Rouser and Recently Returned LDS Missionary) stepped forward holding one of the black fabric light covers we use to cover the hallway lights. She twisted the cloth into a tight spiral and held it tightly between her two hands ready and willing to apply over Julie Anna's mouth if necessary.
Brittney (Magellan Set Director and Nemesis to Casey - necessary for good story development) was obviously through with mercy and compassion. "What are we waiting for. Let's just finish her off," The mumbling that followed showed many in the room supported her more radical approach.
"I want a Priest to hear my last confession," Julie Anna shouted.
"There will be no Priest!" Casey's voice was decisive. "There is no forgiveness for what you've done."
Brittney pulled a Bic lighter from her pocket and continually struck it until it produced a flame.
"A Cross. Please, a Cross," Julie Anna begged. She looked at the youngest volunteers, many of whom were visibly shaken by what they were witnessing.
"Please?" Joseph asked. Casey hesitated then nodded. Joseph (Sympathetic Child who regrets his mutineering thirty minute past) reached into the pen bucket, took out two pens, pulled a piece of dangling string from his jeans and fashioned a crude cross.
"Bless you dear lady," He handed the cross to Julie Anna. She held it tightly to her heart and fixed her gaze on some spot on the ceiling, resigned to her fate. She drew some comfort knowing she would be the first martyr to Statistics in the modern age.
"Put the lighter away," Casey kept his gaze on Brittney until his wishes were obeyed.
"Weak. I knew I should have taken charge." Brittney looked at the other flight directors, then emphasized her point by pointing to each of them individually. "Betrayal is hard to forget." She stepped back with the others.
I sat down at my desk wishing the web camera that arrived the day before was installed so someone outside the Space Center could see what was happening and call for help. Alex read must have read my thoughts. He stepped aside so I could see the camera was still in its box next to the staff computer on the desk opposite mine.
"I'll get to it tomorrow. Sorry." His statement was typical Alex smug. I knew he would be the third to go after Casey and Brittney if I ever got Julie Anna and I out of this predicament.
"We have a demand." Casey held up a paper.
"We have a demand," Nicole (Supervisor and Recent Convert to the Dark Side) echoed with fist raised skyward showing her contempt of my authority. Casey looked annoyed.
Nicole jumped into the center of the room. "Demand, Demand. Demand," she chanted louder and louder until the rest of the room joined in. Brittney restruck her Bic Lighter. Julia Anna cried again for a Priest.
"Will you all Shut UP!" Casey shouted. The room quieted down.
"Get to the point," I said.
Casey read the demand. His voice was firm. His gift of leadership evident. At the end he gave a summation. "You will send this Statistical Demon packing and restore the old religion of calculating camper comment scores. Do we have your cooperation?"
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more."
Edgar Allan Poe
"And if I don't?"
"Brittney, GET BACK!" Brittney was crouched down trying to light the wrestling mat on fire. Casey's shouting frightened Julie Anna. She screamed, startling a few of the younger volunteers, many of whom fainted with fright.
"Fire, Fire, Fire, Fire," Nicole's chanting peaked over Julie Anna's screaming. The look on some of the senior staff's face showed an uncertainty of action. I could tell many were disturbed by this unpredictable turn of events. Casey stomped the small fire out then turned back to me.
"Will you meet our demands?" Casey glanced at the unraveling situation around him. " You know how unpredictable mobs are. I'm using their love and respect for me to keep them in check but I don't know how much longer that will work before anarchy sets in and we lose them to Satan. I need your answer!"
I thought for a moment to remember the root cause of our current predicament. It was I who agreed to Julie Anna's request to accurately measure the camper's comments and scores without rounding the numbers to the tenth's place as I'd been doing for several years. Should I reverse my decision and acquiesce to the mob or reassert my authority and refuse - consequences be damned?
My mind was working well under the pressure. I knew I could rely on my creativity and imagination to find a way out. I looked down and saw something shining in the fluorescent light over my head. It was my Shrieker 2000 whistle hanging on a blue lanyard around my neck. That whistle has been my faithful classroom companion for 28 years. I knew from previous experience with unruly children that it was capable of shattering ear drums out to twenty yards if blown with enough force.
"Never. I will not give in to mob rule." I shouted with renewed confidence in my newly hatched plan. Casey stepped back in obvious surprise. I knew he thought I'd give in. He wasn't prepared for my defiant stand. The staff and volunteers were shaken by my reasserted authority. I had called their bluff. It was time for them to play their final hand.
"You're a fool." Casey said in judgement. He snapped his fingers. "Brittney."
"Finally!" Brittney lit the Bic and moved forward. Julie Anna stared at me in astonishment, confused that I had just signed our fates away. I answered with a wink and smile.
"Look, its the COPS!" I shouted. Everyone in the room turned toward the office door. I put the Shrieker 2000 to my lips, covered my ears, and blew with everything my 53 year old lungs could muster. Julie Anna dropped her cross and did the same.
Stacy (Galileo Set Director and Poor Look Out) caught on to my plan just as the whistle reached my lips. "CASEY!" she shouted. It was too late.
I HAD RELEASED THE SHRIEKER. The sound was so loud even Fortuna awoke from high upon Mt. Olympus. Those nearest to me fell to their knees. Blood oozed from their broken eardrums. Those further back ran for the exit with their ears covered. The sound shook several of certificates off the Love Me wall. Two fluorescent fixtures exploded sending shards of glass to the floor. A small crack appeared in the Odyssey's drywall.
A minute later I stopped. The school was quiet again, except for the mutineer's moaning as they writhed in pain on the carpet. The rebellion was over and order restored at the Space Center. All thanks to a whistle and the quick thinking of the Director.
Our Saint of Statistics Bravely Standing for the Purity of Mathematics Against the Forces of Ignorance
Yes, I was beckoned into my office after the camp on Friday. The staff was gathered and the petition above was read by Casey. It was done in fun. Julie Anna agreed to set up two sets of statistics, one with the traditionally rounded numbers and another with the more accurate numbers for her study. That's the boring tale. Didn't you like my version of the story better :)