I didn’t actually come up with the name “Dorito Sanchez.” To be honest, I stole it from a skit I watched at summer camp when I was 13.
Let me explain.
I would eventually become a Leader in Training, a Counselor in Training, a Junior Counselor, and a Co-Counselor at YMCA Camp Hanes in King, North Carolina, but in the summer of 2002, I was just a camper, 13 and way too old to be there. My mom was a nurse at the camp during the summers, so I got to attend it for free, and I did, often multiple times a year. I had begun this trend the year before, at twelve, already about two years too late to really let myself be enveloped by it. One might say “Daniel, you got to go for free. You have no right to complain.” But a thirteen-year-old feels that they have every right to complain. Why? Because they’re fucking thirteen.
Being thirteen is being ancient in the realm of summer camp. Considering that they have to cater activities, whether they be songs or games, to the lowest age allowed at the camp, you can’t help but feel a little stupid with all the rhymes and silliness that seems forced upon you. And since, when someone turns thirteen, self-consciousness starts to hit you like a brick to the face, it’s a perfect storm of embarrassment. In about three years, you start to develop the mental capabilities to transform your hatred of the absurd into something ironic, but at thirteen, you’re trapped in an ever-tightening cage, the bars made entirely out of seven-year-olds screeching “HEAD, SHOULDERS, KNEES AND TOES! KNEES AND TOES!”
I was a gangly, weird, baby faced thirteen-year-old, the worst kind when it comes to making friends and especially making girlfriends. As the rest of my cabin flexed their debuting dating muscles and tried to flirt with girls of similar ages in the hopes of possibly sneaking make out sessions at the Wednesday night dance, I moped around, wishing that I could be back at home, reading my Star Wars novels or watching pro wrestling, my two escapes from a world that didn’t seem built with me in mind. Adding onto this was the fact that this was my third week at camp for the summer, and everyone had somehow figured out within the first four seconds of meeting each other that my mom was the camp nurse. All I could do was drop my head, and hope that chicken nuggets were served for lunch again that day.
Chicken nugget lunch only happened once during the week. This world is a painful one.
The regular Sunday night campfire had to be cancelled because of rain, saving kids from the early evening humidity and corresponding insect life, and so the staff did it indoors, in the newly built recreation center. Air conditioning! Water fountains! Carpet! No longer did children have to endure basketball outside. Now you could choose to not participate with all the comforts of home. All of the kids, including my cabin (We aint kids! We’re thirteen. We’re practically adults, in child large sized t-shirts), sat in one of the large conference halls, the kinds with walls that open and close like curtains at various thirds in the length of the room, so that you end up with a Russian nesting doll space. All the skits and Welcome-to-Camp-Hanes’ were held in there that night, and if anyone ever tells you that doing a campfire program without an actual campfire ruins some kind of tradition or primal experience, tell them to, however old they are, walk outside during mosquito season with three hundred people that they don’t know, and try to sing a song with lyrics that mostly consist of “Boom shicka boom.” Oh, and make sure that everyone’s shoulders are touching, and that when they’re not singing, they have to be perfectly quiet.
The counselors went through their skits, most of which I had seen about a dozen times before in my life, and they had varying levels of success. The best skits usually involved some sort of humiliation, i.e. water was thrown on a counselor, or a counselor got stepped on in some fashion. Kids are notoriously hard to please, but a surefire way to make them happy is to give them the illusion that you’ve been injured in some way. They go crazy for it.
Finally, towards the end of the night, the counselor for my cabin, Steve, went a way for a bit, leaving my group in the control of a fifteen-year-old Counselor in Training who had about as much interest in watching us as he did in not trying to flex his partially developed dating muscles around other female Counselors in Training. And if you’re thinking that I’m making summer camp out to be some kind of romantic ropes course, we’re on the same page. Unless you’re already dating someone, camp for counselors usually becomes a place where you hook up with people that you should never, ever hook up with. And if you replace “hooking up” with “awkward mouth on mouth ruination,” the same goes for the older campers. Except me, because I’m terrible.
When Steve returned, he was dressed in a girl’s t-shirt that was far too small for him (A sight gag that kids go nuts for. Future camp counselors, if you’re reading this, add “clothing meant for a different gender” to the list that includes “injury” and “shame”), and large, black glasses. This endeared Steve to me, because Steve was tall and lanky and had a certain charm to him, and I was short, and lanky, and utterly without any charming aspects to my name. I saw myself as him some day, able to talk to girls despite a few stereotypical genetic dysfunctions, and able to entertain crowds of people with ease.
From the double doors on the opposite side of the room from Steve appeared…some counselor whose name I can’t remember. I’d seen Steve and him hanging out and laughing, so I knew they were friends, (Man, having friends would be so damn cool!), but I had no idea that they were doing a skit together that night. This guy wore a sombrero and a fake moustache, and he walked over to Steve, hunching his spine like a grizzled, close-to-the-border gunslinger in a Sergio Leone movie. And he announced his arrival with his name.
“My name is….Dorito Sanchez!”
“And I have come to wrestle you!”
I could have shit.
I was a fan of pro wrestling, and the only person I knew at the time who followed it with any sort of intensity. The other kids at camp seemed entertained, in the same way that, if you put anything at all on TV, you can sort of be entertained, but I was enraptured.
Their dialogue was brief, and with little warning the two grappled. They soon released, and promised to fight again, at the Thursday night closing campfire ceremonies. Steve’s glasses fell off during the scuffle, and he broke character, pouting “You broke my glasses…” Dorito Sanchez (I know that’s not his name, but by god, give me a reason why not), laughed at him, and ran out of the room through the doors he came in. Steve did the same, but with a depressed shuffle.
That night, before the lights were turned out and all the other boys started talking about boobs and hypothesizing about what happens when you touch them, I walked over to Steve’s bunk and asked him what his plans were for the rest of the skit. He refused to tell me, saying that I had to wait for the finish to the “plot” on Thursday. This didn’t please me, but a cliffhanger in a narrative only wetted my appetite for it. Would someone finally slam someone else on Thursday? Would someone do a splash, leaping off one of the wooden rails that surrounded the campfire area onto their opponent? Who was this mysterious Dorito Sanchez? And more importantly, why? I couldn’t wait. The week was already looking up.
I never made it to Thursday.
I had a penchant for seemingly inviting people to bully me for a few years, and it was no different when I went to camp. On Tuesday night, after a vicious mocking session at dinner, I tearfully asked my mom if I could go home. We sat on the porch of the nurse’s office and I explained to her what had happened, and she agreed that it would be best if I left. As we were talking, my whole cabin walked by, on the way to get changed for a pool party, and I hid my face, ashamed that they’d broken me. As they were out, probably standing beside one of the slides and waxing poetic about boob-to-palm contact, I cleaned out my cabin locker, pulled the sheets off my bunk, and loaded all of it into my Dad’s car. He’d driven to the camp to pick me up, and I never found out what happened in the conclusion to this epic Dorito Sanchez struggle.
But this is not a sad story.