I figured, with Archbishop Dolan recently being announced as a Cardinal Elect, I should tell the story of my embarrassing run in with the Archbishop. And, well I guess I wouldn’t really call this particular interaction a debacle, but I liked the alliteration of the title.
For the past two years, I have volunteered at a week-long Catholic summer camp, Camp Veritas. It takes the great qualities of a summer camp experience and drenches it in Catholicism in a very elegant way. Anyway, on the last day of camp, all the parents are invited to come to camp for a closing Mass. In 2010, that Mass was to be celebrated by Archbishop Dolan. Ryan Young, the founder and director of the camp, was very nervous about Abp. Dolan coming to camp. He warned all the volunteers the night before about the Abp. coming and that he would be coming early to tour the camp (so we had better behave ; ). I heard the warning, but it was late at night, so I don’t think it really sunk in…
The next day each volunteer had a role to ensure that the process of closing up the camp session went smoothly: helping campers with luggage, setting up the chapel, supervising campers, etc. My job was to direct cars of parents as they arrived at camp to the parking area and show families the way to the chapel for Mass. Everything went well for the first half hour or so. We even got to direct Abp. Dolan’s big SUV towards the chapel. The snafu began with a grandma and her walker.
A family car pulled up and, like every other car, the driver rolled down their window so I could tell them where to park. After I gave them my normal spiel (“park back there on the grass, walk back this way and over the hill to the chapel”), the father asked if there was any options for his mother who could not walk very far. After my “uuuuuhhh” ran out, I realized that we had a couple golf carts at our disposal. I would call up another volunteer, Heather, and ask her to drive one down to get the woman. I told the father this and asked them to park and have her wait for the golf cart.
It was about fifteen minutes after I had made the call to Heather about getting a golf cart and no golf cart had come down to get her. I was feeling bad for the grandmother who was stuck waiting at her car so I called again. I can’t remember exactly what was said, but I do know that no progress was made. A good few minutes later, the woman had made the slow walk with her walker from the parking area, down the driveway and out to my post on the road. She wanted to know how to get to the chapel and had decided to set out on her own rather than continue to wait. Even though no she had plenty of reasons to be annoyed, she was very genial about the whole thing.
While the woman and I were speaking, I heard a golf cart coming down the road behind me. I turned and saw that Ryan was driving (I paid no attention to the fact that there was someone in the passenger seat). As he stopped, I asked him if he could give this woman a ride up to the chapel. I think I said something like, “Oh perfect! Ryan can you give her a ride?”
He didn’t say anything.
He just looked at me.
His look was a very twitchy sort of look, all squinty, and he had a strange crooked way that of angling his neck, like he was the princess and the pea the morning after her run in with a certain 3 letter legume. His head twitched towards his passenger, but I was too distracted by his bizarre expression to note that his gesture was meant to indicate that I should look at who sat next to him. I started to speak again, “She just needs to get to the chapel; I called Heather a while ago to send a golf cart down…” Ryan interrupted me, “Veronica, I am giving the Archbishop a tour…” I paled. Abp. Dolan interjected “Oh Ryan, we can give her a ride.” The grandmother piped up, “I can walk.” I babbled, “Oh I’m sure the other golf cart is on it’s way…” Then Ryan peeled out before I could do anything else embarrassing and the woman started up the hill; I told her, “The golf cart will pick you up on your way…” It was over before I could register that it had started. But the speed of the encounter did not make it any less embarrassing.
I was mortified, petrified and stunned. How could I have not noticed the guy in the collar next to Ryan! I think I was expecting Abp. Dolan to be vested for Mass, his stole flapping in the wind behind the golf cart and his mitre sticking out the roof. That was probably my main mistake. That, and, my general tendency to rush through things. All in all, I don’t think I offended Abp. Dolan or anything, though I am sure I embarrassed Ryan, who, unlike me, is very good at protocol and being a good host. My strengths lie more in dressing up in silly costumes and embarrassing myself to make other people more comfortable. I guess that’s why I work at camp : )
I don’t know if any golf cart ever did pick her up, but as far as I know, the grandmother with the walker made it safely to the chapel.