The Tank. The Rogue. The Bard. The Cleric. And a mountain shrouded in darkness. These are the nights of high adventure.
When the sun dips below the horizon and darkness falls on Crotched Mountain, a new world opens up. The moose wanders aimlessly through the school parking lot. A family of skunks traverses the accessible hiking trails. A deer bounds across the ball-field. In the lull of the evening a small band of elite support staff roam the campus, ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice. They are The Third Shifters.
Lightsabers. They love their lightsabers. In the quiet of the Crotched Mountain night, you may be lucky enough to see Mike, Chrissy, Alabi, and Jared, clad in Jedi garb, practicing their lightsaber maneuvers in the middle of Fox Meadow Lane as they go on their regular rounds. Safety, support, and idiosyncrasy is the name of the game for the members of the third shift Campus Support Staff (CSS).
While the world sleeps, Crotched Mountain is active.
“When the sun goes down, Crotched Mountain becomes like a Disney movie,” Chrissy says. “The animals of the forest come out and sort of hang out with you.”
As CSS, they assist as needed in the student and adult residences at Crotched Mountain during the wee hours. Maybe that means helping out at a house to support a student who’s having a tough night. Or ushering along a raccoon that has overstayed its welcome in the middle of the road. No night is ever the same and there’s always a new adventure.
“You play it like an RPG,” Jared says. “As a team you have to know everyone’s strengths. You have to trust each other.”
An RPG (that would be “Role-Playing Game, of the fantasy variety) is an apt metaphor. As they see themselves, the Third Shifters each occupy a unique fantasy archetype: Mike is The Tank, the hardy point person who can absorb the force of a challenging behavior or a wayward porcupine quill; Jared is The Rogue, the stealthiest among them who once scaled a vertical rock wall investigating a suspected bear presence (it wasn’t a bear); Alabi is The Bard, the calmer, the encourager, the soother; and Chrissy, The Cleric, is the healer, a former EMT who can get you patched up and back into the thick of things in no time.
It’s early morning, and the group is gathered around the table in Crotched Mountain’s main cafeteria. As the sun peeks from behind the distant hills and the vestiges of night slowly dissipate, the Third Shifters lean forward, and begin their tale…
The Tale of the Impromptu Nickelback Concert
Several years ago…
A call came across the radio. A female student had found a cozy spot in the corner of Carter Hall, the Crotched Mountain auditorium. It was one of her favorite hang-out areas and she wasn’t too into the idea of leaving her enclave to go back to her house and settle into bed.
Jared, Chrissy, Mike, and Alabi were gathered around, trying to coax her out of her nook and make the trip home to her bed. They offered snacks and other incentives, but no dice; she was happy where she was.
“We were just throwing out ideas, to see if anything would stick,” Chrissy said.
As their options dwindled, Chrissy chucked a Hail Mary, and asked the student if she liked listening to music. There was a spark of interest. They were onto something. The team began scrolling through playlists, sampling their on-board tunes, seeing if anything would grab the young lady’s attention. Artist after artist after artist passed by. And just when it seemed like they were going to come up empty again, the student’s eyes lit up and she started dancing. They had found their band. And it was…Nickelback.
“I don’t mind Nickelback,” Chrissy said, “but the guys hate them.”
“There are worse ways to make a living than singing Nickelback at 1:00 a.m.”
With twangy guitar riffs echoing through the night air, a small group of people made their way slowly from the main building to the residence. The merry band traveled at a brisk .8 miles an hour, all belting out the greatest hits of the Canadian rockers. Eventually, they made it back to the house, their vocal chords aching, but nevertheless safe and sound.
“I’m not a fan,” Jared says, “But, if I’m honest, there are worse ways to make a living than singing Nickelback at 1:00 a.m.”
They lean back, their story and their shift complete. Dawn is in full effect now at Crotched Mountain. The animals have retreated into the woods. The students are stirring, preparing for another day at school. And the Third Shifters are getting ready to leave, another night in the books. Before they do, Chrissy, The Cleric, pauses and says:
“Crotched Mountain is a magical place to work. In a world that sometimes says that people with disabilities can’t do this or can’t do that, here we all do what we have to do to help make their dreams possible.”