"What are we doing tonight, John?" asked counselor Dave Mills as night fell on the big dining hall of Camp Letts, a YMCA conference and retreat center on a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay in Mayo.
"Probably the same thing we did last night, Dave," replied John Carris, the sailing director, eating tortellini off a paper plate in the gloom.
"Sit and stare at each other."
Welcome to Camp Letts, where roughing it has taken on new meaning since Hurricane Floyd knocked a tree into a power line last Thursday, cutting off much of the camp's electricity. Five days later, the camp's seven resident employees were still without electricity, phones or running water.
These hardy souls were among 27,000 Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers who didn't have power as of yesterday evening, including 5,945 people in Anne Arundel County, 788 in Prince George's County and 266 in Howard County. Company officials said they expected to have all storm-related outages repaired by tomorrow.
When the storm hit last week, knocking out power to a total of 490,000 homes and businesses, the utility called in additional work crews from as far away as Missouri and Illinois. Yesterday, BGE officials said, there were 214 crews from outside the area working to restore power, in addition to the company's own crews.
"Hurricane Floyd has caused about 10 times the amount of damage that we see in a typical bad storm," said Richard Chambliss, BGE's manager of electric system operations.
First, the workers restored power to hospitals, fire stations and other high-priority areas, removed downed power lines and corrected other hazardous situations. Then the crews turned to fixing large feeder circuits affecting the largest number of customers. By yesterday, most crews were working on smaller circuits that affected 20 to 50 customers.
That still left Camp Letts, a 219-acre facility that hosts school field trips and civic groups, in the dark.
"We were told last Sunday that a crew had been dispatched," said Kyle Iorio, director of land activities.
"On Monday, they said they were doing their best. Today they said it would be Thursday" before power was restored, he said. "At this point, I'm just praying."
Iorio lives with Mills, Carris and two other camp employees on the shore of the Rhode River in a now-darkened dormitory known the Mansion.
"Basically, we're burning a lot of candles and getting to know each other a little too well," Carris said.
Mills, a native of South Africa, was more pungent, cheerfully offering his opinion of 120 electricity-less hours with a two-word epithet.
Iorio, from Las Vegas, said he missed his air conditioner almost as much as the shower.
"I was in the military," he said. "I know what it's like to go four days without a shower. But in the desert, we like it cool when we sleep."
Robyn Ruddle, the camp's program director, lives with her cat in a small cottage next to the Mansion. The cat, she says, is upset that her milk is no longer cold. As for herself, well, the nearest bathroom is a half-mile hike.
"But I don't mind," she added. "I'm young and adaptable."
Although eight groups had canceled their visits to the camp, staff members still had to work. Water had to be toted to the dining hall and dry ice obtained to save food in a walk-in refrigerator from spoiling. Iorio had the task of calling BGE twice a day to find out when the repair crew was coming. He also organized a work crew that collected and chopped tree limbs felled by the hurricane.
And then, yesterday, a group of seventh- and eighth-graders from St. Ann's Academy in Northwest Washington, originally scheduled to come last week, arrived for an outdoor education course. The four lodges where they stayed had electricity and running water, but they still had to be fed and shown a good time.
In the camp kitchen, three candles illuminated chef Bonnie Spriggs as she prepared chicken, ribs, rice and tortellini for 60 people on the gas stove.
"I don't think it's bad for these young people to do without some creature comforts," said St. Ann's Principal Barbara Kelly as the students lined up, plates in hand.
Iorio, Carris and other camp staffers served food to the visitors and then sat down to strategize about surviving another night without electricity.
"I took a shower last night," said one counselor lucky enough to live off the premises in a house that got its power back days ago.
Carris didn't take kindly to the teasing.
"Well, I didn't," he said. "And I didn't wash my clothes either."
Ruddle said she would read "The Hobbit" by candlelight.
Someone else mentioned the possibility of a bonfire.
"We'll use that wood we chopped," Iorio said. "Funny how things work out, isn't it?"
Staff writer Manuel Perez-Rivas contributed to this report.