Chaperoning a Junior High Field Trip

Never mind the Freudian typo “Junior High Fiend Trip,” that I just corrected in my title – chaperoning a junior high field trip can be fun if you go into it with the right frame of mind. Let me tell you about my trip today, in case your kids are approaching that age, or in case you just want to know what I was crazy enough to sign up for.

First of all, you kind of wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into when three of the five junior high teachers call in for subs that day. Actually two. One tried to get jury duty, but it didn’t work out.

But you get on the school bus (they have seat belts now, so you’ll be safe as long as you don’t want to jump out the window like I wanted to when we took the sixth graders to see A Christmas Carol last year) and you think you might actually have an entertaining trip when the following exchange occurs:

Bus driver, going over the safety rules: “And pulling the yellow knob will slow the bus should I become… does anyone know the word?”
Silence.
Tentative voice from the back: “Angry?”
Bus driver: “Incapacitated. Should I become incapacitated.”

Now, when I was a kid, we used to sing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, but these days there’s a much more appropriate song the kids are singing, as teachers are more strict about encouraging alcohol use. The new song goes something like this:

I sing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing all day long
I sing absolutely nothing do you like my nothing song
Second verse, same as the first
Could be better but it’s gonna get worse

When they get to “Forty-seventh verse, same as the first, could be better but it’s gonna get worse,” it dawns on me that while there are only 99 bottles of beer, this song could go on infinitely. Or at least for the entire hour and ten minute ride. Hey kids, have you heard this song about beer? Beer is fun!

I’m sitting next to a delightful boy. Junior high boys are all right, for the most part. The only problem with this particular boy is that he says he gets car sick and he’s trying really hard not to throw up. Still better than the fighting sixth graders from last year. Unbeknownst to the boy, I take my daughter’s sandwich and crackers out of her brown bag and have the bag at the ready.

We make it to the Academy of Sciences with no vomit. Here’s the trickiest part of the junior high chaperone job – they’re not babies anymore. They’re going to walk around the corner to look at the next exhibit while you’re with the stragglers. But you also don’t want to get around the corner and not be able to see them. So while you’re finally old enough to actually want to read the signs by all the exhibits, now you can’t. You’re surreptitiously keeping an eye on these kids who are taller than you just like they’re kindergarteners.

When you get back on the bus you’ll be tired, just because you’re old. At least that’s the case with me. Old and relieved that I didn’t lose anybody. And on the way back I get to sit next to my daughter. Kids these days are pretty neat, if you get assigned to the right bus. To my surprise, some girls behind me start in with “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall,” and to my even bigger surprise, the teacher doesn’t make them change it to Coke. They make it through all 99 bottles. My daughter and I laugh all the way home.

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