One of the dramatic trips was with our son’s middle school band when they traveled 200 miles up the road to Six Flags Over Texas. There, they were to play their instruments in a band competition, then play on all the rides at the amusement park. The weekend turned out to be stormy- intensely stormy. Because of the heavy weather, Six Flags was closed and the band competition was canceled. The band director decided to take the kids to the only obvious indoor place one can take a hundred restless kids in bad weather- the nearby shopping mall. After a day of irritating shoppers, terrorizing the food court, and exhausting the adults in charge of them, it was time to check into the hotel for the night. It was a high-rise hotel close to the center of the city and the group had been assigned rooms on both sides of the building. As the lightning tore downward and the rain pelted the city, kids rushed back and forth to rooms on either side of the hallway in order to watch cars disappearing underwater on the freeway below in one direction, and to watch a major fire being unsuccessfully stifled at Mrs. Baird’s Bakery in the other direction.
Another dramatic school trip involved a high-school combined orchestra and band trip with several hundred students and adults on two planes going to Florida. This was a long-anticipated trip to a competition and play days at Disney World and Epcot Center, so no student was going to miss this trip if she could help it. All it took to initiate a slowly-unfolding disaster was for one sick high school girl to board one plane bound for Florida. The enormous Disney World has a slick system for keeping up with students. Each adult in charge is given a pager and if, for any reason, one of the students is incapacitated, the adult is paged and asked to report to the office location. If the student is feeling sick, she is put into a small room containing a bed and a chair. The student lies on the bed and the adult sits in the chair, absorbing the germs being discharged from the sick student. Each adult has a two-hour duty period in the sick room until the entire group is ready to leave the park. By the end of the 5-day trip, 25% of the students and adults on the trip had the flu, causing all kinds of missed work and school time for the next week.
Any teacher can tell you all about the field trip from hell. Very few will admit to the field trip to hell. This little scene is a cross between Dante’s Inferno and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings with a little bit of the Family Circus cartoon thrown in. Clearly, it is a trip to the edge of the pit of hell, just to check things out and see what’s cooking. Sooner or later, we all stare into the abyss and make some decisions about just how fascinating it really is, or whether we would prefer to move on to greener places.