Twenty-four children, between five and seven years old, and four adults. What could possibly go wrong?
“The wheels on the buss go round and round, round and round, round and round…” I never thought I could enjoy a song less than “Baby Shark”, but here it was, in surround sound, volume on stun, in six-part un-harmony. The drive from the school to the zoo was only eight miles, but I think I heard that chorus at least twelve-dozen times because repetition, evidently, is the foundation of entertainment. In fact, I didn’t realize it actually was a chorus until I found myself surrounded by tiny people who clearly understood the vast complexity of juvenile music more than I did. It turns out, there are about ten different stanzas in between each chorus. Who knew?
When thankfully, the wheels on the bus stopped, an entirely different experience awaited. With squeals of joy, best friends for life grabbed hands and escaped the confines of seats to the adventure of the parking lot. When asked to form two lines, one by one, they balanced precariously upon the thin yellow parking lines that led to the entrance gate. They jumped with kangaroo precision over the vast six-inch blacktop expanses between each line. The adults flanked the children, reinforcing the goal of avoiding the tar. Sometimes, you have to play the game that’s already started if you want to win without tears.
A sallow march of tiny feet proceeded through the gate, a gag order firmly in place, lest the offenders become invisibly shackled to the closest adult for the remainder of the trip. I was mesmerized by the instant compliance when threatening fun hung in the balance. In my extremely limited experience, bribery worked… but this… this was far more effective. I wondered if it would have the same impact in the boardroom. After a moment of reflection, I decided to abandon the idea. Punishing an unruly executive by velcroing them to me for the duration of an already interminable meeting felt a lot more like punishing me than them.
Once inside the gated community, we created break-out groups and headed in various directions with a promise to meet at the train station at the back of the park in two hours’ time. Two hours? I doubted I could last that long without my ever-present triple-shot espresso, but I’d give it the old college try. As the minions surrounded me, I distributed colorful, informative maps which instantly became origami projects for nimble fingers. What had I gotten myself into?
Over the course of the next two hours, tiny, yet remarkably loud voices giggled, screamed, howled, crowed, trumpeted, and quacked as we walked, waddled, slithered, trotted, and mimicked flight through the arctic tundra, the humid rainforest, the dry desert expanses, and deepest darkest jungles. A few paces ahead of our small group, I noticed a couple with the foresight of magicians. Their toddler walked happily in front, wearing a monkey backpack, which was surreptitiously, conveniently, at the end of a leash. The man held it deftly in his hand, not a bit of tension on the chord nor his face as his companion smiled broadly. I envied them. I envied them a lot.
My small band of… what were we now?... Flamingos… met up with another of our troop as together, they counted the total number of humps. They shrieked with delight when they realized, with their far more adept adult’s humor, that it was indeed Wednesday. The comedian shot a glance at me, giggling herself. I returned a weak smile, trying hard to feign amused composure. The rigors of a hostile takeover did not prepare me for this degree of overwhelm from a deluge of silliness in the sunshine. I was doomed.
When at last, we arrived at the train station and combined our tiny bands of adrenaline bunnies, a sigh of relief washed over me as I slumped into a nearby bench. The seasoned educator, the maestro of mayhem, took over once again. Appearing no worse for the wear, the power she wielded over the mob was beyond impressive. She commanded instant silence and total attention by simply raising one gentle hand into the air. The effect was hypnotic and a little scary. The children stood in a line, two by two and talked quietly. The adults, with the exception of the comedian from our camel encounter, stood near their groups, using the metal line stations as crutches to our aching bodies and muddled brains. We spoke not a word but shared our misery in silence. The comedian laughed affably with the scholar, both clearly veterans of the field trip circuit.
The trip back to the front of the park was a welcome respite for my body, if not my ears. Tiny voices are accelerated when traveling at speeds faster than they can walk. They echo through every tunnel with the resonance of dynamite in a coal mine. How I longed for the annoying bedlam of office cubicles and telephones that never stopped ringing. At least those sounds I could process into something that led to tangible reasons to endure them; namely, several zeros at the end of my bank balance. This? This was just pandemonium without reason. Why would anyone choose this?
Our final stop, before the bus ride back to normalcy, was the mercantile of memories, where itty-bitty hands moving faster than New York City bicycle messengers touched everything within reach, and miraculously, broke absolutely nothing. Each teensy-weensy negotiator worked hard to secure the deal from their teacher, who was endowed with a budget that allowed for equal distribution of funds among the throng. To my amazement, not one child was left disappointed. That was a trick I needed to learn. Holding the title, “World’s Favorite Uncle” may be distinguished, but it in no way prepares one for the unknown exploits of chaperoning a field trip.
As I slouched in my seat, listening to the sixteenth chorus of “This is the song that never ends…” I looked to my nephew, a miniscule copy of my brother, and asked him, “Why did you get the river otter?”
He looked at me with gigantic blue eyes, completely relaxed after his day of pure elation, and gently placed the slender stuffy on my lap. “Everything that’s cute is better.”
I smiled at the wisdom of his words. He would get no argument from me.
You'll find some interesting stuff here... some Op Eds, some Information, Book Reviews, and More. Poke around the categories and see what ruffles your feathers... in a good way!