As a child, it never crossed my mind that supervising a busload of screaming kids with unsynchronized bladders wasn’t a teacher’s dream. We must have pushed them over the edge.
We children celebrated with 30 choruses of “Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall”— amending to “Ninety-nine Bottles of Coke®” when Teacher threatened to return home to soul-choking fractions, verb conjugations and Norwegian exports.
I recall only two scenes from our trip to Indianapolis. First, the governor’s office, with its kingly desk and (gasp!) gold trim on the walls. Surely, this guy wore a crown.
Second, at the Indiana State Museum, an enormous stuffed owl stared with topaz-colored eyes. We remained a respectful distance away.
The final event overshadowed all others: the Dairy Queen. I ate my huge hot fudge sundae without sharing a bite with siblings.
Fast-forward a quarter century. I volunteered to chaperone my child’s class trip to Chicago.
I handled “Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall” with parental aplomb. My charges only got lost 23 times in the Field Museum of Natural History. It wasn’t my group who knocked down the dinosaur skeleton. I felt in charge — until we reached the Sears Tower (renamed Willis Tower in 2009).
I must have repressed this destination. I don’t like anything higher than one-inch heels.
No time for regret. We rocketed 103 stories up in the elevator.
Any rational architect would have designed small peep windows at the top. Instead, the area resembled a giant greenhouse.
“Come back!” I simultaneously gripped a railing and grabbed at my charges.
They escaped to the windows.
I yelled, “Don’t look down!”
“Isn’t that why we came?” A sensible girl cocked her head.
“Cool!” A nerd plastered his nose against a window. “That’s a cumulonimbus cloud formation below us.”
The wind kicked up. The building swayed like a giant Hawaiian dancer.
Hours later, I woke up on the bus. “Kids! Where are you?”
“We’re fine.” All four were eating hot fudge sundaes.
My daughter slipped beside me. My failure as a field trip chaperone shrank in the face of her loving solicitude.
“So glad you’re sitting with me.” Tears welled.
“Teacher said I had to thank you.”
I stared. “For what?”
“She knows she can finish the school year now. Compared to you, she feels perfectly sane.”
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you chaperoned a school field trip?