Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery






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Friday, June 16, 2006


What a Long Field Trip It's Been

Oh, sweet merciful pastry-filling Jesus, the last bit of the school year is the hardest.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I get the same response from everyone: "What the fuck are you bitching about? You get the next two goddamn months off, you miserable fucking prick!" To which I always have to reply, "You're right, Mom, but it's not an easy job."

The last month of the school year is, in our building anyway, chock full o' field trips. The idea is that you reward the kids who are good with opportunities to get out of the classroom and you attempt to force kids who are not so good to mend their ways or they don't go. Which rarely works. Much of the time, the kids who are not so good continue to fuck around and get left behind on field trip day for some other teacher to deal with. Usually me.

Last year, I taught mostly sixth grade and was considered kind of part of the sixth grade teaching team. Consequently, I was sent on all the sixth grade field trips. This year, I have thirteen different classes, so it's a bit harder for me to go, because when the sixth grade is on a trip, I still have seventh grade classes to teach, and vice versa.

And y'know, that's really pretty okey-doke with me. I don't really like field trips. You're with the kids all day, no breaks. You have to try to keep them quiet--or at least not screaming--on the subway and in museums and wherever. Then there's the inevitable kid who has a bathroom emergency or pukes or something. Plus, and this is the part I really, really don't like, you always--always--have to fucking eat at McDonald's. I have done my level best as an adult to avoid that shithole. But on field trips, that's where we have to go. Because it's cheap, the kids like it (they haven't grown tastebuds yet) and because McDonald's is one of the restaurants that tolerates (nay, thrives on) large groups of kids.

On the whole, I'd much, much rather stay at school and have a lighter-than-normal classload.

Maybe it's just that field trips remind me too much of the outings I used to have to take the residents on when I worked in nursing homes. My God, I hated that.

It was always either a struggle to find residents who wanted to go or, the exact opposite, the pain in the ass of having to disappoint a resident when you'd reached your limit. Then you had to jam three wheelchairs in the invariably crappy facility van and then unload them on a crowded street. There was always the fear that one of them would have a heart attack while you were out.

At the first nursing home at which I worked, I had a van full of residents on an outing. We'd just gone down the hill from the facility and turned onto the four lane street at the bottom of the hill when the drive shaft literally fell off of the van. It was a bit jarring. We ground to a halt and I ended up hauling the residents across three lanes of traffic and back up the hill. Fun!

We had, for a time, this one resident who, by virtue of being one of the few geriatrics in the place who could walk fairly well unassisted and sit on the van's bench seat instead of taking up a wheelchair space, got to go on a whole lot more outings than I would have liked. He was a mean old fuck. One time, he yelled and screamed to go on an outing to the movies. We went to see The Birdcage. When we came out of the theater, he threw a fit. "Why, I almost walked right out of there. I can't believe you took me to a movie about a bunch of faggots!" Karma came back at him, though. A few weeks later, he once again complained his way onto the trip, but had no clean clothes. A t-shirt was procured from the lost and found; he put it on and we were on our way. It wasn't until we'd reached our destination that we noticed that the t-shirt said, "My Next Husband Will Be Rich".

Another time, we took this really nice guy. Mentally retarded, severely physically handicapped in a wheelchair. We went to the movies at a multiplex in the suburbs. About half an hour into the flick, the guy nudges me and lets me know that he has to go to the bathroom. I wheel him out of the theater and into the john, and there I find that someone forgot to pack his handheld portable urinal. The guy can't get out of his chair; I can't lift him onto a toilet and he can't hit the wall-mounted urinal from his seated position.

So I tell him to hang on and I run to the concession stand. I call over the pimple-on-legs behind the counter, explain the situation and ask him if he'll let me have a cup. After looking around for a moment to see if maybe someone with more seniority than himself can answer instead of him, he falls back on his training protocol and tells me that, as a very strict inventory is kept of the cups to prevent theft, he can't let me have one. I appeal to his humanitarianism, but he seems to be unaware of exactly what that is. He says he'll be happy to sell me a large soda. As I don't have an extra ten bucks in my pocket, I can't buy one.

So he gives me two small courtesy water cups. I run back to the restroom, unzip my resident's pants and we get him aimed into the first of the two cups. When that one's getting dangerously close to full, I say, "Hang on! You've got to pinch it off, man! Pinch it off!" He tries, but fails. I pull the full cup away and the poor guy is like a firehose, urine going all over the place. I manage to get the second cup in there, but the damage is done. There's urine all over the floor, on the walls, it's a mess. Which I felt was a backwards kind of justice, as the pimply concession stand clerk probably had to pull bathroom clean-up duty later.

I've never had a school field trip go quite as spectacularly awry as that. I pray I never do.