Monday, September 24, 2012

Field trip follies

As I look back over my weekend, I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Despite the initial chaos that kicked off my class's field trip, everything turned out okay in the end--well, mostly--and the whole incident is well on its way to becoming a thigh-slappingly funny campus anecdote. 

But it's not there yet. 

So maybe we should talk about something that doesn't make me want to decapitate someone, like the weather, which appears to be quite pleasant today, or the wonderful pasta dish I made yesterday using the last of the zucchini and summer squash from our garden along with golden tomatoes so beautiful they fill the kitchen with sunshine.

Nah. Let's talk about my field trip.

I will be the first to admit that Mistakes Were Made. (Never mind by whom. I'm not in the business of public shaming.) Actually, only one mistake was made, a fairly minor one on the Hangnail-to-Holocaust Continuum of Horrors, but the result was this: two faculty members, 10 students, 10 lunches, a cooler full of bottled water, and two plates of home-made chocolate chip cookies were all set to leave for our field trip early Saturday morning but we had no vans.

We had reserved vans. We had been told when and where to pick up vans. No vans were forthcoming, and I'd better change the topic quickly before my blood pressure rises to the nuclear zone.

No vans and no human beings available on campus with the authority or the ability to help us figure out what happened to the vans or suggest a solution for the lack of vans or give us official permission to transport students in faculty members' private cars. What could we do--cancel the field trip and send the students back to their beds? We'd never get them out there at 8 a.m. on a Saturday again!

So we opted for private cars, except we didn't have enough seat belts to buckle everyone in. For the sake of safety, it looked as if someone would have to stay behind. I'd done most of the planning for the field trip but my colleague was responsible for delivering a talk about the geology of southern Ohio, a topic on which I am unqualified to orate. I'm happy to talk about the poetry of southern Ohio, but geology falls outside my bailiwick.

So I handed my car over to the oldest and most responsible student and I stayed behind to wave goodbye to my class, my car, my lunch, my chocolate-chip cookies, and even my department's credit card.

They had a great time hiking Hocking Hills, the loveliest and most relaxing place in Ohio, while I frittered away the day doing miscellaneous stuff on campus. (What was I going to do--walk the 20 miles to my house?) I tried not to think too much about what might happen if my battered 18-year-old car suddenly decided to disassemble itself in some godforsaken outpost of Appalachia or if, for instance, that groaning front wheel should detach itself from the axle while the car was traveling at highway speed, which means I didn't get as much work done as you might expect. I mostly waited.

It was a lovely day. Sunshine, blue skies, a pleasant breeze. A great day for hiking. Not so great for waiting.

But in the end, nothing bad happened. The students enjoyed their hike and my car did not fall apart. No human beings were damaged in the creation of this enriching educational activity. Except for me. 

Colleagues keep asking me what could possibly make up for this disappointing experience, and while it's true that I expect to be reimbursed for the costs of transporting students in my car and I would welcome an apology from the person responsible, what I really want is something no one will be able to give me:

I want my Saturday back. Please, can we hit the Reset button and start over?

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