Jimmy Tomlin: Diary of a field trip
I recently had the opportunity to visit Washington, D.C. — just me, a few dozen other adults, and more than 150 fifth-graders, including my daughter, Caroline.
Technically, I was a chaperone, although my role was essentially the same as that of a hockey goalie: Don’t let any pucks (defined as “children”) go into the net (defined as “any forbidden places, including but not limited to busy streets, the Ramada swimming pool, the bathroom on the bus, and the Obamas’ bedroom”).
Because I care so deeply about my readers, I decided to keep a journal of our experiences in DC. That way, when you’re asked to chaperone your child’s — or grandchild’s — trip to the nation’s capital, you’ll have better sense than I did and schedule some sort of surgical procedure that week.
In retrospect, I should’ve opted for the colonoscopy.
Nonetheless, here are a few highlights from our big adventure:
4:30 a.m. — We board our bus, I find a seat near the rear, and I close my eyes, ludicrously believing I will be able to sleep on a bus occupied by dozens of hyped-up, sugar-fueled fifth-graders.
6:17 a.m. — A child heads toward the bathroom at the rear of the bus, before I and a couple of other adults stop her. We have been warned that anything deposited in the bathroom will not be emptied until the end of our three-day trip, so the bathroom could begin to smell like a portable toilet at Woodstock. Or, for those not old enough to remember Woodstock, like an ill-fated Carnival cruise ship. We warn her that if she uses the bathroom, she will complete the trip riding in a crate on top of the bus, like Mitt Romney’s dog. Thankfully, she and her bladder decide to wait.
11:44 a.m. — Welcome to Washington, D.C., known as “The Land of 10,000 Statues (and Even More Tour Buses).”
1:02 p.m. — At the National Archives, where no photography is allowed, I quietly weigh the possibility of secretly snapping a photo of the Declaration of Independence. Would Caroline’s teacher give her extra credit for being the only kid in the class with such a photo, or would she penalize her for having a dad who got himself thrown out of the National Archives? At the sight of a burly security guard, I decide not to find out.
8:44 a.m. — Caroline’s teacher informs me, almost shamefully, that she had to inhale a bag of M&M’s at the U.S. Capitol’s security checkpoint, because no food is allowed inside the building. I praise her for her patriotism: “You hold your head up, young lady — you HAD to eat those M&M’s in the interest of national security. Anything less would’ve been treason. God bless you, and God bless America!” I’m pretty sure I’m in her will now.
9:02 a.m. — As I’m sharing the story about the M&M’s with another chaperone, a student asks, “Were they plain or peanut?” I look at him with a straight face and reply, “That’s classified information. I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”
2:18 p.m. — As part of the field trip, students are required to engage in a scavenger hunt of sorts, finding and photographing such items as the White House, the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial and, among the stranger requests, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s dog. As a couple of parents are discussing where we might find FDR’s beloved pooch — is the dog stuffed and on display somewhere at the Smithsonian, for example? — a fifth-grader interrupts with a straight face, “Wait, is his dog still alive?”
7:41 a.m. — During our photo op outside the gate at the White House, we see a presidential aide walking the Obamas’ dog, Bo, so he can use the bathroom (Bo, that is, not the aide). This excites the children, of course, and I resist the urge to make a joke about all the crap that happens in Washington. Then I wonder how much the first dog’s used poop bag might sell for on eBay. Yes, it’s Day 3, and we’re all a little punchy now.
2:19 p.m. — I can’t believe this: At Mount Vernon, the famous estate of our first president, there’s not a single sign proclaiming “George Washington Slept Here.” And I just KNOW he slept there — I saw his bed. The one place that can legitimately hang out the ubiquitous “George Washington Slept Here” sign, and they don’t even bother.
Very, very late — Home, sweet home. I could tell you what time it was, but then I’d have to kill you. (Yes, I’m still a little punchy.)
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