I miss field trips. How come only schools and classes get to do field trips? They’re fun. You get to go somewhere else. You get to ride on a bus. You get to eat a different lunch. You don’t have to sit there and be quiet the whole day. Even the teachers like field trips. Even the parents that have to come along as chaperones like field trips.
The only person who doesn’t like field trips is that kid in your class with the really weird parents, the ones who don’t trust anything or anybody, not the government, not the school, definitely not the teachers, not anybody, and they refuse to sign the permission slips and while everyone is out having fun, that kid has to spend the whole day sitting in the waiting room of the principle’s office, completing photocopied worksheets that his teacher left behind. The worksheets are supposed to be fun, like word finds and puzzles and riddles, but let’s be honest. It doesn’t matter how interesting that educational crossword puzzle might be; everyone else in his class is out on a field trip, and he’s stuck there sitting in this waiting area doing busy work, and everyone that passes by assumes he’s just sitting there because he got in trouble and that he’s waiting to get yelled at by the principle. And some other nosey teacher might walk by and say in a really annoying voice, “What did you get yourself into this time?” and he’ll have to explain that he’s not in trouble, it’s that his mom didn’t trust the field trip, and the school couldn’t just give him the day off, because a field trip isn’t a day off, it’s still technically a school day, even though everyone else got to dress in their casual clothes while he still had to come in to school in his uniform. And the nosey teacher is already regretting having ever even asked and just walks away feeling really sorry for him, and for herself for having had to stand through such a depressing conversation with such a sad, sad little boy.
But the worst part for that little kid isn’t even the sitting there alone all day, it’s at the beginning of the school day, when everyone in the class comes in and lines up in the auditorium all bouncing around, shrieking with the euphoric energy of an anticipated field trip. This is about as close to that kind of bliss that this kid will ever get. And he’s just experiencing it peripherally. And while he might share in their happiness on the outside, “Hey everyone! Have a great field trip!” he might say, smiling, it’s all just a lie. He wants them to just get on the bus already and disappear before they notice those tears welling up in the corners of his eyes. Because while the majority of his classmates might honestly feel bad for him, there will always be those one or two little assholes ready to snatch those tears up and drink them in. They’ll point out in a loud voice to everyone that he’s crying, that he’s crying because his mommy won’t let him come on the field trip. And they’ll point and laugh and it will be so vicious that the rest of the classmates won’t have any choice but to point and laugh also, because they’ll be so scared at the ruthlessness of this personal attack that they’d rather just join in than risk having the abuse and the torment directed at them also. Better just to laugh at the crying little baby and then you can get on your way and have your field trip.
And maybe the day wouldn’t be such a total bust for this kid if his mom knew how miserable he’d be at school, so maybe she’d pack him a special lunch, maybe buy him a Lunchable or something cool. But no, it’s the same old peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the same old packaged rice-krispie treat, the same old lukewarm box of Ssips iced tea. And he wants to just stay in the waiting room of the principle’s office to eat his pathetic, miserable lunch by himself, but the principle wants her own lunch break, and insists that the boy go down to the cafeteria with the rest of the school, with all of those other grades that don’t have field trips that day. And he goes down and sits at his grade’s empty table by himself and just keeps his head down and tries to ignore every other kid in the school staring and talking about why he didn’t get to go on the field trip. And the lunch moderator sees this too and, with the best of intentions, orders the kid to go sit with the students from another grade. And he protests that he’s OK by himself, but now the lunch moderator’s authority has been questioned, and her once good intentions have now been replaced by the need to exert the little power that she has. She demands, forcefully this time, that the kid find another table, now! Move! Do you want to go to the principle’s office? Do you?
So the kid looks to his left, and it’s the grade above him. And all of those bigger kids are taunting him, just begging him to come over and sit with them. We’re going to make you wish you were never born, they’re saying to him. And he looks to his right and he sees the kids from the grade below him. And they’re just like looking away, like please don’t come over here and infect our table with your depressing presence, you loser. He has to pick the younger kids. But nobody makes room for him, and he has to sit way too close to that kid who smells like egg salad, the kid who’s mom packs him celery sticks filled with cream cheese and raisins for lunch everyday.
But the absolute very worst part of the day is right before dismissal, when the rest of his classmates get off of the field trip bus and return to the classroom. And everyone is just beat, exhausted, totally spent but still smiling uncontrollably. The teacher brought the little boy some brochures and a map of the dinosaur museum they visited so he wouldn’t feel totally left out, but also really mostly because she has her whole lesson plan for tomorrow based on everything that the rest of the class learned and saw today. She collects his completed work sheets and will return them all tomorrow, check-plus at the top, a sure sign that she hadn’t even bothered to look at all the nonsense work she made him do that day.
And the kid goes home, finally it’s over, and when he gets home his mom says, “How was school today?” and he doesn’t answer, he just pours himself a glass of milk and goes to watch cartoons in the living room, but it’s all reruns, nothing new, and none of the good shows come on until much later in the afternoon anyway. And he takes his glass of milk, and he doesn’t even like milk anyway, but his mom won’t let him drink soda for no reason, in the middle of the afternoon, and he sits there and watches cartoons and continues to choke back the tears that he hoped would stop wanting to come out when he finally made it home from school.
But, yeah, field trips were awesome. I wish that adults got to do field trips. I wish that one day I could go to work and my boss will be like, “Hop on that bus Rob! No work today! We’re all going on a field trip!” That would be so f’n sick.