Even though I was clutching a Dunkin Donuts cup, and standing outside of the elementary school with a slew of 5th graders all bouncing around on the natural caffeine called ‘youth’, my morning fog had not yet lifted. Or maybe I was in Ninja mode, mentally preparing for what just pulled up – four big, coaches, with enough seats to hold the entire fifth grade class, teachers and chaperones. It was no limo, but at least it wasn’t a yellow school bus.
On, we piled, the kiddies noisily and clumsily hopping from seat to seat, laughing and negotiating who sat where and with whom, like puppies playing musical chairs. I saw the long rush hour road ahead, and the dread settled, in a way the children never would.
It was then that the driver stepped on. Immediately, all mouths stopped and dropped. He was Secret Service, CIA, body guard to Mike Tyson. This was no fifth grade class trip. This was the next Men in Black movie. “I’m your driver, Mr. X, let’s all just sit back and enjoy a nice smooth ride. Thank you.” Uh, yes sir, Mr. X, sir.
And we were off.
The next hour was an explosion of all things annoying.
Children singing, “There’s a party in my Tummy, so Yummy, so yummy” over and over again.
The DVD player on the bus produced a movie but no sound.
The reprimand to one child of, “Please, don’t play with the window shades” resulted in twenty-five children going, “Ohhh, there are shades?”
A boy locked himself in the bus bathroom. The driver did not have a key, and the door had to be pried open.
At some very motivated girls’ persistence, the driver blasted Z-100. In between poppy songs was a phone scam where the Disc Jokey? DJ? Radio personality? started accusing a woman of being a “Crack Ho.”
Three parents almost fell over themselves to get the driver to change stations.
When we reached our destination, and the driver opened the doors to freedom, we all practically fell out, overjoyed to be released from the clutches of rolling chamber of torture. Little did we know that we would look back on the morning bus ride with pleasure.
Exhausted after the long day, we stand in the busy theater district, waiting. Hundreds of people are passing by and we are trying desperately to keep the twenty-five children contained. But as the clock tick tocks, the children grow restless. They chase each other in circles, they pull apart in small groups, they climb on fire hydrants, and hover near the curb.
A half hour later, we are still on the same NYC street, the mess of kids getting messier.
Two beautiful eleven year-old girls, snarky and unafraid, with big eyes and bigger mouths, are caught giggling at strange men passing by, and asking, “Do you like unicorns?”
We pull them in by the scruff of their puppy necks. I’m sweating here.
Boys, corralled a hundred times, still somehow drift near the busy street.
Where is the damn bus! I am having an anxiety attack.
Finally, after another 15 minutes, the blessed bus finally arrives and the kids are ushered on. When I walk past Mr. X, I take a whiff. He says an accident detained him. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t an, I accidentally lost track of the time while throwing back a few at the bar, accident.
All finally aboard, we were beyond ready. The kids happily took their seats. We fell into ours, ecstatic. I was about 40 minutes away from a big ass glass of wine.
Mr. X took the helm, started the engine, put the bus in gear and… What was that? What just happened?
Did we hit something? Did something hit us? Did we even move yet?
Mr. X shut off the bus and turned to face us. “We’ve just been swiped by that taxi. I’ll be right back.”
Then he walked off. Once again, all our mouths hung open. Immediately, twenty-five kids plastered their faces to the right side window. Okay, we did too.
“Look! the taxi has a dent!”
“Look! They’re yelling at each other!”
“Look! There’s a cop!”
“Look there’s a cop on a horse!”
With the Mounties arrival, the drama thickened. Our Superspy driver, who let drop that he was also an off-duty cop, looked like he was in the middle of some serious negotiations.
We waited. We waited some more.
The back of the bus was getting rowdy. Pretzels flew across the aisles. Somehow the bathroom door got locked again. Chants of “We have to Pee!” started rising, slowly, then with increasing strength. With a heavy sigh, the one male parent aboard journeyed to the back of bus. We didn’t know if we’d ever see him again.
It was after 6pm. The kids were starving, and the girls who had to pee, now really had to pee. A subvert mission was in order. Me and another parent gathered the five girls together and, in the chaos, snuck off the bus.
Directly in front of us was Sardi’s, the famous old Broadway restaurant. We barged right in. The mom at the front of our pack, quickly assessed the situation and without flinching, or saying a word to the host at the podium before us, broke right for the stairs and stormed up.
As the caboose of the mission, I watched the man’s mouth drop a bit as I ushered the girls up the stairs of the grand and extremely crowded restaurant. The last thing I saw was him pick up the phone. I was pretty certain he was calling security.
We made it into the bathroom. If we were caught, giggles would have been our undoing. After leaving the bathroom attendant $7 tip for her silence, we marched out, strode down the stairs, out the door and didn’t look back.
Pission, I mean, mission accomplished.
Back on the bus, it seemed we had finally hit the wall. Kids were whining to call their parents, chaperones were asking if we could just take the train home. We were hungry, cranky, tired and fed up. Mr. X re-boarded, police report in hand, and said we were good to go just in the nick of time.
We pull back into the school, an hour and a half after scheduled time – a class trip that won’t soon be forgotten.
I walked off to the car with my sweet fifth grader, his last trip in elementary school, over and done.
“So, did you have a good trip?”
“Yup.” Oh, do go on.
“What was your favorite part?”
“Totally the bus ride.” Of course.
“Mine too.” Never never never will I do that again.
I wonder if they’ll even remember that we went to the Intrepid and saw Matilda on Broadway.