Some time ago, we got a paper from Brian’s school, saying the sixth grade would be going to Lancaster for a field trip, with the prices and everything. Joy. For some reason, I asked the kid if he wanted me to volunteer for chaperone. His positive response, coupled with my exhausted state, led me to volunteer. Never thought they’d use me. They used me. We were both gonna go to Lancaster—
Prepare for a flashback–cue swirliness—
Many wisecracks were made by me at the time, since, after our first date, my Lady Wife informed her family that I lived in Lancaster. Her less-than-good-person stepfather informed her that I COULDN’T live in Lancaster. Upon our next meeting, she said, maybe Langhorne. I said, no, I live in Yardley. Well, whatever.
Flashback over. Everyone adjusted to now? Good.
Bright and early this morning, I’m in the school office with the other parents who got conned–nay, volunteered–to chaperone this thing. I can’t help but reflect that I didn’t get to take a tour bus for a school field trip until 10th grade, and that field trips weren’t all that common where I came from. Brian introduces me around his class, a bundle of nervous energy if there ever was one. Not only for the field trip, mind you, as tomorrow evening he gets tested for his red belt in karate.
Mrs. Reich(pronounced rich, so get all thoughts of Germany out of your head) finally succeeds after five tries to get the class in their seats to take role. I meet Anna, one of the other parents for this shindig. We’re presented with lists of who our charges will be. Unsurprisingly, the Clone is on my list, with five others. I’d already subjected my kid to a few lines about holding doors for people–remember Field Work III: TSFB? Yeah, he didn’t think it was all that funny either. They line up in a (sort of) orderly fashion, I give him a thumb, and we’re off! Well, across the school’s lawn, at any rate. As we were near the rear of the pack, most rows had at least one person in them, and sixth graders, being the remarkably territorial twerps they are, Brian and I were separated by a few rows. We winged our way to that artery of Pennsylvania convenience, the turnpike. RIGHT into traffic on the artery of convenience, with nary an automotive cardiologist in sight. Shortly after, Brian’s teacher threw Finding Nemo on the bus’s DVD player, and we all kind of relaxed into it. Traffic eventually cleared up, and the trees on the side of the turnpike started flying by. The bus gets off via an exit I vaguely remember from the Ren Faire and a wrestling meet. As we drive further, it all looks familiar. Then I recall that the meet in question was snowed out, which no one learned until they got there. I doubt Lancaster will be snowed out, since the temperature is hovering around the high sixties. Still, after then winter we had, anything was possible, right?
So, we drive. And drive. I see several Bible-promoting billboards, including one, “Many books can INFORM, only the Bible can TRANSFORM.” Leads me to think of a book from Cybertron. And we drive some more. There’s a load of road out there, followed by a lot of fields on either side. We see several (presumably) Amish people on horse-drawn plows working the fields. The girl sitting behind me, presumably an equine advocate, starts complaining that it’s animal abuse. No one lends this theory much credence. Finally, just when I had begun to think that we’d been trapped on a scenic Moebius road, we turn into a place with a sign emblazoned, “THE AMISH EXPERIENCE.” A similar sign that I glimpsed had the subtitle A MULTIMEDIA THEATER. I enjoy combining words in new and unusual ways, however, AMISH and MULTIMEDIA were not two that ever volunteered themselves to be close bosom companions.
Brian’s seatmate, after a moment, starts complaining that no one at that point had gotten off the bus. The fact that said bus was still slightly in motion could have been why, but it didn’t seem the time to overtly expose my wise nature to these kids. Finally, we did get off, and marched en masse into the theater behind a gent whose temperament was first trademarked by Fred Rogers. Hard wooden benches lay inside, with mockups of barn walls on the front and left walls, with a kitchen mock up beneath a pseudofarmhouse wall with a swinging door on top. In my learned opinion, at some point in the presentation, that door would open to reveal–what? I wasn’t sure.
We sat through Jacob’s Choice, where different scenes were projected different places. Smoke came up from the floor where appropriate, there was a cannon shooting with more smoke, and ghosts appeared holographically. And who knew the Amish liked baseball so much? After this, we took a tour of the house, complete with coffin upstairs. The clone informed me that THAT was gonna give him nightmares, whereupon I reminded him that his grandfather lived in a funeral home, it’d be cool. After we left the house, it was ON TO THE GIFT SHOP! They had birch beer, again, see Field Trip III: TSFB, but we didn’t get any. We DID get several cinnamon sticks, I know, I need a 12 step 13 stick program. We found, since her birthday is in two weeks, a present for Stace–a sign saying “If You Could See In MY Head, You’d Get It” and a unicorn sun catcher and a carved keychain that says MADISON for, well, guess who, since her birthday is around now. There were also shoulder high carved walking sticks we were both looking at, but I didn’t wanna spend twenty more dollars.
It was time to go further, so we headed to the busses, surrounded by the smell of manure. Took me back to elementary school, which was next to a farm. I LIVED next to a farm, but it never smelled like that. Weird. Lots of kids remarking about it, complaining about it, these kids are too sheltered. Brian shouldn’t be; he’s smelled my cooking. So, packed onto the busses, off again!
By this point, I was starting to get hungry. My buttered bagel, as cream cheese is icky, was starting to not be enough. Fortunately, our next stop was a largish restaurant. The other busses let off their loads, and we troop in. An old, I may even be tempted to say olde, but fear not, I won’t, fashioned place. Hanging light fixtures, dioramic art on the walls show various rural scenes, seems like a nice place. We all find tables, looooong tables, to sit. The clone and I sit near the wall, with his friends at the next table right behind us. I notice a little placard on the table that the tip is not included in the price, and it should be 18 percent–“if the service warrants.” I generally try to tip higher, but I can’t say I like being told what it SHOULD be. There was also a sign toward the front that food was not to be taken home. Heaven forbid you don’t finish your meal that you pay for. Contrary to these two signs, the red-bonneted waitresses were all pleasant, and the food was good. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, bread with apple butter, good stuff. Only thing to drink was lemonade, but at least it wasn’t too watery.
It’s amusing to listen to a group of 12 and 13 year olds talk around a lunch table.
Lunch, now digesting in several stomachs, was to be followed by a Visit To An Actual Amish Farm, rather than the Imitation Farm we’d seen. I doubted there’d be multimedia. There was some confusion with the four bus drivers for some reason, so the more observant students either wanted to hit the restaurant’s petting zoo (as an aside, a restaurant that has a petting zoo makes the meat very suspect) or throw each other down the stone stairway. It’s probably for the best that the busses were worked out and we started travelling again. More fields on either side!
One of the teachers gets on the bus microphone to inform us that we’re going to take a bus tour followed by a visit to a farm. She’s holding the mic WAAAAAY too close to her mouth, but then, she’d probably criticize my teaching technique, so I say nothing. It’s also the better part of valor to keep your trap shut when you’re two hours from home on someone else’s bus.
We bus through Lancaster county, ending up back at The Multi-Media Experience. Is the farm next to it and we’re just not seeing it?
No. Turns out we just had to pick up Tangina from Poltergeist as our tour guide. We tool around the countryside, and Tangina, prior to proclaiming our bus as clean, tells us that there’ll probably be some Amish kid with pretzels. It’s okay to take them. The pretzels, not the kids. We get there an lo, there is a purple-dressed girl with fresh pretzels. There’s all kinds of animals penned up next to the house, chickens, a turkey, a llama(where the hell’s Cleese?) ponies…Brian’s in heaven, but I have no change to buy feed. Well, poopy. (THAT is in the pen, too, obviously.) We go inside the little shop after Brian gets enough of his classmates being annoying. He wants to get Stace a quilt and a soft Winnie the Pooh book. The quilt is sixty bucks, and the book is for infants and is fourteen bucks. He plays with a wooden car track for a few minutes, and I see some gorgeous logs that have been turned into jewelry boxes. If Stace liked jewelry, I’d have been tempted. I was tempted just because they were really nice.
Before too long, it was time to head home. Brian and I got to sit together this time. I tried to rest as much as I could on the trip back, seeing as how I had to work.