An email appeared in my perpetually cluttered inbox: the upcoming grade one fieldtrip was in dire need of volunteers. If two parents didn’t step up to
forfeit offer up six point five hours on a November Tuesday, the trip would have to be cancelled.
If I could turn back ti-ime, I would read the email, tell myself ‘hmmph, I sure hope they find somebody’ and move on with my flailing attempt at becoming a person who is prudent about how she uses the word ‘yes’.
Instead I looked at the email, and despite having chaperoned the exact same fieldtrip with the Kindergarten class this past spring and having no discernible fond memories from the experience, offered up my name.
Because, apparently, the guilt at having an unexceptional fieldtrip cancelled would be too much to bear.
The appointed snowy, frigid Tuesday arrived, and I trudged to the school in the barely light to report for duty. Young Percy ran directly to me in welcome, as though he hadn’t just seen me fifteen minutes ago. A few kids were missing as some of the buses were delayed due to the weather, including our fieldtrip bus. At the news of the unexpected delay, I surveyed my fellow volunteers for their coffee preferences, phoned the professor and begged him to do a Starbucks run for us.
If we were going to be sacrificial lambs, at least we could do so with a non-Christmas-affiliated red cup in our hands.
As ‘luck’ would have it, the bus showed up sooner than anticipated and, roughly ten minutes after placing my coffee order, we were ushered outside to get on the bus. Panic struck as I entertained the very real possibility that I’d just sent the professor on a fool’s errand. And also I would have to chaperone a fieldtrip without a little bit of hope in a cup.
We climbed on the bus and I nervously stared at my phone and craned my neck to see if my deliverer was nearby. And then the bus pulled away from the school. ‘I just pulled in behind you,’ the professor disclosed via text. My sadness was acute at the near-miss. I shared the news with a fellow volunteer-mom and would-be drink recipient. ‘Let’s ask the bus driver to stop,’ she suggested. I contemplated a very fortuitous situation in which the nearest stoplight would turn red and the professor would be right behind us in the car-van and I could jump out, grab the tray of drinks and hop back in the bus all before the light turned green.
The expression ‘when pigs fly’ popped into my mind. ‘No,’ I resisted. Because asking people to do something on my behalf is not how I roll.
But before I knew it my co-volunteer had said something to the bus driver, a fellow school mom, and the bus had pulled over to the side of the road. Stopped in its tracks. Just for me. Unfortunately, unlike my pipedream, the professor was not right behind the bus. In fact, he was about four minutes away. Which, four minutes spent standing on a sidewalk while an entire bus full of kids, chaperones and teachers are waiting on you for an unexplained errand…..is basically a lifetime.
And to make matters worse, there were four drinks in my tray – for the four volunteers associated with Percy’s class. But there was another class sharing the same bus. With at least four or five other adults. Not to mention the bus driver, who’d stopped the bus. I didn’t have any drinks for them.
Those who know me well – an admittedly very small number – will know that I avoid being the center of attention at all costs. Thus my level of embarassment – at having stopped a bus so that I could get a coffee, at keeping the bus waiting, at getting back on the bus without a drink for every adult involved…….was profound.
At the sight of me bearing a tray with cardboard cups, the teacher-in-charge glared and said: ‘I thought we were stopping for a child.’
Never has an americanomistowithsoy tasted quite so bitter.
As the professor helpfully pointed out last night, I will be forever known to those six or seven adults as the coffee b*tch.
The rest of the day transpired in the manner of all fieldtrips with young children: popular venue, crowded with schoolchildren from at least three schools, adhering to the timeframes on the piece of paper in my hand, escorting my group of four to the washroom twice, and five times to the lockers that held our coats and lunch kits.
All with the help of four children with varying attention spans and understandings of the phrases ‘don’t run’ and ‘stick together’. And by ‘varying understandings’ I mean somewhere been 0 and 0.5.
We raced through exhibits, ate lunch and built towers, while navigating various levels of insanity, including my own. At the start of the last ‘workshop’, the girl who’d spent most of the day vacillating between crying and not, collapsed in a heap of unhappiness. Another boy crawled under a table and refused to come out and I had to summon the teacher-in-charge, the one who’d glared at me on the bus.
Even my own child started crying when he learned that we would be getting directly on the bus back to school without stopping at the beloved indoor play area. As I made vague, hopefully unfulfilled, promises about returning to this thorn in my soul, so we could visit the bleeping play place – which is all any kid cares about – I couldn’t help but count the cost of volunteerism. And feel a twinge of bitterness towards the other sixteen parents who’d managed to delete that ‘urgent, volunteers-needed’ email.
By the time we got back on the bus, Percy and I slumped into our shared seat. Stunned. Silent. Exhausted. ‘I want to be home,’ he sighed. ‘Me too,’ I concurred. While listening to one mom lead the kids around her in a song; throwing out math problems as if she had all the energy in the world.
Back at the school, having escorted all the children back to their classroom, after separating the bus students from the pick-up students, I handed my volunteer badge to the mom who’d offered to take all our badges back to the office.
‘Throw it away,’ I begged.