Spring Break- A Chaperone’s Nightmare
Sources say that 1.5 million students go on spring break every year. Apparently, a couple hundred of them were spending their break at the same Bahaman resort where I spent mine.
There was a time when only college students went on spring break, but lately the senior trip of high school students has morphed into the type of vacation I had to wait until I was 40 to afford. While we waited to check in at the hotel, herds of adolescents descended, clad only in bikinis and tanned skin. Let’s just say they showed no signs of adolescent insecurity.
It was called Grad City, apparently, and the language was as colorful as the bikinis. I was in the elevator when I heard this exchange:
Bikini Girl 1: Holy, F—-! You gotta be F—-ing kidding me? You and your boyfriend are both here and you don’t even go to the same school?
Bikini Girl 2: Yeah, I know right? It’s f—ing awesome!
Bikini Girl 1: Amazing! So…how is it you don’t have your belly button pierced?
Bikini Girl 2: I know, right? It’s so f—-ing unfair! My parents suck!
I can’t make this stuff up. They seemed to not even notice me standing there. Perhaps my miraclesuit made me invisible.
Now, I work with teenagers and love them. But, I did not want to vacation with a hoard of them. Fortunately, they laid claim to the pool area and I carved out a little section of the beach for myself.
Some were eighteen, which is legal age in the Bahamas, so the hotel bar staff was having quite a time trying to keep a handle on who was buying drinks for themselves and who was buying for friends. They gave it a noble effort.
I don’t know what high schools are sending their kids to the Bahamas for spring break, but I imagine there had to be a lot of bake sales to fund a trip like that. I was Senior Class adviser for several years and I remember the crucial turning point when we stopped going to Darien Lake for a day trip and moved into the tenuous area of overnight trips.
The first few years passed with little to no problem. Then came the legendary New York City trip…
A small town girl myself, I am a little intimidated by the big city and was opposed from the get go.
“It’ll be fine,” my principal assured me. “I’ll go along, too!”
These were the days before cell phones, before GPS. We had to take three buses and I was in the lead bus, watching the bus driver fiddle with a map of New York. Suddenly, it flew out of his hands and out the window.
I watched it fly away. Our driver assured me he knew the way and our small fleet tiptoed into the heart of New York. It was an uncharacteristically warm May that year and our sweaty legs stuck to the plastic vinyl seats.
Primitive radio communication was all we had back then and that was clearly had its limits. While the lead driver bungled along trying to find our hotel, movement outside my window caught my eye.
It was my principal, running alongside the bus, sweat streaming down his angry face as he mouthed the words “Pull Over!”
Apparently, the poor guy had been running for some time. He had gotten off his bus four lights ago and tried to reach us, but as soon as he would get close, the light would change and we would forge ahead, leaving him to chase us. The kids in buses 2 and 3 were quite amused.
But he was a man who took especial pride in his appearance and was definitely not amused at his rumpled and sweaty appearance after his unexpected marathon. He spoke only to give terse directions to the driver. As I remember, the next day one of our students became ill with heat stroke and my fearless leader jumped at the chance to take him back home in the school van. Lucky guy.
If I hadn’t been so stressed, I may have been amused at the sight of our redneck students, dazed and confused by the lights of New York City. They were intimidated enough to listen to my directions and things went as well as they could go until I lost the Japanese foreign exchange student.
It wasn’t a surprise. She was a fearless thing who saw no reason for a schedule. I was constantly dragging her out of stores and telling her to stay with the group. So, when my head count came up two short, I knew one would be her.
I sent the rest of the kids back to the hotel and tried to remain calm. Around me, people passed by with glassy eyes. A bum urinated on a mail box. Cars whizzed by, horns blared, and I stood on a corner, cursing my role as leader.
I tried to think. If I were a kid, lost in NYC, what would I do?
I’d find a policeman.
And so, my eyes scanned the crowd for that familiar uniform. Far off, a few blocks away, I thought I could see one.
And sure enough, there they were. The Japanese foreign exchange student was filing her nails, looking bored and the girl she was with, a North Country native, was sobbing so loud the cop couldn’t understand her.
We made it back, all of us, but that was the end of my career as chaperone. This week, as I lounged on the beach in the Bahamas, I wondered who was responsible for all these kids and felt a little sorry for whoever it was. I read somewhere that each year, at least one kid will die falling off a balcony while on Spring Break. I have no doubt that each night, some will sneak out of their rooms and be where they aren’t supposed to be. For some, spring break will break bank accounts; for others, hearts. Yes, a few longstanding romances will end. Some will lose their room keys; others, their virginity.
But as for me, I had only one teenager to watch out for and she was right beside me.
I told her to re-apply her sunscreen, closed my eyes, and basked in the feeling of the sun on my skin.
Over in the pool area, I heard the familiar sounds of teenagers throwing their chaperone into the water…
Featured Image: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-J2yzSouNqKc/UUebZ_OvRMI/AAAAAAAAAo8/830eOelX_s0/s1600/spring+break+girls.jpg