The Field Trip


 

I had suffered my fair share of tragedy even at the tender age of 7 years old.  There was the time I dropped my treasured Christmas snow globe and it shattered all across the pastel orange adobe tiles of our kitchen, it’s pretty snowflakes glistening all the while.  At the time I had thought they had been mocking me, but I now realize that they had merely been, in their own way, waving farewell.  There was also the time that I had gotten a new kaleidoscope and then managed to get my pointer finger stuck in it.  It had been stuck with such ferocity that it took a handyman’s pliers to shatter the damn thing before he could get it off.  And then there was the time that my 2nd grade class took a field trip to a field.

 

     I have spent many hours wondering what had possessed the teachers to go on this trip.  What would make someone think kids would spending a whole day in a fucking field?  Boredom?  Madness?  Drugs?  I doubt my teachers acutely suffered from any of these things, and so I have now come to the conclusion that the school’s budget for field trips would decrease if the whole thing wasn’t used.  The teachers, not wanting to give up the awesome field trips like the Bluebell ice cream factory or Publix, stitched together a corpse of a field trip, strapped it to a metal table, and shot 10,000 volts of electricity into it to see if it would come to life.  It never did.  The real world, it seems, doesn’t work that way.  More’s the pity, really.  I can’t think of a more pleasurable experience than lying in one’s grave, contentedly dead, only to be woken up by a lighting bolt searing through one’s extremities and the demented cackle of some German scientist.

 

     Regardless of their intentions, it was the second worst field trip I’ve ever been on.  The worst one is still talked about in the hushed hours of the night by the students who participated in it, when the candlelight grows dim as the flame reaches the end of its tallow and a cool breeze makes the curtains flutter.  I dread even now to transcribe the horrible events that took place.

 

During my 7th grade year, a teacher of mine, let’s call her Mrs. Paperclip, had begun teaching some sort of conservation science course at a local university while she worked towards her doctorate.  She was an intelligent if not incredibly bothersome individual, and somehow managed to convince out middle school’s administration that the student should help her conduct her research.  She happily loaded us up into a crowded yellow bus without any air conditioning, madness in south Florida, and drove us out into the everglades, which I considered then, and still sometimes consider now, to be the most boring place on the planet.

 

     Most people seem to think the everglades is all water.  It isn’t.  There’s land too.  Land with soil that’s practically begging for a middle schooler’s trowel to dig it up and sample it’s density.  For 8 long hours.  In the late spring.  It was hell.  I’ve always been able to relate to movies like “O brother where art thou,” and “The Rundown,” because I’ve lived it.  I’ve been that convict smashing rocks on a Mississippi street, I’ve lived the life of one of Christopher Walken’s slaves in the diamond mines of South America.  We toiled and toiled and toiled.  The process was straightforward: one student held a piece of rebar with depth measurements on the surface of the soil, then another student struck it with a mallet until it hit rock, and and then the rebar student measured the depth. Lastly, a student with a trowel would come and take a soil sample.  Stab, bang, measure, dig; stab bang measure, dig; stab, bang, measure, dig.  I’m still surprised no one died from heat stroke.

 

     The field trip to the field wasn’t as bad as all that, but it was infinitely more disappointing.  No one ever pretended that the field trip to mine the everglades would be fun, and no one expected it to be.  We all knew what was asked of us, and we just kept calm and carried on with a sort of sullen persistance that would have made the British proud.  They told us the field trip to the field would be fun.  They said we would have a blast eating picnics and playing in all the flowers.  They said this field was special, that settlers used to live there and that the field was a national park.  They lied.

 

     Let me be the first to tell you that no field ever needs to be made a national park, unless maybe it’s the last field in existence, so that people can go to it and stand around dumbly for a few minutes before saying to one another “Well, that was positively awful.  I’m glad there aren’t any more of these left.” And then leave it and never come back.  A field is a field is a fucking field.

 

     We didn’t know this yet, and the trip there was a blast.  I recall that the bus was abuzz with the excited chatter of brainwashed second graders as it thundered across the lonely Oklahoma roads.

     “Did you hear?  They’re letting us go to a field!”

     “Can you believe that?  A real field!”

     “I’ve heard there’s flowers there.  Isn’t that right, Claire?”

     “Oh yes indeed.  Flowers of the deepest purples and brightest yellows.”

     “Oh lovely!  And grass too, I suspect.”

     “Yes, the sweetest grass you’ve ever seen.  Seas of the bloody stuff, I’ve been told.”

     “Wow.  We’ll be swimming in grass.  Up to our ears in it, I expect.”

     “Most certainly.  It will be like heaven, only closer to home.”

 

     There is much to be said for the incorruptible optimism of children.  It’s a beautiful thing to able to believe with all your heart that, for instance, Fast and Furious 6 will be better than the other 5, even though any sane person would think otherwise.  Adults don’t have this problem, and I think we’re jealous of kids.  That’s why we seek to eradicate it.  We won’t be happy until we hear children remark “that’ll be bullshit, just like the others” after they see a trailer for the Fast and Furious 6.  It’s a vicious cycle.

 

     We realized very quickly that the field was just a field.  That’s all it ever was, and I’m sure that’s all it will ever be.  It was covered in bees that day, so everyone was scared to leave the bus.  Once the teachers pushed us off, we sort of huddled in groups, assuming the bees would be fearful of attacked such a large number of humans, and tried to have fun.  It was too hot to play tag, and no one had any other games.  Fields don’t lend themselves to being good for make believe, unless we would have wanted to pretend to be the little house on the prairie.  Some got bored and tried to eat their lunches, only to be scolded that they would get hungry later if they ate now.  There weren’t even any trees, and the flowers and grass were just like the flowers and grass most of us had in our backyards, except that we had much nicer toilettes at home.

    

The didn’t lie about one thing, though.  I guess the field was a park of some sort, there were signs and everything.  How we hated them, those signs.  They promised fun times for anyone who came, but we didn’t believe them.  They were liars and we knew it.

 

     We finally left after a couple of hours, and I think we all left our optimism there, lying in the shitty flowers of the equally shitty field.  We had no need for it any more.  We had seen the real world: empty, hot and boring.  I remember getting into my mom’s old pewter Mercedes and her asking me “What did you guys do today?”

     “We went on a fieldtrip.”

     “Oh really, to where?”

     I remember almost laughing then at the absurdity of the question.  I remember it building in my belly like a tropical storm, waiting to become a hurricane, but thinking better of it.  To where?  Where else?  To a field.

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4 Comments

  1. There are so many cool places in Oklahoma and they took you to a field? Bad teachers. They should have taken you to Mount Scott. 🙂 Sorry you had to grow up when you were 7.

    Reply
  2. “A real field!” brilliant! – brought back some dark memories…..

    Reply
  3. I don’t remember any field trips living up to their promise. Really, they weren’t memorable unless someone managed to cause veins to pop and tears to shed from some museum Curator. Your wonderful story did take me back to a few misdemeanours.

    Reply
  4. Liking your writing!!

    Reply

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