Minutes from "Tubing" activity, 99/08/06
Students milling around front door. 40 person blue Drexel school bus
arrives. I introduce myself to the driver.
Still making change and signing up last minute students. While I'm
getting change, I grab an extra $30 cash for the trip.
Time to go! Thanks to Christos, all waivers have been correlated to
students signed up, missing or incomplete waivers have been filled in.
Last student signs up for activity. All 40 places have been sold.
All aboard, we depart. Only one empty seat in the whole bus.
Bus driver asks me if I've ever been to this place before. I
haven't. He asks me if I know how to get there. I pull out the same set
of directions that should have been forwarded on to him. He has those.
Exit 1 in New Jersey, 29 north through Lambertville into Stockton, left
over Delaware into Pennsylvania, north on 32 until Point Pleasant, bear
right, follow sign. Driver repeats this to me like a mantra.
Driver asks about New Hope. Do I have directions to get there? Hell
no. I figured all this was taken care of! I rummage through the papers I
have: no directions to New Hope. I figured the driver would know how to
get there. It should be butt-obvious in any event. The driver seems
Pass the New Hope exit on I-95. I point it out to driver and say if
worst comes to worst, we can always come back this way and take this
exit. This would be the idiot weeny way, but at least it's a concrete
plan, should placate the driver.
Cross into New Jersey, exit 1 approaches. Driver slows down and
reconfirms directions with me. "Yes! Exit here!"
Oh no, turn left or right? Driver seems about to do neither,
crawling ever more slowly till it looks like he's going to come to a
dead stop right here on the exit ramp, so I authoritatively tell him, "I
would go left."
Well, left was the wrong way, of course. Driver seems barely to be
suppressing panic. We drive ever more slowly down 29 south. Fortunately
a U-turn comes right on up, so it should be trivial to turn around and
go the right way.
Driver seems trepidatious, but does enter U-turn and re-enters 29
this time going north.
We've been driving down a road that has been getting smaller and
going deeper into nowhere for 15 minutes now, no sign of Lambertville or
Stockton. I lean forward to the driver, and in what I quickly realize is
a huge mistake, attempt to confer with him. I say, "Do you think it's
possible we might be going wrong here? It's been a long time and we've
seen no sign of Lambertville or Stockton." The driver comes to an unsure
halt *right in the middle of the freaking road*! He seems to have become
even more unsure of himself with me expressing my doubts. He tells me he
is just trying to follow the directions he has, which he repeats to me
again, as if there were hidden information in them. He complains that he
wishes he had been given more explicit directions. He seems to wallow in
insecurity and seems quite prepared to just stay here right in the
middle of the road. We convince him to keep going to the next gas
station, where we will ask for directions. He slowly continues up the
road, barely driving more than 15 miles per hour, slowing at every
mailbox or doghouse that might suddenly turn into a gas station or
similar. I sorely wish I had kept my mouth shut.
In the mile or so we have crawled along, there has been no gas
station, only one closed bait shop, but the driver has slowed more and
more with each passing quarter mile, and now has insisted on stopping by
a closed small garden center. I get out of the bus and try to find
someone, but there is no one around. The place is deserted. But the bus
driver seems unable to move on any further. So I must ask Jack for his
cell phone again and I phone the tubing place, where they put me on
hold. Finally they take me off hold, and I ask for directions, which are
relayed to me over, it seems, three people. Yes, we are going the right
way. What the directions fail to mention is that you have to go up 29
north for like half an hour. Should have kept my big mouth shut. By this
time, of course, almost all of the students have filtered off the bus,
to smoke, to go to the bathroom, to find something to buy, even here in
this deserted area of New Jersey. Finally everyone is rounded up, and
off we head, slightly faster than before.
Lambertville comes into view -- hooray! I give the driver explicit
directions now, using no more than common sense, which I am beginning to
doubt he possesses. We have to turn left then right through Lambertville
to stay on 29, and I make sure he does, with no hint of doubt in my
voice. I also recognize now where we are. New Hope is on the other side
of the river; obviously we will be going north of it for our tubing. I
make a note and wonder how likely it will be that I'll be able to
convince our driver to take the easy way into New Hope rather than
driving all the way back to I-95...
Stockton, and the bridge! With no care about the driver's
sensibilities, I make sure to point all the obvious signs out to the
driver and tell him where to turn.
We've made it. Hooray. The driver parks the bus, and I tell everyone
to wait while I go buy the tickets and get directions.
The junior high school girl manning the booth knows nothing, and
must defer to her superior, the high school girl, who after somehow
being contacted over a non-working intercom descends from on high to
take my payment. There is now the question of a $50 cash deposit. There
was never any mention of a cash deposit. Can't I just leave my credit
card? High school girl does not know. She must confer with her
higher-up, junior college girl. So they ask if I can put down maybe a 30
dollar deposit? Which just happens to be the amount I have in my wallet
taken from the ELC just before I left. I am to get everyone to assemble
at the group assembly area, and then we can be driven off at 15:00 for
the three hour tour ("A three hour tour...").
I return to the bus, tell everyone where the changing rooms are,
where the lockers are, and that they should all come and assemble with
me when they are ready. The driver assures us that we can leave bags on
the bus. He seems a little embarrassed now, and we debrief over our
adventures getting here. I assume all responsibility. He bemoans the
inexplicit directions. He says he will get directions to New Hope in our
absence, and I bid him farewell until 18:30, our expected time of
I have managed to round up exactly two (2) people. The minute I try
and round up another, one of the already rounded up wanders off.
There are maybe 10 people rounded up now. Others are still in the
changing rooms, or buying food, or back in the bus.
With high school girl now waiting to give the send-off orientation,
I try to round up the last 10 or so people from our group. I am still
having the problem of losing people as I gain them. I try to divert
people heading out of the changing rooms to *not* head for the food
stand, and people at the food stand to come over to me, and the people
at the bus to neither head for the food stand nor the changing rooms. I
feel I am getting ready to smack people.
With almost all our group finally assembled, I am disheartened to
discover most of them still have their bags with them. "We are going
into the RIVER! That big wet thing over there! On inner tubes! Just like
those people you see floating in! What part of this don't you
understand? Maybe the fundamental principle of 'water makes things
wet'?!" I manage to not shout. Instead I tell high school girl to begin
her schpiel while I shoo people to the bus to leave their things.
We are on the home stretch, only two people still at the bus,
everyone else is already getting their inner tubes. Naturally we can no
longer take the three hour trip, only the two hour one. On the bus
people had been voting for *four* hours. Ha, ha, ha!
I am so glad they neglected to give us waivers to sign!
Inner tubes gotten, busses loaded into, we are finally off up the
river to begin our tubing adventure! Having had to herd students to the
very last, I am thus the last of our group to board the second bus,
which means I won't be able to lead them off the first bus when we
Two or three miles up river, the busses stop to unload. I watch as
the first bus disgorges its occupants. Or tries to. "Get off the bus;"
not a hard concept. "Move away from the door;" that's slightly more
difficult. "Go to the river;" that apparently requires an advanced
degree. Naturally they head to the wrong entry point. By this time,
though, my bus has had a chance to unload, and I am able to herd a
little from behind, though most seem to have finally found the river.
Helping people over the muddy bank into the river. Most people seem
to have gotten the concept that you put the tube in the river and float
on it. Most of the group has already floated away by the time I get into
the river. [Apparently I missed a lot of the fun being at the tail of
the group: when finally confronted with the river, many students only
then noticed the incompatibility of water and their cigarettes; many
also wished to leave their shoes, their wallets, etc. on the river bank.
Major unclarity on the concept. Fernanda reports great fun in trying to
get some of these more obvious points across.] I am taking pictures. The
first roll has already run out before I even enter the river. But this
was an already started roll, I just finished it up. Still, why did it
only have 20 pictures?
Wee! We are floating down the river. I take pictures.
I am out of film. Why the heck did the new roll only have 20
No pictures, I rewind the film, and attempt to hop back into my
inner tube. The camera is fine, but I lose my sun-glasses.
I have lost my sun-glasses. Hell with them. I tube.
Much wild, wet, fun and sun later, we drift back to tubing
headquarters. Quite a few of our students don't realize this, or don't
know what to do about it. There are shouts from the shore as high school
boy and GED man try to give complicated instructions, advice, and
rhetoric to our students, who seem to float on obliviously. One girl
seems to have fallen asleep. Another just blissfully ignores the concept
that you must get out of the river if the rest of your life is to be
gotten on with, apparently waiting for the magic genie who will
transport her from the tube instantly to the nearest shopping mall.
Another desperately paddles, but only succeeds in getting further from
shore. The helpful advice being shouted from shore of, "Get off yer tube
and get up and walk in to shore or else you're gonna get sucked into New
Jersey!" no doubt elucidates our students. Finally state school girl
fires up one of two jet skis on shore, and miraculously in a blur skims
over to the middle of the river and around our errant students to herd
them in. Miraculously because the water is only 2 inches deep the whole
I make it my mission to intercept students heading to the snack bar
and send them to the bus. "We are going to New Hope! The less you eat
here, the more time we will have to eat there!" The bus driver seems to
have gotten directions to New Hope, and seems competently confident. He
says he will just reverse the directions he has to get back home
I manage to get all aboard the bus. We head off to New Hope. On the
way, we discuss how long to stay. I make sure everyone understands that
if we stay in New Hope, we will *not* arrive back in Philadelphia on
time at 20:00. Everyone agrees to stay in New Hope until 20:30, meaning
a return to Philly no earlier than 22:00. All agree.
The bus driver has actually found New Hope! A place to stop is less
forthcoming though. He wants to stop by the major intersection, but,
stupidly, we encourage him to drive a little further, maybe something
better can be found. So he hesitantly crawls to the edge of town, and
then wants to turn around -- a major maneuver of pulling a K-turn on the
main street, which eventually requires me to get out and stop traffic
while the maneuver is completed. We head back, he stops at the major
intersection again, we all pile out, I impress upon everyone the
importance of being back here at 20:30 precisely because as you can see,
the driver can't park here. All leave. The driver tells me he will stay
right here; OK sure, whatever. Then he asks me if there is a sign
forbidding parking here. Well, let's see: all the spaces along this
street are metered, and this is right at the major intersection of town,
with the front of the bus slightly into the actual intersection -- nah!
I'm sure it's perfectly alright to park here! Yes, of course there's a
sign, so now he is all trepidatious again, but fortunately, he sees a
few free metered spaces up ahead, and says he will park there. Great, so
stay there, I'll find you and herd everyone there.
Student who had not received change for his activity fee now comes
up to me with his receipt and asks for his five dollars. He apparently
has no other money. With chagrin I give him his $5.
I meet a large contingent of the group, though not the whole group,
at the assigned place at the right time. I have them wait while I check
out where the bus is. He is two blocks ahead parked in the metered
spaces. So I tell everyone to go ahead and and board the bus while I
wait here at the assigned place to tell the remaining students where to
go. Darkness has fallen.
Fernanda comes to tell me that all but four are on the bus. I ask
her to go back to the restaurant where we saw some students who have
still not returned. While she goes, two students arrive and I send them
on. Fernanda comes back and tells me she saw four students making their
way back. I only saw two. She heads back to the bus while I make a final
sweep to then head to the bus. I finish my sweep, and then the bus meets
me. Interesting, I think. He's heading the wrong way to retrace and
reverse the directions we took coming in. Hooray, he must have gotten
better directions, so we won't have to do that stupid thing! I get on,
everyone is onboard, I just somehow missed seeing the last two students.
A sign for I-95 comes up, and is passed by our driver. The turn is
not taken. Interesting, I think. I wonder what these directions he has
are like... I bet with myself that he doesn't realize that he is on the
other side of the river, and thinks he is just reversing the directions
after all. Though how could he have missed that sign for I-95?
The bus slows to a hesitant crawl. The driver tells me the road is
very dark and he's having trouble seeing the signs. He wants to
reconfirm with me the directions we took to get here in reverse. I tell
him we are on the Pennsylvania side of the river, heading south; if
you'd wanted to reverse the route we took in you would have had to have
headed out *north* of New Hope. I thought you knew what you were doing.
He comes to a complete stop in the middle of the road. Just like before,
only now it is completely dark, too, and the road is no wider nor less
windy here on the Pennsylvania side. The driver is completely lost. I
should have known he was not taking the intelligent way out of New Hope,
but the idiot way, and that he further was too incompetent to even
succeed in the idiot way. And how the hell did he not see the sign for
I-95?! So I tell him there was a turn off for I-95 just a bit back up
the road, turn around, we're heading just fine, this is actually a much
better way to go than what you were planning, just please drive again.
So we painfully crawl along, the driver seemingly hesitant to put us so
much as an inch more in the wrong direction. He slows to an almost halt
at every narrow driveway and indentation along the road. Finally at
where another road joins, he turns in, turns on all the lights, begins
another round of he was trying to follow the directions, I should have
told him he was going wrong, and I tell him as gently as I can that I
assumed he knew what he was doing, and don't tell him he is an even
bigger nincompoop than I previously imagined, which is a very hard feat
to accomplish. So then painfully he turns the bus around (a very
frightening ordeal), and crawls along back to the turn off for I-95.
Naturally there is no sign on this side of the road, but I tell him to
take it anyway, this is for sure the right way. He crawls along this
dark road, no more than 20 miles per hour, slowing to an almost
stand-still at each curve. Finally an intersection, and a sign pointing
to I-95, straight ahead. Hooray!
I-95. Even our idiot bus driver should be OK from here on out.
Though he does slow to an almost stop deciding which on-ramp to take...
Cruising to Philly on I-95. What can go wrong?
They are paving I-95 southbound. Traffic is diverted to one lane on
the shoulder. Our driver seems to rather stop than be diverted to the
shoulder. Good grief! What is it with this guy?!
Cruising along again, slowly, in the middle lane, I joke what would
happen if I told the driver we were heading the wrong way on 95; would
he stop right in the middle of the highway? The likelihood of this
dissuades me from thinking of it even in jest.
Home again at the ELC. Though my night won't be over for a few hours
yet, what with the Karl Kab Ko. insuring some of our outlying students
get home safely despite our two hour later arrival, and then driving on
down to my parents' home where stupid students will not be partying and
playing stereos all night long, the worst part of the night is over. The
blind pig who was our driver has found the acorn of Philadelphia after
all. Amazingly he says he looks forward to working with me again! In a
There are a few people waiting as we arrive to pick up students. I
wonder if everyone realized the implications of staying later in New
Hope and arriving back in Philly two hours after our scheduled time and
made appropriate phone calls... I'll assume so, and assume our students
-- and humanity in general -- have more common sense than the display
I've seen this evening. Next time maybe we'll all just stay on our inner
tubes and float on down back home to Penn's Landing.
Thought for the evening: what would this trip have been like if
certain other party who incessantly whined interest in it had led the
expedition? They'd probably all be still sitting not moving in the
middle of a small dark road in New Jersey... *Shudder!*