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 unsettled.

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 return.

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 arrive...

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 pictures?!

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 way across.

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 afterwards.

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 pig's eye!
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!*