Monday, April 10, 2006
I just got back from chaperoning a five-day band trip to Florida with over 100 members of the school’s band, orchestra, chorus, and flag squad. We took three buses and stayed three nights at the All-Star Music Resort in Disneyworld. The competitions were part of the Festival Disney program Disney runs for music programs from across the country.
I’ve talked about the travails of being a band parent before. As I see it, a chaperone’s duties are to make sure nobody gets lost, drunk, or pregnant. That makes it sound a lot simpler than it is. Mostly it involves a lot of roll-calling. Fortunately, my wife, who was also a chaperone, is a professional teacher and has either had many of these kids as students or knows them from two years of band-parenting. That made roll call pretty easy. I put myself in charge of keeping the DVD player on the bus running until everyone had fallen asleep.
The bus ride to Orlando was billed as being sixteen hours. Having done that trip many times, I knew that time could only be met by fraternity boys with lead feet and strong bladders. Still, we made good time and it wasn’t our bus that had the AC conk out on the Georgia-Florida border. On the way back our bus threw a belt just north of Richmond and we had to crowd everybody on the remaining buses for the final leg. Still, the trip had to be considered a success.
The key to keeping teenagers out of trouble is to keep them busy. In addition to two full days of competitions, they spent evenings at EPCOT, Downtown Disney, and the Disney-MGM theme park. The final day was 8 hours of the Magic Kingdom before rolling them hot, sweaty, and tired back on the bus for the overnight ride home.
During the trip, wake-up was at 7 am and lights out was usually between 11 and midnight. Rotating shifts of parents wandered the halls at night to keep the partying down to dull roar and inside their individual rooms. We found out too late that some of rooms had interconnecting doors that kept the inter-room traffic going.
The hardest part is corralling the hormonally charged instincts of kids that age. On our bus we had two couples that need the firehoses turned on them a couple of times. Keeping boys and girls in TrueTeenLove® apart with anything less that a crowbar can be tough. Tricks of the trade include rooming guys and girls on separate floors, enforcing open door policies during freetime (which is kept to a minimum), and making sure all groups consist of three or more.
The same sex couples provide a greater challenge. The irony is that the level of physical contact that draws concern -- hand-holding, hair-stroking, deep, longing looks and the like -- is what we usually hope to keep the straight couples down to. One female couple in a long-term relationship did manage to pull off a room-swap on an unsuspecting room chaperone and spent at least one night together. At least that won’t result in a shot-gun wedding a few months from now like band trips back in my day tended to.
Overall, the kids I was in charge of were extremely well behaved. It makes me wonder if I’m a better chaperone than the clueless administrator’s we were constantly conning back in my Model United Nations days or if I am now the dupe. But they all made it home alive and sober, so I think I did my job.