A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.
- George Moore
Here's how it works at my house.
A month or so ago, my wife casually mentioned that our son had a big middle school field trip coming up ... and one of us should probably volunteer to be a chaperone.
Well, she's the family do-gooder, so I figured she was just announcing another personal adventure involving time, no pay and exposure to cooties.
"Sure thing," I said in between dinner chews.
Then two weeks ago she asks if I have been able to clear my schedule for the big bus trip.
"What bus trip?" I asked with the head-cocked curiosity Andy Griffith used to use when Barney announced he had bought a motorcycle.
She then reconstructed an unremembered conversation involving details, commitments and enthusiastic approval from yours truly, which is the long way of explaining what I was doing Thursday in a charter bus caravan heading to Atlanta and the new aquarium, to be followed by a tour of CNN headquarters.
When we arrived at the much ballyhooed Georgia Aquarium, I and the four boys under my direct eagle-eye supervision spent about two hours checking out the exhibits and working to fill out worksheets, which asked fill-in-the-blank questions about the fish.
This involved our little pack sticking together through dark corridors and hallways, whose walls and ceiling were often thick, with clear glass separating us from sharks and stingrays and fish of almost every size.
When that mission was finished, we had a pizza lunch, then trooped over to CNN headquarters.
Now, we had boarded the buses in small groups and entered the aquarium in groups, too, so this was the first time I saw all the middle-schoolers together as they cut across Atlanta's Centennial Park. Given that they had filled five charter buses, it was a big crowd.
This also was where my respect for teachers was reinforced because, despite the skittish efforts of the chaperones, the teachers appeared the most effective at keeping the group focused.
Like cowboys on a cattle drive they patrolled the perimeters, keeping the herd moving while running down the strays.
The tour of CNN and its famous 24-hour news studios had me on more familiar turf, which is good because my son, who knew more about fish than I did, suddenly had lots of questions about news gathering.
He asked about the stories. He asked about the reporters. He thought the anchors and the cameras were neat, and he was impressed that news people seem to know so much stuff.
He even had his picture taken sitting at an anchor desk with a news script in his hands and the CNN stuff in the background.
"For Mom," he assured me.
The ride home generally was quiet. The charter buses had little TV screens and they showed us a PG movie. But somewhere on the return trip, I asked what he liked best about the day.
"CNN," he said quickly. "News looks like fun."
In the dark I doubt he could see me shaking my head.
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