Sunday, January 07, 2007

Officer Birdhunter

A few weeks ago my 5th grader, L, took a much anticipated field trip with her classmates to a place called Exchange City, where each day, young students experience the responsibilities and opportunities of citizenship in a free enterprise system. It helps young people discover, investigate and become productive citizens in a life-size replica of a real city. The students operate the stores, bank, post office, radio station, snack shop, newspaper office and city hall-all outfitted with modern office equipment and business supplies. During the Exchange City experience, students learn first-hand what it takes to create a business, run a newspaper, supervise employees and hold elected office, as well as personally earn and manage money.

All that is well and good, but first the students need to actually GET to Exchange City to start their adventure. On the day my daughter’s school was to visit they had some difficulty getting there on time.

The day started as students piled into a couple buses headed for Nashville, excited about their assignments at the City. There were newly elected mayors, judges, policemen, shop owners, newspaper writers and more. L was so excited and nervous she could barely sleep the night before.

The bus pulled out of the school, and started the 45 minute journey to Exchange City. Not much later, the caravan came to a sudden and unexpected stop.

I remember many years ago being invited to go with a friend and his family out for the day, and experiencing darkened car windows for the first time. Do you remember when they first came out? If you were a kid then, you probably remember the fun it used to be making silly faces or waving at people walking or driving by knowing they couldn’t see you, and laughing your butt off. No? So maybe my friends and I were just goofballs.

The school buses used on this day to transport the precious and innocent children, 5th and 6th graders all, to Exchange City had SLIGHTLY tinted windows. Just enough to make the more adventurous kids feel safe to taunt and tease traffic, while not quite hiding their antics from below. It seems a small group of 6th grade boys in the lead bus thought it would be fun to practice their shadow puppet versions of birds at other drivers. The bad kind of birds. When they saw an approaching police car, two boys dared another to send a bird-message to the policeman. The “brave” boy took them up on the dare.

Inside the police cruiser, coming up alongside the bus on the highway, was an officer trained to keep one eye on the road, and another inspecting his surroundings. He looked up at the students in the back of the bus, saw the unconventional wave, and then turned on the lights and siren.

The policeman pulled the bus over, and after it and the second bus following it stopped, he jumped out of his car and boarded the bus. The driver and teachers on board were surprised and confused, having no idea why they were pulled over. The policeman said two words as he boarded the bus and stomped his way to the rear- “excuse me.”

The driver, teachers, and innocent front-of-the-bus students watched with great interest and bewilderment as officer Bird Hunter, with hands on hips, arrived at the very back of the bus and shouted with great gusto “I know you flipped me off" pointing at one of the boys, "I want to know right now which of you other boys were involved. Tell me right now.”

Any bravery or bravado the group of boys in the last row might have had never had a chance to shine. The identified transgressor broke down crying and confessed, pointing a more appropriate finger at his accomplices. The officer returned to the front of the bus and chatted with the group of teachers seated there, insisting that the boys be returned to school and suspended. The principal was called, and after the officer was assured the boys would be picked up from Exchange City shortly after arriving, he left without another word and pulled away.

The school's vice principal personally drove to Exchange City to pick up the three boys. The somber and lecture-filled trip back must have been loads of fun.

L and her other classmates completed the fun day, returning home to relay the details of the trip to Michelle and I. A friend of ours that was a chaperone on the trip filled in the many details a 5th grader would naturally miss- like about 80% of the story.

At dinner I asked L what she learned from the incident, expecting a mature and thought-filled response about kindness to, and respect for others, proper behavior, etc, etc. Her initial response was not quite on the mark- “I guess if you’re gonna do something like those boys did, make sure there aren’t any policeman around.”

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Anonymous said...

hey Rich, always love reading your blogs. Was catching up on a few in today and noticed something that may have slipped by you. I know you pride yourself on protecting your girls from the freaks out there on the web. Normally, you refer to the girls by their respective first initial. I did notice though in this blog that you referred to "K" by her full first name. Just wanted to fire you a heads-up in case you wished to edit it.

Hope all is well with you guys.

John A.

DigitalRich said...

Thanks John- just fixed it :)