Our days in New York City finally came to an end. We spent our final day in blistering heat and with blistering feet. We had covered all the "must-not-miss" sites of the city: Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Radio City Music Hall, Times Square, Broadway, Ellis Island, Ground Zero. After our dinner in Little Italy, which was by far the most authentic NYC culinary experience we had the entire trip, we loaded on the tour buses intending to drive for 4 hours into Pennsylvania before stopping for the night. Nancy, the evil tour director, had us all settle in as she babbled something about us being a great group and that she hoped we enjoyed our trip.
|(No Scared Taxi Rides This Trip)|
As we crossed into New Jersey and could see the Manhattan skyline, I could not help but feel a bit sad. This was the first trip I had taken that I had visited only touristy places. I felt that Stewart and Haley did not really get to experience all New York City had to offer, what it was truly like. We did not get to ramble through the streets in the Village or visit the funky shops in Soho. We did not get try new and different foods from restaurants specializing in cuisine from countries that we barely knew existed. No walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, no picnic in Central Park, no terrifying ride in the subway or taxi cab.
|(A role I was born to play.)|
I decided then and there that I knew how my sister could repay me for taking her children on Nancy and Udean's Christian Tour. I would have her pay for me to bring them back and experience MY New York! At this point, my Auntie Mame persona came alive, and I began telling my seat mate how "Simply glorious
" my next trip to the City will be with the kids. I told her, "Why, we will stay in a grand hotel and order room service. We will shop the Fifth Avenue stores and go to the art museums, and I shall introduce them to cabaret!" (if you haven't guessed, yet, I do a damn good Auntie Mame). She just looked blankly at me and said that it sounded like my next trip would be something else and curled away from me to nap and/or ignore me for the ride to Pennsylvania.
I was on the very tip of the edge of feeling giddy. My days with Evil Nancy were coming to an end. All this responsibility of being in charge of others was very tiring. Honestly, I don't know how parents do it. If I ever buy a child, it will take a village to raise it, because I ain't doing it all by myself, and poor ol' Andy has his hands full handling me. I eased back into my uncomfortable seat, placed my headphones on, turned on some Lady Gaga, and began making notes on the things I would make sure Haley and Stewart saw on their next trip to Gotham with me.
Two hours into our ride through rural Pennsylvania, Evil Nancy decided that we should have a bathroom break. Although she would never admit it, I think that she missed the exit that we should have taken in order to have choices for roadside facilities. Instead, we ended up driving about 3 miles into the heart of some small town which I later discovered was appropriately named Hellertown. As we pulled into the McDonald's parking lot, we knew what was coming from Evil Nancy. We lined up in an orderly fashion and prepared ourselves to step lively off the bus and to the restrooms, and restrooms only. We were not to eat there. We were not to even look at the front counter. We were not to make eye contact with a McDonald's employee. In and out. Fast.
The line for the men's room was much shorter and faster as usual, so I waited outside in the parking lot for the rest of the group to finish up. One of the ladies who sat in the back of the bus told me that something was terribly wrong with the wheel or axle or something that was directly under her seat. She said that it made a horrible noise at every bump. She asked if I would relay this message to the bus driver. Always helpful, I found our driver and told him. We walked to the back of the bus, and there it was...a flat tire. I just stared at it in disbelief. Then, before getting myself worked up, I said to the driver, "Hell, we have like 20 tires or something on this bus, surely we can just drive with one of them flat. It shouldn't hold us back, should it?" He looked at me as if I had said that in my Auntie Mame voice (I had not) and walked away.
Eventually, we all were herded back on to the bus and told the news. Over her microphone, Evil Nancy said that we had a flat tire and that it looked like we would be here for a bit. It seems that while Nancy and Udean's Christian Tours made sure to carry a spare tire, they did not make sure to carry the appropriate tools to change it. Furthermore, Evil Nancy thought it best that we all just sat on the bus until the roadside assistance company came to help us. There was no need to stretch our legs or go inside McDonald's and relax.
|(WWJD? Have a McFlurry.)|
It was then that my repressed anger and rage at Nancy and Udean's Christian Tours which had been bottled up most of the week began to heat from simmering to hot. Then I heard one of the Responsible Adults, it was Nancy, say how blessed we were and that Jesus was surely looking out for us. That did it for me. I snapped. The bottled anger and rage went from hot to boiling over. "What do you mean?" I asked Nancy. She said that Jesus had blessed us by giving us this flat tire at a McDonald's. "You must be kidding me?" I stammered. At that, most of the Responsible Adults sitting around me gasped. I then told her that, for one, I did not think that Jesus blessed us with this flat tire. In fact, I did not think this flat tire was given to us by Jesus at all. Finally, I was fairly certain that we did not get the flat tire in this McDonald's parking lot. I was pretty sure it happened either out on the highway or on the streets of New York City. I did, however, think that Jesus would not mind us all getting off this stupid bus and going in for McFlurry while we waited for the repairman. At that, I gathered my things, wishing that I had a scarf to indignantly throw across my shoulder, and marched my tail off the bus in a huff.
The cool adults and kids from Bus #1 were already inside McDonald's enjoying themselves and thanking God that they were not on our horrid bus. After about 20 minutes of waiting around, it was decided that Bus #1, and its occupants, should go ahead and leave us. They would travel on to our hotel and wait for us there, in air conditioned rooms with beds and television. I wanted to act like a baby and throw myself onto the dirty floor of McDonald's and cry, kick, and scream until I was allowed to go with them. It was obvious to me that if Jesus was doing any blessing on this trip, he was doing it for the nincompoops on Bus #1.
I understand there was some conversation among my friends on Bus #1 as they pulled away from the Hellertown McDonald's on whether or not they should wave goodbye to us. Some felt it was a nice gesture, but others thought it may be taken the wrong way. I do not know if they did it or not. I could not dare look at them. I hated them all at this point, and would have felt terrible had I flipped someone the bird on the last night of Nancy and Udean's Christian Tour of New York City.
After the Blessed Bus pulled away, we were left to sit outside in the humid Pennsylvania night for another couple of hours until our tire was repaired. While my friend and I sat and watched the kids play frisbee in the drive-thru, a mutual friend posted a song on Facebook and dedicated it to us. It was "On The Road Again." We chuckled when we saw it, but then my friend perfectly summed up my feelings when she said, "The song dedicated to us should have been "Highway To Hell." The tire was eventually fixed, and we arrived in our hotel room around 2:00 am, and thankfully, were allowed a few extra hours to sleep in the next morning.
As we ate our breakfast and prepared for the last stretch of drive that would bring us home, the kids were getting excited. It is always nice to go away, but it is great to go home. I couldn't help but smile as I listened to their conversations that morning. They had been in what many consider the most exciting place on Earth, the center of our civilization, the city of cities, but what I heard coming from these teenagers:
"Boy, I can't wait to get back to Jack's Creek."
"I bet the grass is knee-high up Bullskin. I will have to mow for a week."
"I hope Dale Holler Lake is warm enough to swim in when we get back."
"I would say mine and papaw's tomato plants are sprouting by now."
I was happy that this group of kids got to visit Manhattan, but I was even happier to bring them back home. Hopefully, this trip will help them understand there is a big world out there waiting for them, and they can choose to live and conquer any part of it, whether it be the bustling streets of New York City or the grassy bank of Jack's Creek. School trips that expose these mountain kids to such diversity is a true blessing, and I am thankful to have shared this experience with them. And, to Evil Nancy I still say, "Suck it."
|Some of the good kids that made the trip great!|