I've been on a few school-sponsored field trips in my life, but my first one stands out as being the most memorable. It was spring, and my second-grade class was going to the local ice-skating rink to be taught how to skate. This was a huge deal, since most of us had never been on a school bus before, as it was a method of transportation commonly reserved for "big kids." Something about their big, bolted-on sides of sheet metal and revving diesel engine fascinated us as kids, and the class as a whole couldn't be more excited. It didn't even matter where we were going at this point, just that we were going as a class, and that blew our minds.
Walking single-file to the bus lanes behind my school, my friends and I couldn't stop chattering to one another. We wondered if it had seatbelts, or if our teacher would be driving, or maybe even the principal. We wondered if it could go through mud, or what would happen if a car hit it. We stretched our imaginations far as an eight year-old's mind could.
Finally our teacher, Ms. McClure, arrived at the bus' folding doors. The driver opened them with a hiss, and she stepped inside. After exchanging a few words with him, she stepped back outside and told us that we could get on after finding a "bus buddy" to sit with.
Aside #1: Remember the part in the first Toy Story movie where Woody tells everyone that they need to get a moving buddy to keep track of, so that no one gets lost when Andy moves? Same concept.
After pairing up with my best friend, a freckled boy named Blake, we stepped inside and took a seat towards the middle. Ms. McClure stood at the front of the bus and quieted us down in a way only patient grade-school teachers can. She told us that we needed to show the bus driver how well-behaved we could be, and that we should talk quietly to our "bus buddy" while en route. She sat down, and the bus pulled away from the school.
We drove for a short time, most of us enjoying the moving scenery flying by outside. Soon we arrived at the rink, with a small group of people milling about in dark blue windbreaker track suits standing outside. These people, we would come to find out, were our instructors.
Stepping off of the bus, the two dozen or so students were split into five groups and dispersed amongst the trainers. Blake and I stayed together, being put into a group lead by an overzealous 50-something woman that appeared to have far too many teeth for her mouth. The other three kids were named Chase, Michael and Veronica (the rail-thin tomboy of the class). I hadn't really spoken to any of them before this point, so Blake and I milled about apart from the group before being ushered inside.
Aside #2: In the fourth grade, Chase was sent to the principal's office for dumping Elmer's glue on his desk on a Friday before coming back on Monday to pick it off and eat it during class. True story.
As our instructors were sizing us for our skates and telling us a condensed history of ice skating, I noticed that Michael had broken away from our group and was talking to Ms. McClure a short distance away. She handed him a small duffel bag that had been laying at her feet, and he unzipped it quickly. As he was pulling a pair of brand new skates from it, my mind started connecting dots. It was obvious to me that Ms. McClure had bought Michael these skates, and I felt a weird surge of jealousy hit me. I was a single child at this point, so I was not used to this feeling. I didn't know how to react. So like most jealous people, I stood there and seethed until it was time for me to put my skates on.
After a lot of fussing around, some of the more confident skaters started to trickle onto the ice next to the sizing station. Michael was amongst them, fluidly stepping from the solid ground into the rink like he had done it a million times before. Easily gliding around the other students, he was the only one out of the entire class not using a training bar for support.
Aside #3: For those of you that have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm referring to the device that looks like a walker without wheels, meant to be leaned on for help with balance while skating.
Despite my inability to stand while wearing the heavy skates, I was actually enjoying myself, laughing as Blake and I slipped and fell onto our knees and bottoms, drenching our jeans and making us shiver. Eventually, we became bored with failure and decided to leave the rink and turn in our skates. It was nearing the time when we were scheduled to leave, and we wanted to dry off in the bathroom like most of the other students had gone to do.
Slowly making our way towards one of the doors to the rink, we heard a thud and felt the ground shake. It sounded like someone had hit the ice with a hammer. I turned around and saw Michael on the other side of the rink, with his face on the ice. A geyser of blood was erupting from the lower half of his face, and he was sobbing uncontrollably. One of the instructors quickly skated out and picked him up, bringing him around to the door that I had just gone through. As he was carried by like a sort of giant, bleeding baby, I managed to get an up-close look at his injuries. His front teeth were completely missing, leaving two angry red holes where they once had been.
Aside #4: Not knowing if they were his baby or adult teeth, the instructor had also managed to pull them out of the ice to possibly be re-inserted. Luckily, they were not his permanent teeth.
Ms. McClure quickly called Michael's mother, and she arrived within ten minutes. After they left, the entire class was left buzzing about what had just happened. The instructor that had picked Michael up off the ice was now skating out to the red spot where he had fallen with an armful of plastic safety cones, setting them up in a triangle around it. We lined up to leave, with each of us pairing up with our "bus buddy" again.
Just as we were walking out, my eye caught sight of Michael's black duffel bag sitting empty where he had left it. I told Ms. McClure, and she asked me to go get it for her. Reminded of my anger at her for playing favorites, I glumly walked over to the bag and picked it up. By the time I had shuffled outside, everyone was on the bus and ready to go. Blake had been forced to partner up with Michael's abandoned "buddy," so Ms. McClure had me sit next to her in the seat behind the driver. This gesture slightly soothed my jealousy, and we rode in silence as she graded papers next to me.
After steaming for a few minutes, I couldn't take it anymore. I had to know why she had bought Michael those skates. So I asked her, while making eye contact with the back of the driver's head. To my surprise, my inquiry was met with a giggle that made my heart leap, followed by her explaining that Michael had brought the skates from home and that she was just holding them for him on the bus ride to the rink. She winked, and slyly told me that Michael was definitely not her favorite in the class. I wasn't and still am not sure if she was implying that I was her favorite.
But regardless, that's how I took it, and swelled with pride. Literally. Before I knew it, something was happening in my still-wet jeans that had never happened before. I didn't know what to do, and was beginning to panic.
Anatomy class tells you that the male sexual organ isn't exactly fully developed at this point, so the front of my jeans only rose a tiny bit before stopping. At that age, anything moving down there without you touching it is reason for worry, so I covered up my lap with Michael's bag. The rest of the bus ride was torture. Between sweating and trying to feel out exactly what was going on underneath my clothes, I was a wreck. I stealthily tried everything I could think of to try to get it to go away. I pushed on it, pulled on it, pinched it and punched it, finally giving up as we were pulling up to the school.
Quickly, I formulated a plan that involved sitting on the bus until everyone had left it, thinking it might be gone if I waited a few minutes. This plan was foiled by Ms. McClure, however, as she asked me to stand up so she could get out before anyone else had. Still holding the bag to my crotch, I stood up and faced the front of the bus. After she had left the seat, I sat down again immediately and pretended to listen to her address the class. When she was finished, she looked down at me and smiled.
"Thanks for getting this for Michael, it was really nice of you," she said, taking the bag from my grip.
Once it left my lap, she gasped as she saw the tiny tent I had pitched underneath. Before I had a chance to react, one of the other kids, named Nick, poked his head around the corner of the seat and grinned like an idiot.
"Ty-ler has a bo-ner!" he announced to the rest of the bus in a singsong voice.
The bus erupted into laughter as the blood emptied out of my erection and made its way to my face.
Aside #5: Looking back, I'm sort of curious as to how so many second graders knew what a boner was. Nick was one of those kids who "knew everything" at a young age, and would later tell me that sex was when a guy peed in a girl's vagina. I'll bet most of the others were just laughing at the inflection that he said it in. I hope.
Clearly trying not to make a bad situation worse, Ms. McClure dropped the bag back onto my lap. I had my head down as she calmed the class down and started to lead them off of the bus, every last one of them passing by my seat and laughing at me. After climbing off of the bus, I joined the end of the already-formed line back to class in shame. For the next few weeks, the field trip wasn't referred to as "when we went to the ice rink," it was "the time Tyler got a boner on the bus." It was brutal.
I did receive some form of solace, however. When Michael had returned to class a couple of days later, he brought a card he'd made at home, thanking me for remembering his duffel bag for him. I don't know if anyone told him about the incident on the bus, but his handcrafted note unknowingly made the fallout feel a little less awful.