I spent Friday on a bike ride with my daughter’s eighth-grade class. I’ve done bike trips with large groups of kids a couple of times in the past, and it’s always an amusing spectacle.
Kids showed up on everything from shiny new full-suspension Stumpjumpers to department-store crap bikes, to drastically too-small bikes they probably got for their birthdays at least three growth spurts ago.
Any ride with 100 adolescents feels like several hours spent on the brink of disaster. Their bike skills range from very competent to completely clueless. Many drift spontaneously from left to right; they occasionally ram into each other; they hang accessories such as jackets and purses from their handlebars, daring the dangling sleeves and straps to wrap into the front spokes and cause a crash.
As a parent volunteer, you never quite know what your job will entail, other than general wrangling of wild young homo sapiens. Tire repair? Carrying stuff for an overloaded kid? It can vary as the day wears on.
As we left the Coastal Trail and approached the downtown Delaney Park Strip—where we were going to pause for a brief scavenger hunt before moving on—the teacher in charge sent several adults ahead so that we could station ourselves at neighborhood intersections and safely direct groups of kids through them.
I moved out front and climbed a hill on N Street, setting up to cover the final street crossing. Half a block from the Park Strip, I glanced down at what appeared to be a copy of Rolling Stone in the street. Then I did a quick 180 after remembering that Rolling Stone doesn’t publish full-page shots of nekkid chicks floating on their backs in swimming pools while wearing nothing but fishnet stockings.
Yeah. There was a big ol’ porn mag laying wide open in the street with 100 kids—about half of them 14-year-old boys—bearing down on that final block like a horde of swerving, yelling, hormone-crazed teenagers.
I stopped and glanced at the magazine inches from my feet. I looked back down the street, where the kids were about to come into view as they crested a hill. I looked back down at the woman floating in the pool. I forgot about the kids for a few moments.
I mean, wow. This woman was floating on her back and had a couple of parts that were in no danger of submersion, ya know what I’m sayin’?
Then I collected myself and pictured a scene that would probably look something like the results of throwing a live goat into a tank of hungry sharks. I imagined the pileup that would occur as boys launched into a feeding frenzy to claim the porn. I imagined girls crashing to the pavement in bloody heaps as they ran over the boys’ carelessly discarded bikes. (Proudly, I wasn’t worried about my daughter, because she was outriding the boys and would be safely ahead of any carnage.)
I glanced back toward the hill. No kids yet. I grabbed the mag, discreetly rolled it up and stuck it between the slats of a nearby fence until all the kids rolled by, then I crossed the street and shoved the scandalous publication deep into a park trash barrel.
Unfortunately, discretion prohibited a more thorough examination of the evidence that might have helped me determine who was responsible for this blatant littering. Such an offense warrants more attention, and I regret that I was unable to look deeply into the case.
Sometimes, sacrifices have to be made. You know, for the children.