Has there ever been a less original title for a blog post? I suppose I could have gone with Ms. Graham Goes to Washington. That would certainly have been worse.
Anyway, I left for DC on the Saturday before the inauguration. That is also the day that the student program started. My ticket was purchased by the organization for which I was working. You'll miss the staff meeting, they told me, but you'll get there in time for dinner. Just grab a cab at the airport and you'll get reimbursed.
Dinner started at 6:30. My plane got in at 5:30. To BWI. That "B" stands for Baltimore, as in the airport is much closer to Baltimore than it is to Washington. The hotel where I would be working and my students would be staying was in Virginia. So making it to dinner was seeming like a pipe dream to me. It also seemed like I was going to have to take a whole lot of cab money.
Before even getting to Baltimore, I got to stop in Memphis. At my gate, I saw a whole bunch of high schoolers in matching sweatshirts. They said "Inauguration 2009 Democracy is Not a Spectator Sport" on the back, which was my tip off. I talked to a chaperone and found out they were indeed headed to a program with my organization and would be staying at a hotel reasonably near mine.
(Grown Ups: When traveling with students for whom you are responsible, it's best not to answer a complete stranger when she asks at which hotel you and your students are staying. I realize I look non-threatening and it didn't even occur to me in the moment that it wasn't probably a good thing to ask someone who didn't know me. Still, the total lack of hesitation from this person in disclosing the group's hotel information was a little alarming. Helpful to me, but alarming.)
So I hopped on their bus, where I sat near the teachers. None of them deigned to speak to me, so I listened to my iPod. I could still overhear when, several miles into the drive, a student asked where we were. A teacher answered "Baltimore" (not terribly accurate, but whatever) and the student responded "I thought that was in Missouri." It was dark, so I couldn't tell whether the chaperones were properly ashamed. See, it's a civic education program, so the chaperones tend to be the kids' social studies teachers. Ouch.
About an hour later, we got to these students' hotel, where I hopped out, grabbed my luggage, and began the long trek to my own hotel. I got there just in time to crash the dinner with the teachers and staff. Not to eat dinner, since that unfortunately was over, but to sit through introductions. After that, I had (and for once I am absolutely not exaggerating) five minutes to say hi to my friend Vicki who I hadn't seen in several years, change clothes, eat dinner, fill out payroll paperwork, find out where my workshop was happening, gather supplies, and decide what activity I'd be doing with my students. No problem.
"It's a good thing I was never a believer in preparation," I told CJ, who was my boss for the week. CJ was in no way surprised or alarmed by this since we go way back. We even got co-fired ("downsized") on the same day several years ago.
Five minutes later, I met my students. One of them asked me if we could be called the awesome crew. "Of course we can," I answered. Yeah, they were pretty cool.
Then we went to orientation with all of the students in one room, where we instructors had to introduce ourselves. We were all old instructors from different eras, returning to work the week, and I only knew a couple of the people I'd be working with. I was not too sure about the other people. Some of them were very enthusiastic. Very. I would go on to explain to my students later that while they had clearly not gotten SuperHappyFun Instructor, they had gotten Laid Back Instructor. They felt good about that. Did I mention how my students were very cool?
After orientation, we got to go home. "Home" for me that week was supposed to be the hotel for ease of commuting, but the booking of rooms for us instructors never exactly got done. So I stayed with Katie, who was kind enough to pick me up at the hotel, despite my offer to take the Metro. (Her email response to said offer was: "You're so midwestern resourceful it's almost disturbing. I'll come get you.") And when we got to her place, Katie showed me the pumpkin cupcakes she had made me. With cream cheese frosting.
"I thought you could eat them for breakfast," she said.
"God bless you," I said.
Then we talked for a long time, until I remembered that I had to go to work the next day, which would involve an hour of commuting on foot and Metro before the day even started. Whoops! Nothing like starting a really demanding work week with some sleep deprivation. Good thinking, Lori.
Speaking of which, it is currently after 11:00, which is not enough hours removed from the time at which my alarm will go off tomorrow. So you'll have to stay tuned. Will my students stay awesome? Will a new president be sworn in? WILL I SEE STEVIE WONDER?
To be continued...