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Rob Jenkins - Confessions of a field tripper

So I finally went downtown with my son to see all those old fossils. And no, I'm not talking about the state Capitol. I'm talking about the Fernbank Museum of Natural History.

The occasion was a fourth-grade field trip I had the privilege to chaperone - "privilege" meaning I literally had to compete with other parents for one of the handful of coveted chaperone positions. Personally, I bribed two teachers and slit another parent's tires.

Actually, such behavior was somewhat out of character for me, because as a rule I don't care much for other people's children. Exceptions would be my kids' friends, members of the teams I coach, and any child whose father owns a newspaper.

In this case, though, it was worth the effort to spend a day with my youngest son, who in a family with four children sometimes gets short shrift. OK, I don't know what "shrift" is, but trust me, compared to his older sister and two brothers, his can be pretty short.

Our officially school-board sanctioned adventure began with an early-morning ride aboard luxury coaches, complete with televisions, lavatories, and the faint persistent odor of vomit that liberal application of a strong industrial disinfectant had failed to eradicate. Heck, even if the disinfectant had been applied by conservatives, I don't think it would have done any good.

Destination No. 1 was the Fox Theater downtown, where the children marveled at the ornate décor and intricate workmanship - for about 30 seconds. Then they started asking if the concession stand was open. (Answer: no.)

Personally, I'm with the kids. We all enjoyed the play (about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad), but it wasn't the same without something to snack on. I like my cultural awareness with a giant tub of hot buttered popcorn.

Then again, it's probably just as well, because our next stop was the Varsity. Now, I'm one of those people who really loves the Varsity, because for me nothing says fine dining like having a teenager in a paper hat abuse me while I'm trying to decide between rings and fries.

But imagine the normal, barely-controlled chaos that is the Varsity's lobby and then add 500 bored, hungry fourth-graders. To the persistent refrain of "What'll ya have, what'll ya have, what'll ya have?" I was tempted to reply, "How about 200,000 milligrams of Ritalin?"

The day's final destination, as mentioned above, was the Fernbank Museum, where we not only saw fossils but took a tour through prehistoric Georgia - you know, back when Georgia Tech used to have nationally ranked football teams.

And then we were on the bus again, headed back to Lawrenceville, the only mementoes of our trip a handful of soiled Varsity caps and a faint queasiness in the pits of our stomachs.

Where are those liberals with their disinfectant when you need them?