On the off chance that your children’s school needs to raise money, at some point it’s going to have a dinner.
A dinner is a fundraiser in which you get together in a fancy hotel and eat expensive food made by a top-of-the-line caterer, and somehow that makes the school money.
Okay, so there’s an admission fee for the dinner that costs more than what you’re eating, depending on how good the shmorg is. And it’s a nice night out. There are waiters and seating cards and everything. It’s like a simcha, except no one’s happy.
The other moneymaker of the evening is the journal, which is a book that is so fat that if they mailed it, they’d lose money. So basically, a dinner is a way to get everyone in one place so they can give out the journals.
And there’s also entertainment, usually in the form of a choir made up of some of the kids in the school. Generally, the choir sings about three or four songs, including one song that consists primarily of the words, “Bum bum ba-dada-dada,” so the director could get one more song in without making the kids memorize more words.
I was in a school choir once. Only once. I tried out every year, and I never made it in. Finally one year the school was having the dinner during Sefirah, so they decided the choir would consist of all the kids that didn’t make it in the other years. Or maybe they realized that the point of the choir is just that the parents will come to the dinner, and it turns out that the parents with money aren’t necessarily the parents of the kids who have good voices.
My kids’ yeshiva does things differently, though. All the fifth graders get to choose if they want to be in the choir, and the directors don’t say no. They’re not selling albums here. My son didn’t even want to be in the choir, until his friend told him that they get food afterwards. Chicken nuggets and French fries, which is what all caterers give kids’ tables these days, on the logic that kids love eating with their fingers, so why not give them finger foods? When the truth is that it doesn’t have to be finger foods. You could put out whatever you want, and the kids will eat it with their fingers. You can put out soup.
This is why the food wasn’t served until after the performance.
The other big sell was that the kids get to go on a coach bus. I’m not actually sure of the appeal of coach buses. Maybe it’s that the seats are very high up, or that there’s a luggage compartment underneath the passengers, which comes in handy when you’re journeying five miles each way to a 15-minute performance. Basically, a coach bus is like an airplane, but without wings.
Ok, that sounds terrifying.
And it was. But there was no coach bus. There was a series of three short school buses—the kind that don’t have enough space between the seats for an adult to sit with his knees out in front of him. I know this, because I somehow got roped into chaperoning one of the buses.
Where am I supposed to put my knees? On the seat next to me?
It wasn’t a big deal, they told me. Just get on the bus with a bunch of kids whose names you don’t know and who are dressed exactly alike, and keep them out of the bus driver’s hair. Literally. There’s always one kid in the front seat who spends the entire ride leaning into the bus driver’s hair.
It was supposed to be an eight-minute drive to the hotel, and my bus was the first one out of the school parking lot. So we weren’t following anyone, and of course we got lost. We were on the right highway, going east, and drove right past the place.
I personally don’t blame myself. I wasn’t sure whether my job was to keep the kids from sticking body parts out the window or to help the bus driver with directions. Mostly I was concentrating on the body-part thing, which meant I was facing backward. Which was just as well, because I couldn’t fit forward anyway.
So the bus driver tried to get off the highway and make a U-turn, but somehow ended up on an entirely different highway going north, which she took to another highway that went west to another one that went south. And all three highways had traffic. There’s nothing worse than when you know you’re getting further and further from your destination, and you’re sitting in traffic to do so.
I wanted to talk to the bus driver and maybe try to help fix the situation, but I didn’t want to interrupt her, because she was busy panicking into her earpiece, talking to someone who apparently had no idea how to get anywhere either, and meanwhile, the kids, who were nervous that the choir was going to start performing without them, had taken to yelling unhelpful suggestions, such as “Pull into a rest stop!” There were no rest stops.
So she wouldn’t have heard me anyway. The bus makes noise, and the open windows make noise, and the kids trying to hear themselves over each other make even more noise and it doesn’t help that these are kids who spent the last two months being taught how to project their voices.
What a great idea that was.
By Mordechai Schmutter
Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia, The Jewish Press and Aish.com, among others. He also has five books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected]