Wednesday, May 31, 2006

8th Grade at Magic Mountain

Yesterday my oldest daughter's 8th grade class went on thier end of the year field trip to Magic Mountain. I drove our van with 5 kids in it. I was looking forward to this trip. Magic Mountain has added a couple new roller coasters that I was anxious to try out. Unfortunately I didn't get the opportunity to ride on them.

Over the past few years of dealing with these kids and their parents I have noticed that several parents are more than willing to help out with different events that these kids participate in. However they only help out on their own terms. The are usually superficially nice about it, but none the less they are pretty demanding. So I have tried really hard to be helpful not pushy.

So in keeping with that I told the teacher that I would take whatever kids in my van she needed me to take. Then once we got to the park I would supervise whichever group of kids they wanted me to supervise. So I loaded up my five assignees in the van and then spent several minutes avoiding the other parents who were trying to redo the teachers vehicle assignements. Apparently they or their children didn't like the arrangements. I tried not to get involved. But when the girls in my van who were being bartered for told me that they didn't want to change I told them to get in the car, buckle their seatbelts and wait. Then I stood around for several minutes repeating "Not my decision, I just drive whomever I'm told."

We eventually got to the park and the dividing up of kids started up again. I stood by and waited until I eventually was assigned to escort my daughter and two of her friends. This was a fun group, easy number to keep track of and they all get along with each other. Unfortunately for me they also weren't very adventurous. The went on a few larger rides but spent most of the day on the smaller sillier rides. The kids had a great time and were pretty tired by the end of the day. I didn't get to ride the new coasters, but then the trip wasn't about me, so I'll wait for another day and time.

The trip home was delayed by a stop at Red Lobster for dinner. Again there was several seating shuffles getting eveyone sat down. I just grabbed seat and waited till everone else had things worked out. Dinner was OK. But Red Lobster wasn't very accomidating. We had a group of 14 and each kid was on their own for dinner. Most of them had cash cards they had gotten from the scrip program at the school. However Red Lobster claimed to have a policy of only splitting a group into 3 checks. So we had to divide the table into three groups that would be grouped together on a single check. Then when we tried to pay we had to have the cashier charge a portion of each check to several different scrip cards. It would have been significantly easier to just let us have the seperate checks. Then you should have seen the waiters face when I questioned the automatic 15% gratuity that had been added onto our bill. He explained the gratuity is company policy for groups of 8 or more. I then countered with 1) If it is a manditory charge then it is no longer a gratuity, and therefore a hidden fee that I was not told about when ordering. 2) While we had 14 people sitting at the table he divided us into three groups, took our orders by group, served us by group and billed us by group. Since my group only had 5 people in it why was I being charge a manditory fee that is usually reserved for groups larger than 7?

I didn't get a very coherent answer. Instead I got a "Sorry that is corporate policy." So after he walked away I nonchalantly waited until there were two other servers standing near me then gloated to another parent "I like this manditory 15% gratuity, it saves me money. I usually tip 20%." A couple minutes later after seeing those two servers talk to my server, I was approached by my server who told me that he was authorized to remove the 15% charge from my bill if I still objected to it." I briefly considered having him do so then leaving a smaller tip, but settled for "No, I wouldn't want you to violate your company policy." Then I picked up all my change and left. Hopefully for good. I'm not a really big Red Lobster fan and the last couple trips have left me liking it even less than normal.

I got out to the parking lot just in time to see the "change the seating arrangements in cars adventure part two" playout. The one girl in my van who was being pressured to change cars was sitting on a bench with her head down and looking at no one. Fortunatly the teacher who is in no way as clueless as some of these parents think she is had figured it out also. She asked if any of the kids wanted to change vehicles, when the one little girl didn't respond, she immediately announced that everyone one would go home in the car they arrived in. So I hustled my crew out of there as quickly as I could.

The trip home was uneventful. I expected the kids to all sleep. But it was the exact opposite, they were loud, rambucious and overly excitable. It was a very noisy trip home. So much so that I was actually glad to see the trip end. But at least there was no fear of me getting to tired to drive.

We got home around 10:15 PM. I dropped off a few of the kids with their parents at the school. Then took the one who lives just a couple blocks away from our house to her home. It was a late night and I'm pretty tired today but I would do it again in a heartbeat.

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