DH and I have just come home from a long weekend in and around Charlottesville, VA where our plans were to visit the homes of three presidents -- Jefferson, Monroe, and Madison. Our planned itinerary for Saturday was to visit Monticello (Jefferson's home) in the morning, have lunch at an historic inn called the Michie Tavern, and then visit Ash Lawn (Monroe's home) in the afternoon. All three sites are located close to each other, and you can buy something called the Presidents Pass that provides discounted admission to all three on one ticket.
We were sitting on a bench at Monticello, waiting for our timed tour of the home, when THEY arrived. Four busloads of middle schoolers from Lansing, MI. I have never seen a more poorly behaved group of students, and I live in the Washington, DC area, which is invaded every spring by hordes of school tour groups. They were loud, obnoxious, rude, disruptive....
Since they had a wait for the timed tour (they were going to have to go through in shifts because of the size of their group), they went in the gift shop where a bunch of boys bought big bottles of sparkling cider. The boys then proceeded to shake up the bottles of cider and spray each other with the cider. When they got tired of spraying each other, they went after the girls. Their chaperones stood by helplessly and didn't do a thing as people scattered to get out of the way. Then, a bunch of the boys bought harmonicas at the gift shop and tried to play them. Cue six harmonicas playing tunelessly for what seemed like forever. People approached the hapless chaperones to see if they could get the kids to calm down and the chaperones explained that the kids had been cooped up on the bus all the way from Lansing (they'd driven all night) and there was nothing they could do.
About 15 people who were waiting for tours and were not part of the onslaught approached the woman who was managing the line and asked if we all could please be put into one group to go through the house instead of mixed in with the middle schoolers. She agreed, and we all went up to the house for the tour. Our guide was excellent, and we enjoyed the tour. As we were leaving, we passed by the front of the house and heard the guide explaining about the no-gum-in-the-house rule and saying over and over, "Please put your gum in the appropriate receptacles... no, don't just spit it out on the ground.... now pick that up and put it the trash" The walkway up to the house was speckled with chewing gum.
DH and I decided to walk back to the parking lot, instead of taking the shuttle bus, in order to see the Jefferson family graveyard. We were enjoying a nice stroll when we heard the blasted harmonica players again, and nearly got trampled when the group decided to run down the narrow, hilly path instead of walking. The chaperones shrugged again when I pointed out that it wasn't good trail manners to run like that. When we got to the parking lot, we saw all four of their tour buses idling in the parking lot, in spite of a sign saying "No bus idling except in extreme weather." It was in the sixties and sunny on Saturday.
We got in our car and headed to the Michie Tavern for lunch. So did they. Fortunately, the Michie Tavern has a separate dining room with its own entrance for large tour groups, so we had a nice lunch in relative peace and quiet. Until DH had to go to the restroom, that is. He found a group of the boys spraying each other with water in the men's room. He had to inform a manager because the floor was getting so wet and slick. At that point, we heard one of the chaperone's starting to herd the kids back on the bus because "we still need to see Ash Lawn before we head to Washington." At that point, we verified that we could complete our Presidents Pass on another day and headed back to our motel to enjoy the indoor pool.
The next morning, we were at Ash Lawn right at 11:00 when it opened and found the ladies in the gift shop still recovering from the tour group the day before. Only a small number of people can tour the house at any given time, so those who were waiting to go in had hung out in the gift shop, playing harmonicas, for a couple of hours till all four busloads had finally had a chance to see the house.
Do they even give students instructions on how to behave on a school field trip anymore?