When I was a kid (some will argue that I still am) I looked forward to going on class field trips. You would miss a half a day of school; get to take along a sack lunch filled with junk food and fight to sit in the back seat of the bus. In elementary school it was fun to sit in the back seat of the bus and make faces at cars that stopped behind you at a red light. In high school those that sat in the back seat usually smoked Marlboro Reds, carried knives and now are either working as bouncers or have been featured on episodes of “The First 48.”
Most field trips were educational and served a purpose. We went to the Natural History Museum, the local fire department, the zoo and the art museum. I’m not saying that being in fifth grade and looking at a Monet was exhilarating but it got me out of playing crab soccer and trying to climb the rope in gym class so I’ll gladly take the former.
There was one field trip, however, that both traumatized and confused me as to what the intended purpose was supposed to be. One day my fourth grade class piled into the yellow school buses for our trip to the Strongsville Pumping Station. If you are confused about what a pumping station is and what purpose it serves allow me to enlighten you. Sewer pumping stations (also called lift stations) are used to move wastewater to higher elevations in order allow transport by gravity flow. Sewage is fed into and stored in a sealed underground pit, commonly known as a wet well. In common speak we ventured to the spot where all the shit water from the city comes together.
I remember descending down a spiral staircase with my classmates until we were probably five stories beneath street level. There we were able to view the raw sewage flowing like we were stuck in a tropical storm in a Third World Country. My conscious mind is still scarred with the indelible tattoo of seeing cigarette butts, toilet paper, turds that looked like Lincoln Logs and a red rubber ball. Not exactly a Kodak moment or a suggested tourist attraction (although it does parallel a visit to your local water park).
Looking back I did learn two things from our field trip that day. People in my hometown don’t chew their food and I understand the need and popularity of bottled water.