17 March 2008

Grilled Cheese and Natural Wonders

Original Artist Unknown

Overview of Carlsbad Cavern Highway by daveynin CC-BY
If you've ever been to Carlsbad Caverns, then you know that they are not located next to the town of White's City---which is even closer.) I mention this because when I taught in Carlsbad, I had students who were born and raised there and who had never visited the caverns. I'm not so sure that those kids had ever left the city limits, for that matter. I never quite wrapped my mind around the whole thing. How could a parent know that something like the caverns was less than 30 minutes away and not once in 16 years be bothered to drive their child there? I admit that it isn't one of the prettiest drives you'll ever take, but that isn't the point is it? It's what's inside that counts.
Carlsbad itself. (In fact, there's another "town"---
Hall of Giants by SamuraicatJB CC-BY-NC-ND

Anyway, one of the things we did at the school was take a few kids up to the caverns on job shadow opportunities with the rangers who worked there. We always gave priority to the kids who had never been to the caverns---especially the lifelong residents of the eponymous city. We'd drive two vanloads of kids up there early in the morning and then while they got to play junior ranger, we teachers had the run of the place. There were times when this was a great opportunity to catch up on grading and planning. Keep in mind that these were the olden days of classroom teaching---before computers simplified a lot of things. You young whippersnapper teachers today don't know what it's like to take your mimeograph stencils to write on so you can make those smelly purple copies the next day.

Carlsbad Caverns: Lunch Room by sdscott
You had three choices for lunch on those days. Choice A was to brown bag it. The second choice was the underground lunchroom. It's ~750 feet below the surface and quite the novelty. In addition to the box lunches packed in wax paper to stave off the ubiquitous dampness, there are all manner of tchotchkes available for purchase. It is a sight to behold should you ever get the chance. Option C is the ground level diner. I always chose "C." It had tables and afforded a chance to sit next to a sunny window (while the air conditioning kept you comfy). It made grading a lot more pleasant and was a visible spot for kids to find me as they moved through their day. The food was standard griddle fare---simply prepared and presented by tourist-weary waitresses. For lunch, I always had a grilled cheese sandwich, stale potato chips, a couple of pickle chips for garnish, and a watered down coke. I know how unappealing that may sound, but on those days, it tasted like a little bit of heaven.

So, on a day like yesterday when there was sunlight streaming in through my windows and I had plenty of work to keep me company, I felt like eating a grilled cheese sandwich again. As I sat by the window with my high-falutin' laptop and internet connection, I couldn't help but think of all those kids we took to the caverns and naturally wonder where they are now.

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