Saturday, May 19, 2007


I looked death in the eye last week and lived to tell about it. Was it white water rafting? No...hiking in the Great Smokey Mountains under the watchful eyes of the black bears? No. It was at the hand of Norman!

Boarding a 47 passenger coach implicitly implies that the driver is both physically capable and mentally sane. Has the job market declined so much that these expectations have been waived? One hopes that the driver behind the 50 ton mass transit unit has a clue in his head.
There were certain signs along the 8 hour drive that normal mental capacities may have been diminished with Norman!

But I'm an optimist and hope that it's just my imagination and the scared driver act is just a bad comedy shtick.

To get to our cabin in the Great Smokey Mountains-notice mountain-in the title, the map required that we follow the road UP the mountain to get to the cabin. The problem is Norman! and his big bus. Norman!

and his big bus did not want to go up the big mountain.

I happened to be sitting in the very front seat, so I got to hear his every comment. I had a great view of the one lane road, the switchbacks and the valleys below where any minute I was going to plummet to my death.

At one point we were driving so closely to the edge, I swore the tree branches were going to come through the window and gouge out my eyes. In a preemptive measure, I contemplated doing the gouging myself so I wouldn't have to suffer the visual nightmare but all I could find was a dull pencil and a tube of lipstick. One mustn't waste lipstick.

Here's a list of things you don't want to hear from your bus driver as you begin the treacherous drive to the top of a mountain:

1. "You've got to be kidding!" as he slams on the brakes and throws his hands up in the air in a feeble protest.

2. "This bus is not going on that road." Um, it's the ONLY road.

3. "Nooo. No. No Way!" -Somebody let me of this bus and I'll walk!

4. "Oh, Lord." I said my prayers and prepared to meet my Maker.

With every hairpin turn he got more nervous and I got more green. My friend sitting next to me nearly passed out in fright. And she was in the Air Force!

And then I heard this:

5. "Are you sure I can make that turn or is a wheel going to drop off?" Oh, did I fail to mention that due to a previous busing accident, Norman!
has only eight working fingers? All ten digits should be required to maneuver an eighteen inch steering wheel. The same wheel that he was in no hurry to turn away from the gorge of eternal peril. I think he suffered from no depth perception. Perhaps that's why we got a discounted bus rate?

6. "There's no margin for error here." Stating the obvious in a crisis situation is a sign of weakness, according to recent studies.

Meanwhile, the teens squealed like their little immortal souls were on a roller coaster.

7. "I fretted all night about coming up this mountain. It's my first time to drive up a mountain." Someone revive me when it's over.

The 4 mile trail to the cabin took almost 20 minutes. 20 minutes of being in the ninth circle of HELL. The edge of the road and the wheels on the bus seemed to converge so that any minute I was sure we going to go rolling off the road into death valley below where Satan himself was beckoning.

Of course, teenagers are oblivious to such perils and watched in schadenfreude amusement as we turned green with horrifying-wet your pants-fear.

Next time I chaperon a class trip, definitely staying at sea level.

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