by Matt Benoit
On June 17, I—along with roughly 200 of my peers—will walk across a stage in an oversized gown, try very hard not to trip, and receive a diploma that proves I officially graduated from Whatcom Community College.
And if there’s one thing about this upcoming milestone that I’m happiest about, it is the fact there won’t be a class graduation trip (unless we all decide to fall over on stage at the commencement). I am happy about this because my personal history of class graduation trips is not particularly memorable.
In fact, I did not even participate in my high school graduation trip, because not only did each student have to contribute over $100 towards it, but they refused to tell us where we’d be going on the trip until it occurred.
Thus, I decided to take the safe route and not go, just in case the “trip” turned out to be a blind-folded ride on a non-descript charter bus, deep into the middle of a forest, where students would be forced to dig their own graves before being executed by masked henchmen from the Bellingham School District:
MASKED HENCHMAN: Dig faster! Those SAT scores won’t do you any good now, will they? Hahahahaha!
Fortunately, though, it only turned out to be an all-night bus trip down to Seattle, to Gameworks for video games and crappy food, with additional visits to more crappy places nearby, one of which featured henna tattoos.
This is a mighty long ways from the disgustingly extravagant celebrations you see on television channels like MTV, where they have “reality” shows like “My Big Fat Graduation Trip” and “I’m Having the Most Kick-Ass Grad Trip Ever Because My Parents Are More Loaded Than a Goodtime Guido.”
These shows feature the type of grad trip where a chartered yacht or private jet (sometimes both) is usually involved, where passports and visas are required, and where—instead of getting knocked up the old fashioned way—the class tramps can have their first children by adopting babies from zones of sociopolitical upheaval.
Even people I know that graduated from high school decades ago had better high school grad trips than the one offered to me. My dad’s friend, who went to school in the Seattle area in the 1960s, got to see Paul Revere and the Raiders, in their heyday, perform a private concert for his class on a chartered boat.
But I suppose I shouldn’t whine too much, because when I graduated from the eighth grade at a private Christian school, we had a killer graduation trip.
That’s because we all went to Canada to a classmate’s parents’ cabin, and we—and I use this last “we” loosely, as in “basically everybody except me”—proceeded to whitewater-raft the Chilliwack River. This river, which takes its name from a Native American term meaning “Cold and Crazy,” has some pretty intense rapids.
Sadly, I ended up being a wuss, begging off on participating in the rafting for two main reasons: 1) I can’t swim, and 2) While being briefed on safety instructions, our class was repeatedly informed that our heads could “pop off like daisies” if things went terribly wrong.
It was a mostly gray, rainy day. After having lunch at the rafting company’s HQ, we piled into a school bus and drove up-river to where we’d begin this most adrenaline-pumping activity.
The one rafting guide who spoke to us enforced the idea of danger, intensely saying we’d probably be safe but that any number of bad things could happen to us, including falling out of the raft, falling out of the raft and getting thrown into a large rock, and falling out of the raft and getting sucked under a bunch of snagged trees and, subsequently, drowning.
“I don’t do this to scare you,” he said, “but your head could pop off like a daisy.” He seemed to be obsessed about the fact that our heads could become separated from our bodies, even in situations where our heads were not even involved.
Although I, in my wet-suit and life vest and water-soaked glasses, got into a raft and lived hardcore for approximately 45 seconds, I quickly got back out and watched the rest of my classmates float downstream, out of sight.
And so while they got to enjoy the thrilling rush of white water and the distinct possibility of decapitation, I and another student (who couldn’t raft because he’d broken his arm several weeks prior after being catapulted off a soccer goal at recess) got back on the school bus for the lonely ride back to base camp.
Afterwards, of course, some of my classmates (none of whom suffered decapitation or other bodily harm) regarded me with stares suggesting I was a total loser for not going (which upon receiving, made me think decapitation would have been preferable).
Fortunately, though, we then returned to the cabin of our classmate and, because it was raining, stayed inside and watched movies, chief among them “Die Another Day.”
Because what’s better for graduating Christian school students than watching James Bond have aggressive sex with Halle Berry?
So, as you can see, unless I really wanted a shot at redemption, no graduation journey is necessary for me. And on June 17, when I walk across that stage to receive my diploma, I will take extra precautions so as not to trip.
After all, I wouldn’t want my head to pop off like a daisy.