There are many times when tradition is not only appropriate but welcomed with open arms. Other times, it is dreaded like the plague. Having two kinds of pie at Thanksgiving dinner? Good tradition. Watching an oversized rodent every February 2nd give us a weather forecast? Stupid tradition. Game night with friends once a week? Excellent tradition. Taking all students, kindergarten through 12th grade to the fire station every year for a field trip? Very, very bad tradition.
Last week, I had the distinct honor of chaperoning our high school students to the thrilling destination of one of Taipei’s fire houses. I’m not sure how he weaseled out of it, but Chris was exempt from this adventure. I can see how one might find this location exciting and even educational for elementary school students. However, dragging a slough of teenagers to the fire house for the umpteenth time fell slightly short of pleasurable. After confiscating a set of drumsticks and a lighter (the irony was staggering), we herded into the building where we were escorted into the video center. I wish that I could provide you with some clever quips about the cheesy dialogue and ridiculous instructions that they gave us during the 30 minute video, but it was all in Mandarin so the only thing that I understood was the numbers of the steps (and I do have to admit that I was a little bit excited about understanding that much). However, the Jesse Spano Bangs and A.C. Slater pants attested to the fact that the video was filmed during the height of ridiculous early 90’s fashion. My favorite part was when they instructed you to pull out the chute that should be placed next to the window of every building, have a friend attach it to the ground and calmly slide down ten stories away from the fiery inferno. I’m sure that it would go just that smoothly.
We promptly moved on to the earthquake room. This is a room on a platform that simulates earthquakes as severe as the operator wants to make them. For a girl from Colorado, this was quite a novelty and I was actually quite amazed at the quaking floor. However, the kids who not only have been in the earthquake room a dozen times but have lived through scores of real earthquakes were less than impressed. And what do bored teenagers do? They act like lunatics. It didn’t help that they were told that you must put a silver pillow helmet on your head to survive the fake earthquake. After the fake earthquake, we continued to a room that simulated a fire. Like mice in a maze, students were asked to navigate through a series of rooms and hallways filled with the smoke you might have seen at a Cher concert. Like mice that had run the same race more than a few times, they sped through it only stopping to hide and scare or trip their friends behind them.
Just when I thought that we had reached the pinnacle of the madness, we moved into a room where they were going to teach us how to use a fire extinguisher. And, of course, it was a hands-on demonstration. How long do you think it was before the students stopped spraying the “fire” and started spraying each other? Not long. I mean, come on. You’ve “learned” how to use a fire extinguisher at least half a dozen times. You’re a teenage boy in control of a piece of equipment designed to propel water at another object. What would you do?
At last the hour and a half tour came to an end and we loaded the students back on the bus. Lessons learned about disaster survival? Find a slide to jump out of a burning building and make sure to stock plenty of pillow helmets in the house in case of an earthquake. Lessons learned about field trips? I think the fiddler would be more stable on his roof without this tradition.