Early in June, 100 senior students from a New York Yeshiva about to set off on a three-day trip to Atlanta that was to include a rafting excursion, and a visit to a Six Flags theme park, were booted from a plane at LaGuardia airport along with their chaperones when they refused to put away their electronic devices.
They were re-routed on other planes, some taking 12 hours longer to reach their destination going as far out of their way as Milwaukee,Wisconsin.
By contrast, on a recent Thursday morning, a kindergarten class and I arrived simultaneously at the public library though from different directions.
I approached up the ramp from the west; the class of some 25 youngsters streamed along the front of the building from the east, orderly as freight cars on a train track.
One teacher, the engineer, led the way and called out the orders. Another teacher served as brakeman, bringing up the caboose.
At the order to halt, the kids bunched like freight cars on a spur line when brakes are suddenly applied.
In a clear, loud voice typical of teachers spelling out the rules so later no one can whine, “But I didn’t hear you”, the engineer turned to look her charges in the eye and began a lengthy inventory of behaviour do’s and don’ts ruling this public outing.
“Use your inside voices,” I heard her say before the sliding door closed behind me as I marched into the library.
I greeted the lone librarian on duty, stacked my returns on the counter, and took in the scene – one patron peering at a computer screen. Several people strolling the stacks.
At long last, after months, no Venture employee adding finishing touches to the elevator installed for the convenience of anyone visiting the art gallery in the basement. No crickets chirping. Not even Muzak, perhaps the only place in town spared constant background music.
The only noticeable sound was the teacher who could be heard still instructing her students lined up outside under the eaves.
Then a centipede of eager little ones tramped in, dutifully following the lead teacher on into the children’s area. They hugged the right wall leaving plenty of space for others to enter at the same time.
One who did so was an elderly woman of about my age. She and I exchanged smiles as we watched this orderly entrance.
“And we had trouble controlling two,” I said.
Without a word, a poke, a push, or further direction, the kids removed their jackets and piled them on a bench before fanning out to sample the goodies.
Thursday mornings the children’s librarian presents story time, which may include a puppet show or other lively activities for the kids’ entertainment. These kids had clear notions of the fun ahead.
Chances are good before they left the library they would spend some minutes observing Maxine, the rosy-haired tarantula who has occupied a see-through cage on the front desk for some eight or more years.
She feeds on crickets, whose cheery chirping enlivens the atmosphere on most of my visits, as they scamper over bark bedding or peek over logs like Daniel Boones hiding from marauding varmints. Many kids write little notes to Maxine; Maxine replies in precise printing probably identical to that of the children’s librarian.
I couldn’t help wondering, what happens after the orderly days of elementary school that turns some kids into delinquents who show up in daily RCMP reports? Teenagers that break and enter; assault parents, guardians, even cops; or must be booted from airplanes because they refuse to obey safety rules?