Another one to check off my bucket-list. I was “invited” to go on a field trip with Hanna’s grade 8 class to go “caving” or “spelunking” as everyone who did the morning crossword wanted me to call it.
I always sign the “yes” portion of “would you like to volunteer” on the permission form because as a stay-at-home Mom, it’s part of my job description; own a mini-van and never let the engine rest long enough to cool and agree to go on every school field trip.
As I write this, still encased in stone, van idling in the driveway, I think I can honestly say, I’ve certainly tried to make it to as many trips as I could and caving, or what’s that other fancy word I’ll pretend I use regularly again? Right—spatula-ing, wasn’t going to intimate me.
For starters, I’m not claustrophobic so there was no reason to worry. I’m NOT claustrophobic but I did learn I have a pretty major fear of small, confined, dark, rocky spaces. Huh.
I realized early on, I probably was never going to see my family again but determined that if I had been left alone to spelunk, I would have shouted some expletives and just fainted in a pool of my own sweat and tears. But would you believe shouting and swearing were both on the list of things I signed on the permission form, promising I wouldn’t do?
For inexperienced sprinklers, the thing you have to get your head around (sorry, you won’t be able to move your head) is people describe caving as crawling on the ground with a flashlight, finding your way to freedom and coming out shaken but mostly alive. The small detail they leave out is that while smirking, the walls of the cave are actually only about 1mm above your head. I envisioned (erroneously) a cave where we crawled, military style on our elbows across the dirt but the ceilings would soar 40-50 feet above and there would be ceiling fans and chandeliers to make the experience comfortable. I think I even wondered beforehand what the point of crawling on the ground was when caves were sculpted to banquet hall height, with carvings of celebrities and their adopted children.
My dining room has 12 foot ceilings. My cave had 1 foot ceilings (sometimes) made of jagged rocks.
And it’s not easy to pretend to be calm when surrounded by 20-22 (I was in charge of the head count) 13-14 year old kids who aren’t afraid of anything except a lunch bag without a good dessert.
I had to shimmy on my elbows, helmet bashing against the rocks (I learned later, I had been wearing it backwards which I’m going to blame for everything that went wrong in there) and make rather ridiculous small talk to keep my fellow Spock-ers (live long and prosper) calm.
Like any good leader, scared out of her mind, I said things like, “Well isn’t this rock wedged in between my two best ribs an interesting opportunity,” and I soldiered on.
“Well that’s interesting. Of course humans can fit through that slit between two rocks. We should all be so lucky to try this.”
“Yep, that was my knee cap sliding ever-so-slightly out of alignment by a strategically placed bolder. Think of how great this is going to feel if I ever make it out of here and have the opportunity to pop it back into place.”
“Oh, that rock is jabbing my pelvis rather violently. That really is a first.”
Then I just smiled. Of course no one could see me because it was pitch black (see: I’m not claustrophobic) but I used it as a coping mechanism while jamming both legs up under my armpits and thought of how closely I resembled a frog right now but a really cool frog who carries a flashlight and wears a backwards helmet.
In case you are worried, all chaperones and 17 kids were accounted for by the end of the spritzing and I flushed that draft of my bucket-list down the toilet.
p.s. photo is a likeness but you get the idea. That’s exactly what it looked like.