Matthew Keenan

No school on parade day? What students really learned that day, KC Star October 2015

by on Nov.26, 2015, under Kansas City Star columns

Everyone is still talking about the Royals parade. It seems the only people complaining are those upset that school was canceled. Hordes of school districts gave everyone the day off. One letter to the editor last week expressed it this way: “With all the pressure on teachers and students to perform better, did they really need a day off for no real reason? I don’t think that sends the right message.”

Actually I do think it sends the right message. And here is why: A day at the Royals parade and rally gave every kid in the city a semester’s worth of practical, common sense life lessons. Much more than if they were stuck in geometry class learning about polygons.

So I count at least seven critical life skills imparted to students that day.

First: Your phone is worthless. Manage. For the better part of the day, cell phones had no signal. The towers were overwhelmed, and, as one fan noted with a sign, it was cell service like it was 1985. And for every high school kid, life as they knew it screeched to a halt. Nothing important to them had value. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Tinder, texting: all gone.

Thousands of dudes and iPhone lovers struggled to function in a new reality. Somewhere out there was Buffy in fits of frustration trying to cope this way:

▪ “Google what do I do with no signal. GOOGLE PLEASE RESPOND!”

▪ “OMG Siri I have an iPhone S — THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING!!!”

▪ “Siri please tell me: who is Drew Butera? I need to know!”

▪ “Siri: where can I stand to find a signal?”

▪ “Google, help me please. I’ve never been so lonely.”

This forced kids to do something new, like:

▪ Learn to walk with their heads up and eyes forward.

▪ Talk to people.

▪ Ask for directions.

▪ Remember actual phone numbers.

▪ Recall intersections where they parked their car.

▪ Stop clutching their phones like a life alert button.

Second. A lesson in the birds and the bees. We were standing at the corner of Pershing and Grand. While waiting for the parade to start we heard a call for a medic that made its way up the parade route where the police were working. Eventually the police arrived and lady near us — a nurse — went to assist. When she returned to her family she told us: “A woman over there is in labor.”

What a teachable moment for so many dudes nearby. With no ambulance and no hope one could ever arrive in less than two days, watching a baby delivered just might be the best form of birth control for the younger set. “OMG Dude! That’s sooo gross. Get me out of here.” But they couldn’t move. No one was moving. It was a mosh pit of 800,000 people. Make that 800,001. I can only assume. It was too chaotic to know for sure what really happened.

Third. Emergency preparedness. News stories reported that emergency personnel had treated 25 people for various medical ailments. But there were hundreds, maybe thousands who had no hope of getting medical professionals. Without phone service dudes were denied the chance to yell, “Anyone know the number to 911?” Instead they had to actually, well, do something. Maybe — just maybe — there was a high school kid out there who would say, “Can I help you?” Dream further that young man then said, “Ma’am you will be OK. I’m an Eagle Scout and know CPR and how to treat heat stroke. I will take care of you. Things will be OK.”

OK. Dream over. That Eagle Scout was helping a lady cross the street in Brookside.

Fourth. Search and rescue. When the championship rally was over they started to recite the names of the kids at the podium who were separated from their parents. One news report said there were eight kids displaced. Policeman to mother: What was he wearing? “Blue.” “Any other distinguishing feature?” “Yes!” “A blue hat!”

Next time, dress up in something no one else would dare wear: a Chiefs jersey.

Fifth. Advance planning. One story reported that many fans didn’t watch the parade from the ground but instead took to elevated vantage points. An expert from the city counted 80,000 people watching the parade this way, noting that some were in trees. From our viewpoint, the best views were in the trees. Kids who didn’t plan ahead looked up admiringly at those perched high above and thought, “That could be me.”

Yes, if you planned ahead, got organized and had a clue. Yes, your spot would be one in a thousand and maybe you would learn that a real tweet is what’s coming from that bird perched above you. But no you screwed around, got to the parade late and now are stuck behind Chris Young’s 7-foot-tall brother. Your photos looked like these. Sorry dude.

Sixth. Stop gulping Red Bull and Full Throttle. This is an important lesson in the word “diuretic” and how the kidneys function. You drink, you have to go. You drink things loaded with caffeine and you REALLY HAVE TO GO. By my count there was one Porta Potty for every 5,000 fans. And no place to sneak away. So you had to act like an adult and wait in line. Guess what — you just missed Hosmer and Moose! Sorry dude.

Seventh: Survival mode. The parade was a glimpse into the future and offered threads of what life would be like in an apocalypse. Think no technology, no water, no food, no shade and drivers dumping cars along the interstate. This was a real life episode in the garbage kids watch, like “The Walking Dead,” “Fear The Walking Dead,” and “The Walking Dead Who Actually Aren’t Dead Because They are Walking.” The parade is starting and you are stuck a mile away. Sorry dude.

Today the world is a better place now that kids received an important tutorial on that day. Here’s to another parade next year. Look for me in the trees.

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