I am insanely excited about the Les Miserables movie coming out in December. And it's like the filmmakers were worried that I wouldn't go so see it anyway so they had to go and cast Russell Crowe as Javert. Sold. Sold to the crazy platypus down front.
Anyway, after bugging my father-in-law, "So, Les Miz is going to be our Christmas movie, right? Right, right right, rightrightrightright?" I got to thinking about my first Les Miz theater experience. Talk about a serious injury inflicted. Perhaps you would like to hear the tale?
I think I was a sophomore and my high school had purchased a block of tickets and was sponsoring a trip to see a performance at the Sacramento Community Center. I bought a ticket with my Christmas money and my friend Brian and I went with the other 30 or so students from school.
There was excitement in the air as we boarded the yellow school bus which was to carry us all to the venue. I'd never been to see a professional theater performance and I'm sure this was the case for many of the others. Looking back on it, it seems like Brian and I were maybe a year or two younger than all the other kids on the bus. Not just because we didn't really know anyone else but I remember that we were... well, obnoxious. I don't remember exactly what we were doing or how we were behaving (just loud and giggly, I'm sure) but I distinctly remember getting a lot of dirty looks from the upperclassmen and thinking, "We are REALLY obnoxious." Not that we were inspired to tone it down at all. Actually, we probably just got more amped up every time we saw someone look down his nose and whisper, "They are really immature." So, by the time we got to the community center, an hour later, everyone was probably really glad to be rid of us.
The bus driver pulled up and dropped the group off in the roundabout in front of the building. Mr. Teacher instructed us to meet in the EXACT SAME SPOT after the performance. We went inside and joined the throngs of theatergoers as we climbed the stairs (and stairs and stairs and stairs) to find our seats. Every though we were as far back as one could possibly get in the auditorium, we were awed by the performance and generally had a great time.
After the show, Brian and I wandered around in the lobby among all the vendors selling Les Miz programs, mugs, hats, pins, and posters. It took us a long time to decide which priceless trinket we would purchase to commemorate our monumental evening. (We both ended up with posters, of course. I wish someone would have just told us to buy a dang poster to begin with.)
It wasn't long after that that the vendors began to take their booths down and we figured we should go outside to meet up with the group. After getting a bit turned around in the building we managed to find the correct exit and stepped out into the frosty midnight air.
The frosty deserted midnight air.
A single limousine glided silently out of the roundabout and we were completely alone. No bus waiting. No group of high school students. No teachers. Not even a single other theater patron. Just Brian and Andrea. Standing on the steps. Alone.
We looked at each other. And then back at the dark street. And at each other again.
"Uh-oh," Brian whispered.
"I think they left us," I croaked.
"They... it's a school trip... they can't just leave us... can they?"
What Brian didn't know was that I already had a track record of being left behind after field trips. When I was in grade school, the classes used to take regular walking field trips to the local community college for shows and concerts. At one such show, the children in the audience were invited to come up on stage after the play and meet the actors. I did and my class left without me. I had to walk back to school with a class of first-graders and be humiliated by my own teacher when I returned to a classroom full of my peers who were all studiously working on their math problems. "Nice of you to join us, Ranger," he sneered. (He knew I hated being called by my last name.)
So yes. It was not only probable that our group had left without us, based on past experience, it was almost certain.
We stood in silence for a few minutes. Then Brian piped up. "We could, uh... call a cab, I guess. How much money do you have?"
Being two kids from Pollock Pines, neither of us had the slightest idea how much a 60-mile cab ride would cost. Honestly, neither of us even knew how to even call a cab in the first place. Not that we had the option to do so. The theater was now locked up and there were no payphones in sight.
"I don't have any money left. I guess we'll have to find a phone and call one of our parents. Yours or mine?"
"Mine will be really, really mad. It's the middle of the night."
"Mine too. Also, I don't even know where we are. We're in downtown Sacramento. At a convention center of some kind. What are we supposed to tell them? Just look at all the convention centers and theaters in Sacramento until you find us standing out front?"
"Well, if we can get ahold of them, they could call the school and find out where we are."
"Who are they going to call? It's the middle of the night! They'd have to call an emergency number or something!"
"This is an emergency! And it's the school's fault! THEY JUST LEFT US HERE!"
We stared in silence a while longer. "This is Sacramento," I offered helpfully. "Maybe there's a homeless shelter we could stay at until morning?"
Suddenly, the irritated voice of a teacher rang across the street. "There you two are! Finally! It's about time!"
"About time for what?" Brian asked snarkily. "We are right here. Waiting. Exactly where you told us to wait. Where. Is. Everyone?"
"The bus is parked a couple of blocks away. We realized the two of you were missing because you were so rowdy on the drive down," he said reproachfully. "I had to come back looking for you." He sounded like he thought he'd done us a favor.
"Hold on, every single other student in our group just happened to know that the bus was parked somewhere other than was agreed and just happened to find it? In the dark. At midnight."
Mr. Teacher averted his eyes. "You're lucky we figured out you were missing."
"Really? How far up the road did you get before you realized you were missing two kids? Because we've been standing here a long time trying to figure out how to get home." Brian wasn't letting him slide.
Mr. Teacher gave a let's-just-put-this-thing-behind-us chuckle. "Well, no harm done! Let's get on home!" He led us back to the bus, which was parked several blocks away. We never could have found it even if we knew exactly where it was.
The other students glared at us as we boarded. Maybe they were annoyed at having to return for us. Maybe they were expecting a repeat of our obnoxious behavior on the way back. They didn't realize that it was only because we had made such an impression on the way down that someone even noticed we were missing on the way back.
Otherwise we would have had a date with the local homeless shelter.