A Very Pleasant Prison Trip

Last week was prom for many of the local schools, including Connor’s. For quite a while, he was thinking about going, or not going. He just wasn’t sure how much fun it would be, and while he was intrigued by it, our encouragement to go and enjoy the event simply wasn’t enough to sway the decision. I believe, but I suppose I could be wrong, it was ultimately his girlfriend of many months that pushed the decision to attend. In the end, all that was important was that he go and enjoy the experience … I mean, you only get a prom or two … so you really have to just jump in and have fun.

Prom back in my day was a far cry from what it is these days. We donned our burnt orange tuxedos, grabbed the corsage, stuffed the trunk full of beer, and sped off to pick up our dates. After a few hours of food and dancing at the local college banquet hall, we drove around town … bouncing from after-party to after-party, held at friends’ homes, rented rooms at the local Midway Motor Lodge, or deserted areas in our local parks. One of the main goals (and let’s just keep this above the line and not talk about the other goals) was to stay up all night, so that we could congregate on the shores of Lake Michigan, still wearing most of our prom finery, to watch the sun rise over the water. After a quick breakfast stop, we all went home to change into casual attire, and resumed our celebration at our local state park. It is really quite a wonder that it was allowed to happen at all, and that at least for us, it ended with nary an incident.

Prom of today is a much more orchestrated event. We assembled for the formal picture taking event promptly at 3:00 PM. From there, we hustled to the school, where at 3:30 PM the Grand March began. All of the parents and friends took their places in the gymnasium stands, and watched as the prom-goers were introduced and strolled from the far right back corner of the gym, up to a silk adorned center stage, then continued to the far left back corner of the gym before taking their seats. The entire pathway was a colorful runway. I couldn’t help but wonder who had forgotten the rose petal accoutrements. It was organized and well behaved, with an occasional pair of dark shades or Converse All-Stars to add punch to the tuxedos. The march was almost entirely couples, with only one young man making the journey alone, urged along by the approving hoots and hollers from the crowd. A few threesomes made the trip, and I couldn’t help but think of the young man’s reaction, when upon receiving the acceptance of his invitation to prom, he heard the object of his affection utter the phrase, “But will you also escort my friend who doesn’t have a date?”

Once seated, the stage was quickly bustled away and we had a relatively quick Mass. Upon completion, all of us remained seated as we watched the processional of over 300 dresses and tuxedos head out the doors and onto the awaiting seven coach buses. From that point, I would learn later from Connor, the group was whisked down to the Performing Arts Center for a full dinner and excessive amounts of dancing. Late in the evening, I believe sometime before midnight, the group was loaded up and taken to a local indoor waterpark. Connor laughed as he described the chaos involved in 150 guys trying to change in a locker room designed for 40, and reassemble their tuxedo pieces onto hangers for collection. For a few more hours, they swam, floated, ate as much pizza and cookies as they could hold, and drank soda. Shortly before 3:00 AM, they were herded back onto the buses and taken back to school for retrieval or to drive home.

When we talked about it the next day, I was curious about how much he liked it and of the logistics of such an event. Connor said he had a great time and was pretty impressed by how well everything was put together. The food was good and abundantly available. The 300+ bags of clothing the kids had brought for the waterpark had found their way to the appropriate bus, and ultimately, the correct child. He did, however, comment that they were required to “check-in” at every place they went. It was time consuming and he thought it was a bit excessive, since whenever they loaded or unloaded the caravan, teachers and chaperones lined the passageway to prevent escape. “It’s not like we could break out and go anywhere”, he said. “Hmmm”, I replied, ” … I guess it was kind of like a work-release prison trip.” He chuckled, “Yes, but a really nice prison trip!”

I shook my head as I thought about how far we’ve come since my prom, and couldn’t help but think how much praise and gratitude we should have for our school “warden” and all of the “prison guards” that invested their evening making sure everyone had a safe and wonderful experience. Connor will always look back on it as one of the best times he had, in great part because of the people that organized and orchestrated the evening. On behalf of prom parents around the country, our heartfelt thanks to all of you.

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2 Responses to A Very Pleasant Prison Trip

  1. dave racine says:

    The more things change, the more the stay the same. By that, I mean, Converse All-Stars will ALWAYS be a good way to add punch to the tuxedo. Great story.

    • jimhoefflin says:

      Thanks Dave! Of course, when I talk of burnt orange tuxedos back in the day … I was wearing classic black back. It was the other nerds in orange. 🙂

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