The movie and TV tour lasted less than two hours meaning we still had plenty of time to kill. Elise and Mrs. V (mostly Mrs. V) decided it was time to allow the kids some free time to shop. We made our way to Rockefeller Center where we debarked then listened to Mrs. V’s rules.
Rule 1: Groups of eight to ten kids per adult.
Rule 2: Kids are not to leave their groups and must stay within sight of their adult chaperones.
Rule 3: You have ninety minutes to shop. You can go to one store down 5th Avenue or shop the several stores in the immediate area. Whichever you choose, you must be back in ninety minutes.
Maggie and Elaine already had their group gathered together. Their destination was a store we passed on 5th Avenue. I didn’t dissuade them but when I heard “5th Avenue” all I could see were dollar signs and lot of them.
The girls led the way down the street to 5th Avenue then turned right and walked two more blocks to their destination. The store they so desperately had to go to was a little hole-in-the-wall place that I couldn’t believe they noticed from the bus. I held the door and counted each of my charges to make sure we hadn’t lost anyone. So far, so good.
The kids quickly dispersed through the store. I tried to keep an eye on them but it wasn’t possible. I looked around at some of the clothes and quickly realized that I was not the target shopper so I just meandered around trying to keep an eye on the kids.
I noticed that Collin was acting a little suspicious as he spent as much time watching me as I did him. Remembering how I was at that age I decided it was best to position myself where I could see the door. I was starting to feel good about my strategy when Collin walked to the store entrance, looked back at me with a look of defiance, and then walked out.
I bolted for the door but Collin was gone by the time I was outside. I was livid. Thoughts of explaining the loss of Collin to Mrs. V and then to his parents raced through my head.
I went back inside to let Maggie know what happened. She was pissed but not surprised. I told her she could find me outside guarding the door and keeping an eye out for Collin.
A few minutes after stationing myself outside, Jamie exited the store. He stopped in his tracks when he saw me leaning on a street pole.
“Whatcha up to?” I asked him with an air of suspicion.
“Uhh, I’m going to go to the store on the corner to get some gum,” Jamie answered.
“Yeah. Just gonna get some gum.”
“You’re going to walk straight to that door,” I said while pointing at the door, “walk inside, buy a pack of gum, then come straight back?”
“You remember Mrs. V’s rules? I’m okay with you going into that store, but I’m gonna watch you the whole way.”
“Okay,” Jamie said as he walked off.
I kept my eye on him. He looked back at me once before he reached the store. He looked back again from the door then went right around the corner to who knows where.
I could have killed the little fucker.
Pretty soon Maggie and Elaine came outside, finding me pacing back and forth like a caged animal. “Uh oh. What’s wrong?” they both asked.
“Jamie just walked off,” I explained. “He told me he was going to that store to get some gum but walked right around the corner while I watched.”
Maggie wasn’t surprised. “He’ll be back soon,” she said. “That’s just how he is.”
The rest of the kids in the store came outside to head back to the bus. Collin was still God Knows Where. Within another few minutes Jamie came back around the corner looking like he didn’t have a care in the world – until he caught sight of me. He tried to sneak into the back of the group, hunkering down so that I wouldn’t see him. It didn’t work.
I approached him then asked him if he found his favorite flavor of gum.
“I’m sorry,” was all he said.
“Don’t let it happen again,” I scolded.
Our group headed back to Rockefeller Center still missing Collin. I could only hope that he made it back okay. I was still trying to figure out how to let Mrs. V and Collin’s parents know that he was now lost on the streets of New York and might be part of an underground slave trade.
When we arrived I went to Mrs. V to let her know what had happened. I was fully expecting to get a dressing down from her. Instead, she told me she already knew about it. Collin had come straight back to the main group and she had already given him the dressing down that I expected to get. “I told him he owes you an apology,” she finished as she signaled for Collin to come over to us.
Collin came over with his head down and offered his apology.
I wanted to throttle him, but I was relieved that he was back and okay and not hooked on whatever drugs were popular at the moment.
Mostly, I was relieved that I didn’t incur the wrath of Mrs. V.