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Causing Trouble on Church Trips

By Karen Austin

Photo by Shelby L. Bell via Creative Commons

It was probably the summer of 1977.  Our ward organized a trip from Cypress, California to Manti, Utah so that the youth could attend a church pageant.

As the years have worn on, I don’t remember much about the pageant, but I do remember the police tailing our bus from San Bernardino to Anaheim because of my misguided attempt to impress a boy.

Our youth leaders very kindly organized a trip for the youth 14 to 18 so that we could watch pageant scenes depicting events from early Church history as well as scenes from the Book of Mormon.

I remember feeling impressed by the scale of the performance and the size of the crowds. But I recall more vividly my attempts to catch the eye of a young man named Greg who was often the center of attention, particularly with the young women.

He wasn’t really a bad kid, but he possessed a devil-may-care attitude. He was also handsome, witty, and known to bend the rules at church and at our high school. His disregard for rules got him banned from the school’s computer lab. Rumor had it that he kept a map of the most ideal make out locations in the church meetinghouse.

Heathcliff, Lord Byron and John Willowby he certainly was not. But he was the closest thing to the bad boy stereotype that ever existed for me outside of a library book.

I was the bookworm type and quite awkward. I wore glasses and had braces. I frequently was so lost in thought that I forgot to comb my hair. No one ever asked me to a school dance. I was the funny sidekick, the one who helped boys with their homework. I wasn’t their romantic interest. I never really flirted with anyone before. If I talked with boys, I was making bad puns about current events, history, politics, and literature. The topics of conversation on this church trip were significantly more casual. I wasn’t sure how banter with a larger group of teens who were chatting in the back of our bus as we were heading home through the Nevada desert.

We had recently crossed the border into California when the group noticed a white pick-up truck with two tough looking occupants in the front seat. The group of teens started joking around, “What if we hit the truck with something?” People started rummaging around in their sack lunches.

Thinking that this feat of strength would surely impress Greg, I volunteered to take someone’s Hostess chocolate turnover and aim it at the truck.

I leaned out the window at the back of the bus and hurled a portion of the flaky, gooey treat.

It’s important to note that I was the type who was picked last for team sports and the type who skipped gym to escape the humiliation of displaying my poor eye-hand coordination in front of my peers. When that bit of turnover hit the truck’s windshield, I felt a mixture of shock, pride, and humiliation.

The group cheered, but that wasn’t the end of the event. For the next hour, the truck followed our bus. Because their windows were open, the occupants had hair that whipped around as they yelled at us. They both wore tank tops that revealed their impressive biceps that fueled their shaking their fists. I shrunk down into my seat. A couple of the chaperones came back to ask what happened. Since there is no honor among thieves–or vandals–I was quickly identified as the culprit.

When we hit greater congestion of Anaheim, the white truck saw a police car and waved it down. The bus, truck, and police cruiser pulled over to the side of I-91. The bus driver, who was a member of our church, grabbed a bottle of spray cleaner and a rag. He marched over to the truck and cleaned off the smear of chocolate filling from the windshield as the stocky, red faced women yelled directly into his face. I don’t know the specifics of the conversation, but I was thankfully never removed from the bus, never stuffed in the back of the cruiser.

When my mother found out, I was grounded for two weeks. The next Sunday, I had to meet with the bishop for a stern lecture. And Greg? Well, he was more drawn to dewy-eyed ingenues and not with young women who tried to match his bad boy vibe. Bonnie and Clyde we were not destined to be. And so ended my brief life of crime.

About Karen Austin

After living in UT, HI, CA, VA, DC, WI, WV & KS, Karen now lives in Newburgh, IN with her husband and two children. She's been a BYU writing tutor, an English teacher, technical writer, director of academic support services, and aging studies adjunct. She's reinventing herself--again. New role still pending, but mature athlete, thrift store fashionista, and court jester are strong candidates. She maintains the blog The Generation Above Me.

4 thoughts on “Causing Trouble on Church Trips”

  1. Greg didn't know what he was missing.

    If Thelma and Louise hadn't already done it, I'd suggest you and I teaming up to renew lives of crime … but with better food than chocolate turnovers.

  2. Ardis: Wouldn't it be fun to be rowdy road trippers together. Yes, we would snack on European candy (too delicious to toss out the window) and display discriminating taste in clothing, cars, and books as well.


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