(Reading on Facebook?  Stop now!  It’ll look a LOT prettier if you click on:  https://www.xanga.com/serenitymine )

It happens every year.  We pile 300 students onto several buses, drive them to the nearest Swiss city (Basel), and set them loose on the streets with just a handful of guidelines:

– Travel in groups of three or more.
– Meet at 7:30 at the bumpercars.
– Don’t drink, smoke, lie, cheat, steal, swear, torture cats or jump off any bridges.
– If you mess up, we’ll substitute bumper-heads for bumpercars and you’ll see more stars than you wanted to on this lovely, crisp autumn evening!

Basel is a magical city, especially by night.

But the magic gets somewhat tempered when 300 screaming Americans converge at the bumpercars at a prescribed time and turn the already violent ride into mass pandemonium!

Some of our students like to ride around in close proximity and enjoy the romance of the occasion (go figure), but others, like the Storch dorm-mom, take the event a bit more seriously!  And when ramming her car into another car doesn’t satisfy her need to vent, screaming while she rams seems to do a better job of it!

Mostly, it’s a great opportunity for friends of all ages to terrify each other:

Getting even feels so good–especially when one thinks ahead and packs additional weapons:

The event brings out the sociopath in the most friendly of our staff members, as exemplified by Michelle Young, out to single-handedly reduce the population of HBR (check out the look on her face!):

The emotions of other (saner) staff members run the gamut from terror…

…to sadistic glee…

…to wistfulness (it was sadly the Bateman’s last attendance at BFA’s bump-the-daylights-out-of-friend-and-foe event).


As for me, I was quite content to stand on the sidelines with my camera overheating, watching people (my favorite sport) and not-so-fondly remembering my last and ONLY bumpercar ride.  I was about 12 and had saved up enough cash and courage to try my hand at the ride that was reputed to be grand fun.  I got into my bumpercar, inserted my token, turned the wheel–and got rammed by a stranger who apparently had it out for me–maybe he didn’t like my purple corderoys…and I can’t blame him, as I was a dismal dresser at that age.  Purple corderoys, rampant freckles, nerd hair and a big old retainer: I was a sociopath-magnet.  This particular sociopath hit me so hard that I slammed into the steering wheel with my chest and got the wind knocked out of me.  Fast-forward to two bumpercar-workers lifting me out of my car and carrying me to the side of the “ring” where they deposited me on the cold metallic floor and WALKED AWAY!  I would have yelled, “Hey!  Wait!  I can’t breathe!  What if I DIE???” but lack of breath tends to have a direct effect on one’s ability to speak.  So I lay there, utterly humiliated, until my lungs filled with air again–then slunk home with my pride battered and bruised.  Lesson learned from the experience?  NEVER AGAIN!

Two final pictures:  One of Kingsley doing his best “Different Strokes” impression (“Whatchou talkin’ about, woman?”) and one of the fantastic ferris wheel that towers over the city.  I’m going to ride it again some day.  Just like I’m going to go to Venice again some day.  But both journeys require a certain kind of company (gender-specific), so I might be clambering onto the wheel with a walker by the time it actually happens…



  1. OH!!! I SEE now why I didn’t get an invite to ride the big wheel widcha! You are waiting for a better offer. Ok, fine then!

  2. Love the perspectives on the night… Can I link directly to your site from BFAcademy.com? It would make for more entertainment than my usual photo albums of school events. Also, on our computers, the posts are coming out reeeaaaally wide (have to do ping-pong reading with scroll bar left and right), probably caused by the extra-wide photo 4 posts ago. Maybe it’ll fix itself when that post moves to the next page.

  3. PS – Your writing about old mishaps (bumper-cars) and subsequent avoidance reminded me to again invite you to overcome fear by an experience  that would undoubtedly become the subject of a future creative and humorous post:  160-200kph on the back of a motorcycle on the Autobahn… “Air Therapy”.

  4. PPS – Nice thing about my “Air Therapy” is that you don’t really have to “hang on”, which would be a tad awkward with anyone but Mama-G… Even she normally just leans back on her pillow against the rear luggage and holds on to some metal bars at her side… Overall, felt fairly stable the other day even at 180kph (my record speed with her along). 

  5. oh michele. you crack me up. i was really sad that i missed herbstmesse. it was always one of my favorites…..*sigh* good times.

  6. Hey Michele, I just started reading your book “Shards of Shell” and so far it is amazing! It makes me miss Germany so much though, reading about all the familiar places. I hope you are doing well. Anyway, I’m keeping quite busy with school and work and married life.

  7. actually, that sounds like MY first bumper car ride.  except that i stumbled over to the side instead of being carried and i was laughing.  silly sociopaths.

    have you ever heard of the short story contest that requires the entrees to be exactly fifty-five words long?  i read some of them:  in short, astounding.  i thought it would make a great addition to your creative writing “prose” curriculum.  talk about your excersize in brevity…

    i miss the bfa.  i really do.  but, contrary to your prediction, i didn’t cry (it was close, though.)

    is brandon in your choir class?


  8. I wanted to be there so bad.

  9. Hey, I had purple corderoys in 6th grade and they were HOTT! I’m very offended.

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