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Class trip

04/20/07 12:00AM By Casey Huling
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(HOST) This is the time of year when many schools sponsor class trips, and commentator Casey Huling has been remembering a trip he took as a junior in High School.

(HULING) Fifteen years ago, my friend Noah and I went on a high school exchange trip to Paris. Our teacher allowed us a certain amount of freedom to explore on our own. We bypassed most tourist areas and instead sought out sections of the city where Parisians went about their daily routines, seemingly unaware of two kids from Vermont. After a day of exploring we'd return from our excursions at the prearranged meeting time, thinking nothing of the hours we'd been separated from our group, out of contact and on our own. Calling home wasn't much different. Over the course of the two-week trip I think we only called home once or twice.

So it wasn't without a certain sense of irony that I recently received an instant message on my computer from Noah, who was on business, in Paris. Knowing that I'd been back to Paris myself on a few occasions, and seeing that I was available online to chat, he sent me a message asking for a restaurant recommendation. Here I was, sitting in a middle school in Vermont, waiting for my next group of students to arrive after break-time, and my friend was going to be taking himself out to dinner, in Paris.

I managed to set my jealousy aside momentarily and replied that I'd need to get back to him after class. I was also a little fuzzy on the directions to the place I had in mind, so I needed a few minutes on Google as well. Within an hour, my class was over and I'd tracked down the restaurant. It happened to be in one of neighborhoods we explored as high school juniors. I sent Noah an instant message with the directions and a recommendation to try the steak tartare.

It's at times like this that I openly embrace the technology that we have available today. I often hear people lament the loss of personal contact to email, instant messaging, and cell phone text messaging. But while I don't feel that these forms of communication can ever replace the power of a phone call or face-to-face encounter, I do think it was pretty great that I could help out my friend 3000 miles away with the click of a mouse. Now, to our stories of high school days in Paris, we can add one about trans-Atlantic digital concierge service.

A couple of hours after we chatted online I was on my way home from work when my cell phone beeped with a new text message. It was Noah. He was sitting at the last available table at the restaurant, enjoying a glass of wine and waiting for his dinner to arrive.

Casey Huling is a middle-school teacher in Thetford.

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