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An Hourly Log of the Journey to a Speech and Debate Tournament in Philadelphia

By Ben Fogler

Friday, November 17, 2023

6:00 am -- I’m awake! After frantic packing and a panic attack or three the night before, I’ve risen with the sun (except I live in Massachusetts, so this time of year the sun is more of a part-time worker. That diva isn’t getting up for another hour). Time to eat a yummilicious breakfast of one (1) Eggo waffle (microwaved). Then I brush my teeth, put on my most comfortable, loose, pandemic-chic clothing (retro! Ooh la la!), grab my suitcase and backpack, and scamper out the door. 

7:00 am -- I’ve arrived at the secondary rendezvous point for a few select speech and debaters who's schedule didn’t allow them to get all the way to the actual rendezvous point for the bus to take us to Philly. Where am I, you might ask? I’ve been dropped off in the parking lot of a local all-boys Catholic school. Mind you, this is a school day, so buses and a few early-birds are already trickling in as I stand awkwardly waiting for one of the Speech parents to arrive so that we can be driven to the bus. Except oh no, I accidentally waved goodbye to my mom without first acquiring my suitcase from her trunk! This is a disaster and a half, because she’s already on the highway and headed to work. Thankfully, she manages to find an exit and the suitcase is back in my hands. Thanks mom! In no time at all, the other speech and debaters arrive, and we’re on our way to the bus. 

8:00 am -- We’ve arrived at the bus, where we meet the rest of our team. And you’re never gonna guess where this bus is -- the parking lot of ANOTHER all-boys catholic school. See, we happen to be sharing a bus with their Speech team to Philly, where we’ll be competing in a two-day tournament with nearly 500 entries from all over the Northeast. Hoo boy, it’s gonna be a long bus ride.

9:00 am -- We’re an hour into the bus ride, and I’m starting to give up the belief that I’ll get all my homework done before we get to the tournament. Judging by the incredibly scintillating conversation with my peers, the blasting of Taylor Swift’s early catalogue, Noah Kahan, and Lukas’ Graham’s 2016 hit “7 Years” (the Catholic school boys got control of the aux), I’m not gonna be able to focus very well. Sigh. Well, our ETA is about 3 pm and I didn’t bring earbuds, so I guess I’ll sit back and enjoy the scenery. 

10:00 am -- More of the same. We’ve passed through Hartford, CT and are well on our way. Our team has managed to get a few song requests in, and I proudly rapped all of “The Real Slim Shady” by Eminem. Such a banger. 

11:00 am -- Pit stop at a…rest stop? It’s not really a rest stop, it’s sort of just a bathroom and a vending machine on the side of the highway, but whatever floats one’s boat I guess. It gets the job done, anyway. We’ve also entered New Jersey, which is super cool. I’ve never been, so I feel like I’m getting immersed in a whole new world. 

12:00 am -- Okay, pit stop at an actual rest stop. We have a little luncheon and commiserate about the deep anxiety we are all feeling over the next two days. Delicious!

1:00 pm -- We’re so close I can taste it. Or maybe that’s just chicken from lunch stuck in my teeth. My bus mate and I decide to watch a film. I’ve never seen The Wolf of Wall Street, and he has, many, many times, so he decides to show it to me. Oh my god, not a great choice for a bus ride on a field trip with CHAPERONES, one of whom is the coach of the CATHOLIC school and whose title is actually BROTHER. I mean, very compelling film, but within about 30 seconds I was like okay, maybe we should be a little more discreet instead of having the computer half on my lap when I have the aisle seat. 

2:00 pm -- Somehow it is 2:00 pm and we’re only like 20 minutes into the movie. We paused a ton, but still, this film is so long. I mean it’s very good, I would highly recommend, just not for a family movie night or something.

3:00 pm -- We’re at the hotel, finally! After waiting an indescribable amount of time to get our keys, we can head up to our rooms. I place my suitcase in the bathroom before checking for bedbugs. Once I’m satisfied, I extract it and put it on an elevated surface (we’re in Philly, not France, but you can never be too careful about bedbugs). My roommates and I relax for a bit and start channel surfing. Pretty much everything on right now is either an infomercial or Christian news, but luckily we manage to get Judge Judy. She is such a queen. I can sense her assertive confidence rubbing off on me, and suddenly I feel a lot less nervous about tomorrow. 

4:00 pm -- I go downstairs to a dinner room and run my speech piece with one of the coaches. I’m anxious again, but also really hyped. It feels like that scene in Glee where they’re all practicing the night before Nationals, and everyone is so sweaty and they make a lot of lalast-minuteecisions to heighten the drama and suspense, like “No, Quinn, you should have the solo, because who cares, it’s only the biggest competition of our career, let’s switch up everything at the eleventh hour, literally.”

5:00 pm -- Nothing happened. Skip!

6:00 pm -- We go down to the lobby because it’s time to go to dinnerrrrrrrrrr! It’s a tradition for our team at this tournament to go to Olive Garden the night before. Nothing says “I’m ready to compete and perform tomorrow” like heavy and expensive Italian food. But surprise! Olive Garden’s kitchen flooded, so we were forced to go to a pizza place a few stores down. It was really good though, so I’m not complaining.

7:00 pm -- Everyone finishes up their pizza and we head back to the hotel. A bunch of us hang out in a room and chat. We put on the television for some ambient noise. Unfortunately that doesn’t really work out because they’re playing some show that involves bodycam footage of actual arrests and police chases. Not the kind of chill vibes you want when you’re trying to have fun. 

8:00 pm -- Technically this is when I’m supposed to go to bed, so let’s just say I go to bed. I don’t, but we can say I did. Super excited for tomorrow!!! 


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