School Bus

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When picturing a school, one of the obvious images that comes to mind is that of a school bus—and really, it makes perfect sense; the glaringly yellow vehicles have transported children from home to school and school to home for years, so it’s really no surprise that they’re so hammered into people’s heads to represent school. Not to mention all those little stories we’ve seen in movies, TV, or books, or perhaps experienced ourselves: kindergartners on their first day of school, shuffling their feet and peering around the corner, middle schoolers scrambling to grab their backpacks and lunches and chasing after their rides, kids with their noses pressed up against damp windows, giggling at the people in the cars below. I haven’t taken the school bus in almost five years, but my abundant experiences sitting on those old, leather seats have stuck with me all this time.
Eight years back, I was just one of many kindergartners, nervous but excited to ride the bus. Unlike some of the kids, I wasn’t frightened, just ready to explode with curiosity. When the bus pulled up to my house, its doors opened by themselves, revealing stairs and a smiling bus driver sitting by the wheel. The open doors seemed to be beckoning me in, and with my new backpack and lunchbox in tow, I climbed in the bus. The man inside had a large build, with a balding head and a dark beard and mustache, and a warm face. He introduced himself as Dick, the bus driver, and motioned for me to have a seat. I sat down next to a girl who would soon become my best friend. Dick told us kids silly jokes all the way to school, making us giggle and completely relieving us of our worries that the bus wouldn’t be fun. Within time, we found out that Dick used to be a police officer, and that he had even ridden a motorcycle! That sounded pretty tough to me, but I knew that Dick was anything but that. He was kind and funny, exactly what we needed at that age of nervousness.
Soon enough, the year was over, and it was time to move up to first grade. To go with that move, it was time for a new bus and driver, Jane. Unlike the little kindergarten bus, which was exclusively for that grade, this bus carried first to fifth graders to and from school, meaning a much noisier ride. The upside to this change was that I would be able to ride to school with my sister—although that might not have been an upside for her. It became clear to me within a few rides on this new bus that I had been right in my prediction that it would be noisy. It was very noisy. Kids of all ages screamed their lungs out from the front to the back of the bus, and the lyrics of the Never-Ending Song were sung over and over and over: “I know a song that gets on everybody’s nerves, everybody’s nerves, everybody’s nerves. I know a song that gets on everybody’s nerves, and this is how it goes!” The only thing predictable about the bus was where people sat: first and second graders in front, third and fourth graders in the middle, and fifth graders at the very back (the better to avoid Jane’s stern watch). We weren’t technically allowed to, but we all brought every kind of toy imaginable onto that bus—stuffed animals, figurines, Pokemon cards, music players, and more. And through all of this noisiness, craziness, and, in general, violation of her rules, Jane was, well, cranky. Unfortunately, I ended up having Jane for the remainder of my time at the school.
The next year with Jane, second grade, ended up being the most dramatic year, at least in terms of school buses, all because of a single event.
It started out just like any other ride home—kids were screaming, as was Jane. The bus was stopped at a road to let one of the passengers out, and Tyler Smith, a loud, rather obnoxious third-grader was begging to be let off with the passenger so he could go to the bathroom at their house. Amazingly, Jane allowed him to do so, and the two boys ran out. While we waited for Tyler’s return, Jane decided to move the bus a bit, so as not to be in the way of traffic. It was then that we heard the crash of two vehicles colliding. Looking in her mirror, Jane realized what had happened: when she had moved the bus, she had bumped into one of the cars. Within seconds, the car’s owner appeared at the bus’s door, demanding to be let on. The woman stomped onto the bus, and immediately let out a long string of profanities at Jane, who looked like she was about to cry. “DO YOU KNOW HOW EXPENSIVE THAT CAR WAS?!” screamed the woman. Jane tried to explain that the woman actually wasn’t allowed to park where the car had been; cars have to be a certain distance away from bus spots. The lady didn’t care, and continued on with her scolding. Eventually, she left, but Jane was still shaken. She barely even noticed Tyler at the bus doors. As he sat down, confused by everyone’s shocked looks, she turned around to face us and told us that that was why we needed to be quiet. And quiet we were. The bus was filled with a deafening silence as each of us was dropped off.
I’ve had my share of experiences on the bus, many more than what I’ve told here. Some might consider the bus an insubstantial part of a child’s school day, but I have to disagree. The bus rides shaped a good part of my life at that time, and, like the Never-ending Song, the memories of them will be stuck in my head for a long, long time.





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