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That One Time I (Almost) Got Kidnapped
My memory of this event is pretty hazy, but it happened six years ago, in 2016. I was 9 years old, a fourth grader. It was near the end of the school year, so it was blazing hot. Ninety degrees or so. All of this happened at my old school’s parking lot, which is behind the school. I rode the bus, and the bus I rode in particular was sort of infamous for two things. Being loud, and being late. On that day it was late (again), which I was used to. But patience can only go so far, and it ran out even quicker because of the heat. I don’t remember exactly how long I was waiting, but I could guess about thirty minutes.
Thinking about it now, my school wasn’t very far from my old house, by bus it was about a two or three-minute drive. But by foot, it could be about twenty minutes depending on how fast I walk. In theory, it was tempting, but in practice it was daunting. So I stayed.
After what seemed like a millennia, the bus finally drove up to the parking lot. At last, we were free from the sun’s blistering heat! As we loaded onto the bus, our usual bus driver wasn’t there. Instead, there was a sub. Substitutes are nothing new, so no one thought much of it, but now that I think about it, there should have been some sort of alarm going off in my head.
Our usual driver was a pretty chill guy. He was a black guy who looked like he was in his mid-thirties. He didn’t really say much outside of telling us to be quiet, but the majority had a strange respect for him. For the sake of this story, completely throw him out of the window, cause he doesn’t matter. The driver on that day, however, was a much different story.
He was a bald white guy, presumably in his seventies. He had this vibe of “I hate kids,” despite being a bus driver for a bunch of elementary schoolers. He always looked like he was scowling, but y’know, since we were kids we didn’t think much of it.
We loaded onto the bus one by one until we were all in one seat (for the most part). Remember the part where I said our bus was infamous for being loud? Yeah, most of the kids there were insufferable that day, but could you blame them? Not only was it hot, but our bus was extra late, so I don’t really blame them for being particularly rowdy. But the driver was agitated. Like, if this was a cartoon, he would have smoke coming out of his ears. We barely left the school grounds when he kept threatening to drive us back to the parking lot if we didn’t stay quiet. I thought he was bluffing.
He’s the bus driver, he has to bring us home! Pretty sure it’s illegal *not* to do that!
But I was wrong. Painfully wrong. Sure enough, he drove back to the parking lot, killed the engine, and just sat there quietly. We were still in disbelief, surely he wasn’t gonna have us waiting forever, right? And yet, we waited. Even after we were quiet, he still didn’t start the bus. On top of that, he didn’t even say anything. Minutes were starting to feel like hours, and the scorching heat made it worse.
After about fifteen minutes, we were plotting ways to escape. One kid said we could try the emergency hatch on the roof of the bus, another suggested calling the police. Our school was right next to a police station, so if we did, help would be here almost instantly! It was a great idea until the driver broke his silence. He said, and I kid you not, “If you call the police, I’ll write you up.”
I know, sounds stupid, right? And it does, but to a bunch of kids in grades K-5, that was the childhood equivalent of getting executed. The last thing we wanted was to get in trouble with our parents, (they’d kill us) so we considered that plan to be a dud. So we were stuck with waiting, waiting, and waiting some more.
Then desperation got the best of us, so we started yelling for help from the windows. Yeah, it wasn’t going to do anything since the station was at least a few blocks away, but it was something. A few kids started crying, but I wasn’t really sure why. Maybe it was out of fear, who knows?
And then, when all hope was lost, a white van showed up. I know that sounds scary, and you would be right, since white vans certainly weren’t a good thing, especially in 2016. But then two women came out who I assumed were someone’s parents, started banging on the door. Fortunately, the guy opened it, and almost immediately, one lady started cussing him out (rightfully so). The other lady opened the emergency door and ushered us to leave the bus. You really didn’t need to tell us twice, we gathered our things and got off the bus.
The two women escorted us to the school, and there we saw a handful of teachers asking us what was wrong. We explained the situation as best as we could while the teachers escorted us to the library. They told us they were going to call our parents, so until then we played on the computers, read books, or watched the movie they put on. It was Sing if you were wondering.
My mom arrived after ten minutes, relieved that I was ok. On the car ride home, I noticed the bus driver talking to two cops. And that was the last time I ever saw him. Six years later, I don’t know what happened to him, and I don’t care. Frankly, he was suspicious from the start, but at the time I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Even after that whole thing, I continued to ride the bus until middle school. It was a pretty scary situation, but at least I’m still here to tell the tale.
To this day, this is a moment in my life that stuck with me and wouldn’t let go. It wasn’t the scariest situation I’ve been in (ask my mom) but for whatever reason, my memory of that day is crystal clear, with a few smudges here and there.
West Palm Beach, Florida
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