There was a news story here recently about a bus driver who got arrested for duct taping a student’s mouth shut, which I thought was kind of funny until I read it and found out he was a scary crazy person and the child was developmentally disabled and he had been abusing her, so it stopped being funny and started being more disturbing and evil than anything. But it did start me thinking about taking the bus to school.
I hated the bus. Hated. HAAAATED. I lived in the country, so the bus ride to school was a long one, and we stopped constantly to pick up other kids who lived in the middle of nowhere. Our bus was the one that no driver wanted to be in charge of. It was full of naughty kids and evil kids and downright cruel kids. The bus ride to and from school every day was one of the worst memories I have of school, and I have a lot of them.
Apparently, things have changed since I was young, but when I was a kid (stop with the old jokes, I know, I’m ancient) every age from kindergarten to senior year rode the same bus to school. That’s a recipe for disaster right there, isn’t it? I mean, put a bullying, hormonal fifteen-year-old on a bus with a sweet, innocent seven-year-old and see what happens. It was like Lord of the Flies on that bus.
I even remember my very first day on the bus: I sat next to another kindergartener (hi, Rich, who I totally don’t talk to anymore and I’m pretty sure doesn’t remember me!) and he taught me cusses. Then he told me I should say them to the busdriver. Which I did, because I didn’t know they were dirty words. So I got in trouble the first day for telling the busdriver “Hi my name is Shit Asshole” if I remember correctly. (I was a really sheltered 4-year-old. Yes, 4. I started school a year early due to my superior intellect. FINE it was because my birthday was in October. And actually I was a really sheltered child altogether. I didn’t utter the f-word aloud until senior year. I thought I would be struck by lightning. In third grade, another child said to me “I bet you don’t even know what a VIRGIN is!” and I said, very haughtily, “Yes, I do. A virgin is the mother of JESUS.” I was a total and complete catch!)
Some things I remember from my years of taking the bus to school:
An upperclassman with a broken leg forcing his minions to bring younger children to the back of the bus so he could hold them down and stamp them in the middle of the forehead with the rubber grip on the bottom of his crutch, which was filthy with the gross snowy grime from the bus floor
A busdriver who lost his marbles and drove into a field (we lived in the country, there were a lot of fields on our drive) with a bus half-full of children and sat in the seat, rocking and singing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and refusing to answer anyone who spoke to him until finally one of the kids figured out how to use the walkie-talkie and radioed the bus garage and they sent another bus and driver to rescue them
A busdriver who decided to record the bad language the students were using on his bus because he was a preacher and kept telling them they were going to hell and God hated them , so he brought in a hand-held recorder and kept clicking it on while driving and swerving all over the road trying to catch really naughty cusses
A weird bully kid who had a psychotic break and one day stopped bullying kids and instead sat in his seat singing “takes a better man, to turn the other cheek, takes a better man to walk away” in a tuneless voice with dead, dead eyes
A girl who decided it was her duty to shove kids out of their seats, so every day, she chose another child, and would shove them out of their seat onto the disgusting bus floor
Whorey kids who totally did it in the back seat underneath their jackets (listen, the bus ride home was long, but not THAT long, that’s kind of impressive, right?)
All the kids deciding it would be hilarious to throw paper airplanes at the busdriver while he was driving and almost causing an accident; this did not phase them, however, and the following week, it was spitballs, followed by those bouncy balls you could get out of vending machines, those paper throwing stars kids folded out of notebook paper, notebook paper balled up (that one didn’t take a lot of imagination but there are only so many things you can throw, really) and apples
Listen, seriously, can you even IMAGINE being a busdriver? I assume it’s a little better nowadays – the busses are segregated by age-group, and a lot more upperclassmen have cars than they used to – but I can’t even imagine how insane a person must have been to want to drive a bus full of children who would not sit down and would not be quiet and would not behave and were THROWING PROJECTILES AT THEM WHILE THEY WERE ATTEMPTING TO STAY ON THE ROAD. I’m not saying I was completely innocent, here. I was kind of a dick on the bus. I mean, I wasn’t hurling spitballs, or anything, but when the busdriver told me to sit down and shut up, I didn’t. I think I actually got sent to the principal’s office in middle school for misbehaving on the bus, but I haven’t the foggiest what exactly I was doing that merited that. It was almost 25 years ago, so my memory’s a little blurry. What, do YOU remember exactly what you were doing 25 years ago? I thought not. Pipe down, junior. I obviously didn’t get kicked out of school so it couldn’t have been too heinous.
I would be the worst busdriver ever. First, I can’t even deal with kids. CAN. NOT. DEAL. You know how some people have the patience of Job? I have the patience of not-Job. I have the patience of someone who is utterly the opposite of Job. Which is why, until I found out it was a scary upsetting story, the duct-tape thing sounded like something that was actually possibly a somewhat rational reaction. You’re driving a bus full of children, and it’s your job to get those kids to and from school safely. You have to deal with asshats on the road who don’t pay attention to your lights and stop signs, and you have to make sure the kids crossing the road don’t get killed, and you have to make sure the kids on the bus are seated and not killing each other, and you have to, oh, I don’t know, DRIVE. This job is harder than an air traffic controller’s job. THERE ARE TOO MANY THINGS GOING ON. Why don’t we hear about more people dying in flaming bus accidents? I have trouble paying attention when I’m driving my car and it’s just me and I want to change the damn radio station, can you even fathom how bad my ADD would kick in if you factored in 50 screaming children all hell-bent on destroying the vehicle, me, and each other? Oh, hell, no.
So listen, I totally get it now, guy who drove into the field and rocked and rocked and sang nursery rhymes. You just got overwhelmed! It is understandable! How could you not? Kids are mean. Mean and nasty. And they DO NOT LISTEN. The preacher guy? He used to say “Sit down and BE STILL” over and over and OVER to us and we’d totally ignore him. Or laugh. Because “be still” was a funny thing to say. I mean, was it 1887 and we were in an old-timey horse-and-buggy contraption? Who says “be still?” But then recently I found out he died and that was sad. I mean, he didn’t die because of the busdriving, or anything, but I didn’t mean him any harm, and that was a tough gig, the busdriving. He just wanted us to sit down and be still! And we were not being still. And we were cussing! And he thought we were going to hell for it. That – well, that was a little disturbing but it was a small town and we took who we could get.
We also had a guy who was a dead ringer for Otto from The Simpsons and I loved him. He most likely was stoned off his gourd the entire time he drove us around and at one point he just disappeared and we never saw him again, but he was so laid-back and just did not care. And honestly, when he drove, the bus was quieter and better-behaved. I don’t know what that was all about. We might have been soothed by a contact high, now that I think about it.
I’m still a little confused about the sex people, though, honestly. How does that even work? I mean, was it actual sex-sex? Those bus seats aren’t very long. And we were kids. Country kids. We weren’t very knowledgeable about positioning and whatnot. Not to be crass, but I guess I get handjobs or whatever, or even (but ew, really, on a BUS? In FRONT of people?) blowjobs but actual penetrative sex? I’d think it was a rumor except someone got pregnant from it. I’m not a parent but I think this is something parents need to worry about. Parents! Talk to your kids about this phenomenon that was happening 20-some years ago! It needs to be addressed! At least tell them if they’re going to do it, have a little self-respect and not to do it on the bus. Those seats are filthy. And they’re just going to get a nickname, like Backseat Boogie or Ella the Bus Whore which I totally did not make up at all and was the name of someone at my school. Fine, not her REAL name, she didn’t put it on the top of standardized TESTS or anything, but that’s what people called her. Because she had SEX on a BUS. And bee tee dubs? It wasn’t even at night. It was after school. The sun was still up. That is super-whorey. And also quite sad.
So listen! When we are celebrating people in our society who have the most thankless jobs, like sanitation workers and such, I think we need to give a shout-out to the busdrivers. Because DAMN but that must suck and you totally must make an appointment to get sterilized after the third full day of work. So, busdrivers! You have my thanks. And also, I promise, if I ever have children, I will drive them to school myself. Dickery is genetic and I wouldn’t want to subject that on any other busdrivers. I’ve harmed enough people already.