The Big Yellow Bus

I believe the bus driver told the sixth graders that if they continued to make meth in the back of the bus, they'd get detention.

I was in line at one of Lexington’s notoriously long red lights one day this week, had finished buffing my nails, balancing my checkbook and knitting a Kleenex box cozy for the car, when I looked through the windshield and saw that there was an empty school bus right in front of me.

There was a guy sweeping the bus, with a big push broom, a bus janitor, if you will. He had gotten to the back rows of seats and while sweeping out god-knows-what from under the seats, sat down for a sec to take a load off.

It got me to thinking that there can’t be a job worse than being a bus driver, a bus monitor or a bus janitor.

School buses have become symbols of everything about school that makes you want to homeschool your kids from a cave somewhere in Europe. The bus is where they learn all the bad things they’ll learn in 12 years of education.

The bus is where my oldest son learned the F word, in about the second week of kindergarten. Incidentally, it was from another kindergartner, which made moot my fears that my little 5-year-old was on the same bus as 6th graders, who, if back in the land of their fathers, would be married with a couple of kids and the primary goat herder/wager earner in their extended family.

The bus is where my middle son’s thigh got bitten by a girl, in first grade. I had to literally cover my mouth with my hand to keep from blurting out, “What was her mouth doing anywhere near your thigh?” When the story finally came out, it was clear that this girl was a little maniac. My son said she was “bugging” him while sitting next to him and then, without warning, flung herself sideways, threw her head down and chomped on his leg.

When I was growing up, I was lucky enough to be a WALKER from kindergarten through seventh grade, because I lived close to the schools. When we moved to out in the country (which, in Hubbard means you were a mile from the square and you had a riding mailman as opposed to a walking mailman), I became a BUSER, but it didn’t really work out. I took the bus exactly one time and was so tormented (I was in the eighth grade, for cripes sake. Did I need this? No, I did not.) I didn’t step foot on another bus for 30 years until I took the bus into New York City from New Jersey.

Kids on the bus have their own little kingdoms and I am just not cut out to be high in the pecking order on the bus. In Bus Land, I’m the homeless bag lady village idiot who everybody craps on, bullied by all and the butt of every joke. 

If your kids ride the school bus, you should know the following:

  1. 1) The bus driver is not in charge. In fact, he’s powerless, just lower on the food chain than the kid who’s in charge of sticking his foot out and tripping anyone carrying a musical instrument. The bus driver has no ammunition. He’s not a teacher, the principal doesn’t really know him or like him, doesn’t respect his job and won’t do anything if things go awry on the bus. A sixth grader could shoot up heroin in the front seat and, trust me, nothing would happen.

  1. 2) When you see buses going really fast, careening around corners and peeling out at intersections, it’s because the bus driver’s main objective is to get the kids to school and the hell off his bus as quickly as possible. You should not complain when you see this type of driving. Get out of their way and cheer them on. Your own kids might be on that bus and you, too, want them to get to school pronto.

  1. 3) The reason there are no seat belts on buses is the same reason they don’t let you take shoe laces into a jail cell. You can’t imagine what 80 strong, nylon straps can be fashioned into.