Thursday, September 5, 2013

Where'd You Go, Mr. Barry?

I fell asleep on the school bus when I was six and snored right past my stop. About 45 minutes later, after the last kid had gotten off the bus, I woke up and realized I wasn't where I was supposed to be. The bus driver drove me back to my waiting mother, but the image of being a lost child on a bus has been burned into my psyche forever. Fast forward a few years and I'm a 13 year old riding bus 8 to and from Morehead Junior High in El Paso. Very best of times, worst of times on that bus. Small societies were built and destroyed amidst those vinyl seats. Friendships were forged and scorched. Fights were planned and scheduled. Anarchy reigned.

School buses are not neutral subject matter to me. I hate them. Hate them hate them hate them to the point that I'm certain Dante would have created a very special circle of hell just for school bus riding.

Boy Wonder started riding the bus last year and was driven to and from school by a great old man named Mr. Barry. He was a slight, gray man with a smoker's voice and wrinkles. He learned the kids' names and had no problem telling them all about themselves if they stepped out of line. They rarely did.

Mr. Barry had been hunting in Alaska and loved to chat the boy up about moose and bears and pecan pies. We made Mr. Barry mini pecan pie bars and homemade cards. We'd see Mr. Barry driving the bus back to the bus barn occasionally and pulling up next to his school bus and waving at the bus driver was the highlight of the boy's day.

Fast forward to this year. Boo is a brand-new preschooler who, like Caillou, has a sick obsession with school buses and has been waiting nine months to board one for the first time with his brother.

Instead of Mr. Barry, in the venerable driver's chair sat a Jabba the Hut of a woman with missing teeth, stringy bleached hair, and a little too much grit in her eye. Boy Wonder looked back at me with a start and a hint of sadness that his very own Mr. Barry wasn't there anymore.

One stiff upper lip later, the boy and his brother boarded the bus,anonymous and faceless to this new driver who had a peculiar affection for yelling at the kids in the back over the PA system. Mr. Barry never used the PA system to yell at kids.

The first week of school moved into the second week and it's here in the story that the wheels on the bus are about to fall off.

We picked up Boo from school yesterday and he told us how the bus driver didn't let him sit with his brother. Boy Wonder came home later in the day and confirmed that, despite his protests that under penalty of death, he'd sworn to sit next to his brother every day and deliver him to his Pre-K class, the driver told him "she didn't care" and he had to move.

This morning I took the boys to the bus stop and as all the other kids filed on, I stepped on the first step and cringed. I still hated buses.

"Hi," I chirped, a little too fake for my own good. "He's four and needs to sit with his brother, okay? Thanks!"

I'd pissed her off, that much was clear. She offered up some grumble about there being too many kids on the school bus in the afternoon and siblings can't sit together...

I cut her off.

"He only rides in the mornings," I said. "Yesterday his brother told you they needed to sit together and you said you didn't care...well, I'm here to tell you that I CARE."

She mumbled something under her breath and yanked the doors shut.

In a desperate act to regain some sense of power, Jabba the Bus Driver yanked her PA microphone off it's rack and began yelling at the kids in the back to sit down and hush up before pulling away from the curb.

I'd gotten under her skin, that much was clear. I'd won the battle, but the war is just beginning.

We'll meet again, Jabba....we'll meet again.

 photo signature_zps3807abdd.jpg

1 comment:

  1. My daughter (14) and I were just talking about this the other day. Why it seems like more than not, school bus drivers fall under "scum" categories. Are there no other jobs? It's not like they pay THAT awesome... I just don't get it... if you hate children, why would you EVER want to drive a school bus? I mean, i don't hate kids at all, and I would NEVER drive a school bus... But if I did- I'd be kind.