Where O Where Have School Buses Gone? (Or: “In MY day…!”)


“When I was a girl, we had to walk to school five miles in the snow uphill—both ways!” say I.

Hahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, says my teenage son.  With a twinkle in his eye, he teases me: “In MY day, we had to light fires without matches and hunt our own meat too!”

My turn to laugh.  Ha.

Or cry?

In MY day we DID light fires with matches, but I never hunted my own meat.  In fact, after working for 3 months as a cashier in a butcher shop, I stopped eating meat for a whole year.  So there.

I do get his point, however.  The inexorable “In MY day…” phrase is always on parents’ (and grandparents’) lips.  The Comparison.  When I was a girl I listened to stories of movies for a quarter.  Now my boy has to hear stories of…school buses.

Yes.  Those iconic yellow buses that everybody used to get to ride on just because you lived somewhere and paid taxes. 

Buses went to bus stops that were scattered throughout neighborhoods. 

Buses picked up children at ungodly hours of the morning and drove them to school in time. 

Buses dealt with their traffic so parents could deal with theirs and go to work to pay those taxes to use those school buses

What a neat, nifty little arrangement. 

In sun, rain, sleet, snow, light or dark; in hot or cold climes, adults gently pushed us kids out the door and waved goodbye.  Then they, those adults, got busy scraping ice off windshields, or walking dogs, or finding clothes or washing dishes or whatever, which often included schlepping off to work too.

It was, in my current opinion, sheer magic. 

I didn’t have to nag my mother to hurry up or we’d be stuck in school drop-off traffic for an hour and make me get in trouble for being late.  I, the child, did not have to jump out of the car at illegal places to avoid the aforementioned gridlock.  I, the child, did not have to either: 1. Hang out on the lawn or library to kill some time while my mother picked me up, a neighbor friend of my mother picked me up, my grandmother picked me up, or a car pool drove me if we could align school, sports, band, and work schedules; 2. Walk a mile or so to the horse ranch to sit under a scrubby bush and hope that someone could pick me up before I died of heat or had to walk back to school; or 3. Stay at school and work on my homework and hope that I’d get to spend some time at home before coming back for the required 90 hours per week of band practice or open house or whatever.

In MY day, I, the child, got home all by my lonesome.  I could enter the house with a key.  The bus came whether it was crowded or not.  I didn’t love bus rides—does anybody?  But those early mornings– friends sluggishly gathering on the corner, fog on the breath, new hats or boots or sandals—were one of the signatures of childhood.   If I stayed after school for chorus or theatre (or detention), I took the late bus home. 

Yes, my cynical teenage child, we had late buses to take us home.  Parents did not have the driving-to-and-from-school job (except late in the evening after senior play rehearsals, for example).  One job less for them. 

A logistically less-complicated school life for everyone.  No texting: yes, coming; no, will be late; go to horse ranch; find another ride; etc.

Just buses.  What a system.

I’m not going to discuss taxes to pay for those buses.  Not today.  Because I have to take my son back to school now.  But, truly, I don’t mind too much.  The morning traffic is gone.  My alternative route to school in the a.m. has been discovered, and so there are no more secrets. 

Maybe spacecraft will do the trick?  We could pay for them with…I know…taxes!  

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