Sunday, November 13, 2011

The bus

I spent more time on a school bus than a child ever should.  By the time I reached high school, three school districts had combined and I didn't graduate from Pine Village High School like my brothers and sister did.  I had to ride the bus for a solid hour to Seeger Memorial High School, located clear across the county.  (Three high schools combined, and I graduated with a class of 126 students.)  There was even a central location where a bunch of buses met and some kids had to switch for the remainder of the commute.  I'm not sure, but I think I lived farther from that school than any other student.

The big difference between school buses now and then?  The seat backs.  Now, they're tall and padded.  Back then, they were a foot shorter, with a metal bar across the back - right at teeth, nose and forehead level for the kid sitting behind.  Shorter seats made it much easier to harass your neighbors and get into all kinds of mischief  - and for the bus driver to see it.

When I was in grade school, Sue Johnson was our bus driver.  Sue was a guy.  Yes, if you are of a certain age, Johnny Cash singing A Boy Named Sue will now be stuck in your head for the remainder of the day.  (You're welcome.)  Sue was the crustiest, surliest person I had ever met - a classic curmudgeon.  He was short, with a dark complexion and deep wrinkles in his face.  His posture was slightly bent and he had gnarled fingers.  He wore the same faded, dirty cap every day regardless of the weather.  He was never without the stub of a nasty, unlit cigar tucked in the corner of his mouth.  Sue was a walking caricature of a little, mean, old man.

He was not a pleasant human being.

Yet some school official thought it was a swell idea for him to tote children all over the county, so we were stuck with him.

In my 8 year old opinion, Sue had a low tolerance for noise.  It's a school bus for crying out loud!  If I was ever a contestant on Family Feud and asked to name a loud thing, I would hit the buzzer and yell, "school bus!"  So about every other day, the rowdiness in the back of the bus would surpass Sue's tolerance level and he would pull the bus to the side of whatever country road we were traveling.  He would pull himself out of his driver's seat and stomp down the isle, glaring at the perpetrators.  He would point his crocked finger at them and start yelling.  He wasn't the thunderous screamer you would think he would be.  He had a low, gravely voice and sitting toward the front of the bus, I couldn't hear what he said.

Don't get me wrong - I was no goody-two-shoes that always sat in the front seats.  I did get in trouble for doing something once or twice, but I can't remember why and I have no idea what Sue said to me.  I only remember that knobby finger pointing at me.

I don't know what happened to Sue.

Years later, we got a nice, normal bus driver.  I don't remember his name.

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