When I was a kid, I rode the bus. At six years old, I stood at the bus stop every morning with my eight year old brother and the rest of the young hoodlums in West Side Subdivision. I stood there each morning enduring the elements. We were poor, so when it was cold, I wore tube socks on my hands. When it rained, I poked my head and arms out of a trash bag. That’s what I did when I was a kid.
I rode the bus every single day until my brother turned 16. It was at that time that he became the proud new owner of a 1971 Toyota Corolla. We had to go all the way to South Carolina to get this fine piece of transportation. Although it looked like a washing machine, it was nicknamed “the turtle” by my three cousins who’d had the pleasure of driving this marvel before my brother.
The past few weeks, I’ve spent most afternoons with Lucy in the car line at Dean Road Elementary School in Auburn picking up her seven year old daughter, Emily, and their six year old neighbor, Sara Beth.
The operation itself is a sight to behold. It’s on par with a full scale military operation. It’s quite impressive to say the least. There are walkie-talkies and everything. The long line of cars is reminiscent of opening night at the Lee County Fair, circa 1979.
Emily and Sara Beth wait on the front porch of the school along with the other riders, while other Oompa-Loompas are marched off to who knows where. I really don’t know where they go, but they follow a teacher and walk past my car every day in an organized manner.
There’s the lady on point who seemingly runs the operation. She calls in the number that’s displayed on each car that corresponds with the respective student or students. She also waves aggressively at people without ever making eye contact.
At some point, the coach makes an appearance, and everyone looks at him as if he’s so dreamy. I know he’s the coach, because he wears a visor. Somewhere along the way, the visor took the place of the whistle, the long-time coach identifier.
Once you make it past the point lady and the coach, you see the kids on the porch along with a handful of teachers and aids who are opening doors and shoving kids into vehicles like Laverne and Shirley on the assembly line at the Shotz Brewery in Milwaukee, Wis.
From there, we are on our own. It’s imperative to strap the kids in, but we’d better be rolling as we do it. If not, the teachers and aids start flapping their wings in a violent manner. Some of them are going to require rotator cuff surgery at the conclusion of their car line career.
It’s a daily adventure. I’m amazed at the sheer number of cars. When I was a kid, there were only a handful of kids who rode to school with their parents. For the longest, I thought it was ridiculous that today’s kids were coddled so.
Some kids do ride the bus, and I see them waiting in the comfort of their parent’s vehicle awaiting their bus’s arrival. I guess that’s ok. Perhaps the child doesn’t have access to tube socks and trash bags.
Now that I have a vested interest, I no longer see the carline as being ridiculous. We want to do what’s best for those we love. A lot of bad things can happen to a child who waits at a bus stop, not to mention there are some very bad kids riding the bus. The bus driver can only do so much. Thankfully, there are cameras installed on most buses, which certainly cuts down on some of the nastiness that can occur. Sadly, it does not completely eradicate the dangers of riding with bad kids.
It’s funny how our views change as we experience newness in our lives, and that’s a good thing.
Just in case you were wondering, “the turtle” died before I ever had the chance to drive it. I didn’t have the luxury of owning a car when I turned 16. Nope. I got an alarm clock so I could wake up early every morning to drive my mother to work so I could use the car to drive to school…because there was no way I was riding the bus.