2011-05-14

The Schoolbus in Wintertime


I never thought of myself as a troublemaker in grammar school, but perhaps I was mistaken. 
 
All of us kids would gather each weekday morning at some ungodly twilight hour and wait for the schoolbus up where the uneven gravel of Countryside Lane gave way to the northward-running asphalt of South Holmes Road. None of us wore watches at that tender age, as I recall, and we had not yet discovered the wonders and mysteries of the word "procrastination" (nor its spelling, as likely as not). In any case, though we didn't know it then, we were carefree, and it felt like we had all of the time in the world, so one typically set off on the quarter-mile trek up the lane for the bus stop in plenty of time. In wintertime the lane was packed in snow and ice, and there was no question of a successful mad dash across that treacherous footing in all one's heavy winter gear should the horrid apparition of the big yellow bus looming out from behind the Winston's trees manifest itself, slowly pulling to a stop in the distance at the end of the lane, lights flashing, and the fortunate other children slipping abord with magical rapidity. So we tried to leave a little extra early in that season. During the wait for the bus, we always used to have snowball fights across the lane, like a classical pitched battle, with the lane as a sort of No-man's land. I'm sure that the excitement of these battles, and the memory of the previous days' heroics afforded additional incentive to get suited up, boots on, and out the door in plenty of time on those winter mornings. 
 
My friend Tony and I were home one afternoon, and since the morning snowball fights were such fun, we thought we'd go up to the end of the lane and have an extracurricular one, just the two of us. Aside from its familiarity, another advantage of this choice of locale was that it was far enough down the road that the Fitzsimmon boys, who were older and bigger (and a mean and onery pair) would not notice us, as they would have in front of my house, and come out and spoil the fun. 
 
So there we were, making our snowballs, when along came the school bus bringing the older children back from junior high school. We thought for a moment that it might be fun to snowball the bus, but we immediately thought better of it. When the bus stopped, however, Mabel, the bus driver, stuck her head out the side window and hollered at us that we were both kicked off of the bus for a week, and drove off. Not a snowball had been hurled, but we both just decided to go home after this unfortunate turn of events. 
 
I explained to my folks what had happened, and that there had been this misunderstanding. Since I was kicked off the bus for a week and he had to drive me to school early anyway, my dad suggested that I go to the bus driver the next morning when she was dropping the kids off at my school and explain what had happened and try to resolve matters. The next day at school, I stepped up into the door of the bus and explained about me and Tony, and the Fitzsimmons, and everything else to Mabel's gruff, scowling face. Her only reply was, "You don't take me for a fool, and I won't take you for a fool." This being a coloquialism with which I was then unfamiliar, but taking the words at face value, I thought to myself, "Okay, that sounds like a good bargain," and innocently assumed that the matter was resolved and the misunderstanding all cleared up. It didn't occur to me until years later that she was calling me a liar to my face. 
 
Copyright © 1997 

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