Looking at the map today, the distance was about three miles following the roads, but at the time it seemed like five miles. It was the distance from El Capitan High School in Lakeside, CA, to my aunt's house on Marilla Drive. I had to walk it a bunch of times. Marilla Drive was the dividing line for bus service to the high school. If you lived on the east side of Marilla you walked, if you lived across the street, you could ride the bus.
We had come back from Japan in 1960. I finished the eighth grade at Lakeside Jr. High which was right down the hill from Aunt Essie's house; not a long walk. But when summer was over I started high school at El Capitan which was considerably farther away. Essie's house was on the east side of the road. Sometimes we would car-pool with some of the neighbors - when the weather was bad...but it was southern California...I didn't ride too often.
I had limited experience with school buses. My dad, the Chief, was home-ported in San Diego which meant we were there almost half the time. We would go away for a couple of years and then come back to San Diego for a couple of years, and then off again. When I went to school in California, we almost always lived within walking distance to the schools (Steven Wright says that anything is within walking distance if you have enough time). I went to second grade and part of third in Norfolk, Virginia. They didn't have school buses; they gave us passes to ride the city bus to school. I didn't like that because most of the people on the bus were adults... and some were pretty scary, too. Missing the bus was no excuse; according to my mom, Betty Lou, another bus was coming along pretty soon. Miss the bus on purpose and there would be no note to cover your tail, either.
We had dedicated school buses in Japan. They all had Japanese drivers. Our usual driver was a squat man of indeterminate age who always wore a red ball cap. When we got rowdy, he would pull the bus over and stand up and yell, "Seedown Seet! You seedown seet!" Sometimes it would take a few minutes but we didn't move again until we had all seeted down in our seets.
One day on the way home, we found a length of rope in the back of the bus. I don't know what it was for, but I am sure it wasn't intended for what we used it for. We tied a big knot on one end and fed it out the last side window on the driver's side. It was about ten or fifteen feet long and it danced and popped and flew around behind us. It was great to watch and when we passed pedestrians or bicyclists, it was fun to watch them jumping out of the way, too. When the MP car pulled up behind us, it wasn't so much fun. The two huge Marine MPs came down the aisle to the back of the bus. Funny how all the guys who thought it was funny to watch the rope suddenly were seated far away from me and all looking at me intensely. They didn't point their fingers, but he MPs got the point anyway. The stern talking- to was scary, the fierce -looking MPs were scary, the ride in the MP car was scary. But the scariest thing of all waswaiting for the Chief to show up and take me home. That was scary. Yeah, he wasn't happy with me.
I know I rode a bus in Hawaii but for the life of me, I don't have a single memory of it. I went to Radford High School there; it was too far for walking, I know. The worst two years of my high school (or any school for that matter) life. Grist for another mill.
My kids rode buses a time or two. In Missouri, the driver on Boogie's bus was a grumpy hillbilly-type who was always gruff with everyone. Boogie would crack the older kids up (she was about five at the time) with her imitation of the grumpy driver: she would screw up her face in a fairly good proximation of his expression and yell out in a raspy hillbilly accent, "Get quiet! Y'all get quiet!" But it wasn't that idjit that got us riled up in Missouri; it was the driver who turned in our oldest son, HBW, for vandalizing his bus seat. Someone had done a little carving on the bottom of the seatback in front of him. He swore he didn't do it; it was already there when he sat down. The admin's attitude was that he should have reported it...and since he didn't, he owned it. MC lit into the school admins, but I don't think it changed anything. HBW was an Army brat and everyone knows they are nothing but trouble,vandals and thieves and all.
Our kids started off riding the bus here in the Swirl when we first got here. But when their bus went all the way to the bottom of the hill sideways, just a couple hundred years from the house, we decided that we would cover the kids' transportation needs (not that I was a lot better; MamieLady and I went down the hill at the other end of the street backwards after swapping ends just after we started down the hill).
I don't know about the kids in Texas (HBW and crew moved to San Angelo this summer) but none of the grandkids in the Swirl have to ride a bus...and I count that as a blessing.
School is starting up again. The yellow monsters are out in force and I urge you to watch out for them. I know that most of the school bus drivers are dedicated professionals and I am also sure that there are some who aren't. And don't follow too close...there may be a loose length of rope lying around.