School Bus Stories, Part 1

21 May

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“Cool,” I thought to myself as I stepped onto the bus one morning, 10ish years old, hair in pigtails, my Charlie Brown lunchbox clutched in my hands. “An empty seat.”

My exact lunchbox.  Well, not MY exact one...but exactly the one I had!  I bought it on Ebay a few years back.

My exact lunchbox. Well, not MY exact one…but exactly the one I had! I bought it on Ebay a few years back.

I sat down, scooted to the window, smiled.

Only then did I realize that there were words all around me. Words jeeringly flung into the air. Words aimed at me.

“EWWW!! You sat in the throw-up seat!”

I didn’t. I did not. Denials rushed through my mind and my own sudden nausea soured my stomach. I looked wildly around at the seat. It looked clean. Much cleaner than usual, actually. This is not a throw-up seat. They’re just being mean. I remained seated, hoping to goodness they’d just leave me alone.

“You’re in the throw-up seat, you’re in the throw-up seat,” voices chanted all around me.

“I am not,” I muttered, redder than the beets Mom served at dinner.

“Are too, Freddy’s little sister threw up there right after we picked her up. And you’re sitting in it.”

So that’s why the bus was late today. Shoot. I AM sitting in the throw-up seat.

“Cleaned it up,” grunted the bus driver, Mr. Faff, a cap-wearing, denture-sporting, laid-back man who doubled as the school janitor during the day. Sometimes he took out his dentures to make us laugh. Mostly he just minded his own business and left us to mind ours.

“He cleaned it up,” I whispered in my defense. “He did. He cleaned it up.”

But he couldn’t clean its reputation.

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23 Responses to “School Bus Stories, Part 1”

  1. Minnesota Prairie Roots May 21, 2013 at 7:27 am #

    That clincher ending drives home your point in a powerful way.

    My heart aches for you, as one who’s also sat in that seat. That seat.

    This succinct and thought-provoking piece should be read by every teacher, by every student, by every administrator, by every parent. Excellent, excellent post, dear Gretchen.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell May 21, 2013 at 8:11 am #

      You are very kind. I am not good at being succinct, so when I manage it I’m quite pleased! I felt like there was a lot more I wanted to comment on…but that the story spoke for itself.

      It’s funny how those little instances in our lives stick with us. It wasn’t like a life-changing thing…but it was indicative of a lifetime of riding the bus!

      • Minnesota Prairie Roots May 21, 2013 at 9:23 am #

        Gretchen, I likewise am not good at being succinct. Thus I totally understand your satisfaction in realizing you’d written a short post which speaks for itself.

        That’s one of the reasons I benefit from writing poetry. In poetry, every single word must count. If not, I need to delete it.

        Thank you for writing this piece. I’m sorry you had to endure bullying. As you know, I did, too. Such hurt never goes away. I wish it did, but it hasn’t for me.

        I wish those who have bullied others would realize the hurt and damage they cause. But, in some ways via our writing, we do overcome and stand strong. Words are powerful, on so many ways, good and bad.

        • Gretchen O'Donnell May 21, 2013 at 9:38 am #

          Yes, I can totally understand how writing poetry helps in being concise in your word choice!

          This incident on the bus is a great example of “kids being kids” – which all too often means “kids being a little bit bullyish”. Bullying can be subtle…and in such cases may just be called “being mean to me” – and such an incident would never be deemed “reportable” as bullying. But it’s hurtful just the same in that it is people isolating another person for the purpose of teasing them – which essentially is man’s inhumanity to man. Too bad my story didn’t end with a nice kid inviting me to share their seat. But, no, that didn’t happen.

  2. Renee May 21, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    I know I built character on the school bus throughout the years – oh the memories! I remember the bus driver having us get on our knees in the aisle if we were bad – talk about a safety issue. Great Post – Happy Tuesday:)

    • Gretchen O'Donnell May 21, 2013 at 11:11 am #

      Oh, man. That was not a nice – or safe – punishment! I think that bus drivers must have a special reward in store for them. Either reward or punishment.

      • Renee May 21, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

        Yes, what comes around goes around! What that is exactly is not up to me though!

  3. Hotly Spiced May 21, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    I love your old lunch box (replica). It’s so cute. Kids can be so mean and it seems school buses bring out the most meanness. I was so glad when I no longer caught a bus and caught a train instead. There was never any drama on the train xx

    • Gretchen O'Donnell May 21, 2013 at 5:57 pm #

      LOL! No, probably not too much train drama. Funny. Yes, I was thrilled when we lived close enough to walk. Pretty much hated the bus.

  4. gardenfreshtomatoes May 22, 2013 at 6:15 am #

    It’s a universal thing…at our school, there was a corner in the lunch line where a kid threw up that kept its reputation for months afterward. Woe to She Who Stepped Into It!
    (The corner, not the…um…other stuff… ;) )
    By the way, you’ve got my old vinal floor under your old lunch box, there…

    • Gretchen O'Donnell May 22, 2013 at 9:07 am #

      Oh, but for you it’s your OLD floor! I’m stuck with it for a little longer! How funny, though, that you recognized it! We’re hoping to get rid of it in the next couple years! And as for that “throw-up corner” – good thing it was the corner and not somewhere harder to avoid!

  5. Gwen May 22, 2013 at 6:36 am #

    I remember that lunchbox!
    Your story reminds me of the modern-day “cheese touch!”

    • Gretchen O'Donnell May 22, 2013 at 9:08 am #

      You know, it’s funny, but my daughter came home on the last day of school yesterday and put that movie on! Yes, it’s definitely a cheese touch situation!

  6. Nancy Cook May 22, 2013 at 8:05 am #

    That is a modern day parable, Gretchen! Jesus, cleans our sins by His Blood, but we and others often still remember the sin.

  7. whatimeant2say May 22, 2013 at 9:07 pm #

    Love the tag, “vomit puke up stories”!!!!

  8. Marylin Warner May 23, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

    Oh, the agony of sitting in the throw-up seat!
    And the fears of being ten years old, period.
    Great post!

  9. Especially Made May 24, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

    Oh, I have so many horror stories of riding the bus! Glad that’s all behind me now.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell May 24, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

      Hello, and thanks so much for stopping by! Yes, I’m very glad it’s behind me, too. A couple years ago I began picking up (we already dropped off) our kids each day because it was just not worth the horrors they were going through. Ugh. Bus riding has not improved with time.

  10. Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen May 30, 2013 at 9:03 am #

    Moments like those are just so “seared” into our memories, how frightening it is to a small child. Kids can be so cruel! Btw, your lunch box is so adorable.. that’s so cool that you still have it! xx

    • Gretchen O'Donnell May 31, 2013 at 8:51 am #

      Sadly, it’s THE EXACT lunch box…but not MY EXACT one! I bought it on e-bay a fear years back!

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