School Bus Stories: Part 2

28 May


I was in Kindergarten along about 1975, and the bus, as usual, was 3 or 4 kids deep per seat. We were almost the last bus stop, which meant my seating options were limited. The bus had already covered the entire east side of the island and the kids on board were eager to be off.

It was an old bus. The kind with no “cush” in the cushions. The kind where you felt every single bump on the road. The kind with a metal bar on the top back of each green seat as opposed to full vinyl covering, front and back.

So there I was, teetering on about 3 inches of seat, bouncing along at 30 miles per hour (the top speed limit on Orcas Island) when suddenly Mr. Faff had to slam on the brakes, right at the four-corner stop between North Beach Road and Mt. Baker Road.

I slammed forward and my mouth smashed on the metal bar of the seat in front of me. Teeth on steel. I tasted blood. I felt a broken tooth. I cried.

My two sisters – bless them – mopped me up the best they could with the napkins from their lunch sacks. I remember feeling so badly that they wouldn’t have any napkins that day. What if they spilled their milk? I was really quite worried about that.
I also remember feeling quite excited that I got to miss school that day. I had to go to the dentist and he pulled the tooth which, thankfully, was a baby tooth anyway. I also remember that Mr. Faff (whose name has been changed though he’s been dead for years so it probably doesn’t matter) felt very badly about what had happened. He tried to comfort me in his quiet, awkward way. Did he remove his dentures to make me smile? I don’t remember. But it was kind of him, just the same.

I remember one other thing about Mr. Faff. Never, in all the years he drove the bus and cleaned the school, had we seen him out of his baseball cap and coveralls. Never…until, one day, my sister and I attended a funeral and, low and behold, down the aisle of the church came Mr. Faff. He was wearing a suit and his head was bare. My sister and I turned to each other, our eyes wide, amazed grins on our faces.

Who knew? He had hair!


8 Responses to “School Bus Stories: Part 2”

  1. Minnesota Prairie Roots May 28, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    Oh, yes, school bus rides. I know well exactly the type of seating you describe. Miles and miles and hours and hours I spent inside such a vehicle.

    How traumatic to have this happen to you. Thank goodness for caring big sisters.

    That ending to this post is perfect. Surprise. Love it.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell May 28, 2013 at 10:02 am #

      🙂 It was a shock to us all, when he showed up without a hat! I don’t always love waiting in the pick-up line each day for my kids…but I do honestly love that they don’t have to ride the bus.

  2. Jenny May 28, 2013 at 10:53 am #

    I remember thinking Mr.”Faff” was a little scary when I was young, He could be very gruff on the bus. But as I grew up and got to know him, I really liked him. I was a shock when he died. (His wife is still here on the island.) It wasn’t very often that I actually missed the bus, even though I didn’t try very hard to make it on time! He waited for me! Seeing someone outside their normal place as a kid is always a little weird anyway isn’t it. Especially at church where they were not known to often be! And the road is actually Mt. Baker Road, because of the view of the mountain over on the mainland.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell May 28, 2013 at 11:18 am #

      OH, well, there you go. I should have known that road name. I’ll fix it, thanks! I always thought he was really old, but I guess not if his wife is still around! It’s awfully nice that he would wait for you, isn’t it?!

  3. Hotly Spiced May 28, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

    I remember those buses with the metal bar and yes, when the foot slammed down on the brakes we would all go flying. Those metal bars gave us a lot of bruises. I guess it was worth the day off school? xx

    • Gretchen O'Donnell May 29, 2013 at 9:22 am #

      Yes, I think it was! I’m glad I’m not the only one who remembers those seats. In Australia or the US, they were not good!

  4. Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen May 30, 2013 at 9:14 am #

    It’s a wonder they don’t have seat belts on these buses?! He must have been such a kind man, it always seems like chaos on a school bus and I always wonder who has the stamina for such a noisy job:)

    • Gretchen O'Donnell May 31, 2013 at 8:54 am #

      I could NEVER do that job, that’s for sure. I fear that a lot of people who take that job ought not to be doing it – we drive our kids in and pick them up, the buses are so bad.

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