Life at The Back of The Bus
The Silent Steps of Time
were always walking toward something or someone, in the care-free days of my time in the back of the school bus. I know. This piece is far from those award-winning "gems" that used to roll off of the lips of Hemingway, Salinger and Steinbeck. But still, with all things being what they are, definitions included, our place in the back of the school bus was more than a rough ride from home to school. It was more of a short pleasure that lasted for twice-a-day for the 10-month school year.
The wheels rolled to a stop. I got on our bus quickly making my way to the back to where my few friends were waiting for me. When you have nothing and your home life nothing, why expect anything? To me, getting out of bed each cold morning, going to school, getting home, doing useless homework, then going to bed was nothing short of a pointless ritual.
But so far, all that I have told you was seen from someone else's eyes. Those who rode the bus and not in the back, had labeled us as shiftless, lazy, and not fit for society. It was easy in my time to be the victim of judgement from a lawless court to hold those up like my friends and me to ridicule simply because our families were not of the upper level of prosperity in the town where we lived.
Why Were Others
who judged and prodded us with verbal jags as we walked down the aisle of the school bus left alone while we carried illegal punishment from these students as well as our doting school bus driver whose growl was more fearful than his shaky hands. I have always been in amazement about the "how" he secured a job of such responsibility such as driving a school bus with his hands that shook as if he were freezing. I would sit in my seat and watch his hands shake all over the steering wheel and pray to God that we didn't end up in some ditch far away in the countryside. Politics did have their way even when I was a kid.
In the back of the school bus, plans were being made for our time of reprieval once school was out. Debby, our only female friend who loved to sit with us, always wanted to grow up and marry so that she could have a good husband and give him a few children. She would say such things with "that" certain glimmer in her eyes and I almost shed a few tears of my own in awe of her passion for such a goal.
In years to come, she disappeared from our lives and where she ended up can only be left to guess work. But she was so soft-hearted and understanding that I often dreamed of dating her when my dad would have enough money so I might take her out for a movie and a burger. But those dreams were quickly dreamt and then went to smoke.
The Twenty-two Minute Trip
from home to school was measured (in our eyes) like those guys who are sent to some big prison for a long time. Those big wheels on our bus hummed on the asphalt whether it was dry or wet. The turning of those wheels also took on another device to break us by the use of hypnotism--because the grown-up's knew that our minds were young and fertile and easily lured off of our individual trails and we would slowly doze off without offering a comment either way of whomever might be talking.
There was "that" one time when a school official, I thought him to be a part of the School Board, boarded our bus sending us kids with a wave of fear as he softly walked to where he had spied an empty seat. His beaming grin was hard to hide from. He took his handkerchief and dusted off the seat and with much patience, sat down for the ride to school. What he was doing there to begin with caused us (in the back of the bus) to softly talk about what this adult man might be up to.
Me? I was impressed at his rolled-down nylon socks and his shoes were shiny and brown. I argued with myself if he had bought those shoes the day before or had just laid down a good coat of Kiwi shoe polish to bring out that shimmer. He must have seen some military service, the Marine Corps., I always thought, because he sat with perfect posture and kept his head looking straight ahead. No common citizen sat or rode like a former Marine.
When we arrived at school, I noticed that he allowed us students to get off of the bus while he waited. I did catch him eyeing Debby as she bounced by him and smiled. I prayed to myself to not let him be ogling her for he was much too respectful to be doing things to her that even her dad wouldn't do.
But my prayer was answered as my friends and I gathered up before we walked into our school building, and we saw the studious guy walk by us without offering one smile. I cheered inside thinking that God must have had bigger and better plans for Debby than to be man-handled by a fatherly-man like the school board guy.
Another Asset That Gave The "Back Seat Kids"
of those who rode in the back of the bus was if we needed to communicate to another set of "back seat kids," all that we would do is to jot down a few crafty-chosen words on a small piece of paper and place it in the seat in front of us with the note put securely inside the seat's iron railing preventing others from seeing it and gaining what information that we were smuggling.
Let's see. There was Debby, Gilbert, Lloyd, Randal, and Joan. Us five who rode at the back of our school bus. Funny though, we never dreamed of begging our parents for money enough for all of us to buy matching jackets with fancy writing on the back spelling out "The Back Seat Gang." I guess that our parents would have quickly balked on that idea because the jackets took on the look of a motorcycle gang--and no student in 1960, and at our young age, would be seen in such garb.
With school years coming and going, so did us of the back seat. Joan, who was one year older than me, got out first and went on to live in another state. The rest of us just toughed it out and let life come to us.
The best and I do mean the best moment ever was the day that everyone but Joan had grown a lot more and had took to sitting in the seats before the back seat. We never noticed it at first, but one by one, as the school bus hummed down the road, we looked back and there was two empty back seats--we slowly looked at each other with the evidence of tears in our eyes for we knew that we were on our last ride on that school year.
Two empty back seats.
What a fitting memorial for those of the "Back Seat Kids."
September 15, 2018_______________________
© 2018 Kenneth Avery