This is the continued tale about my career in law enforcement. Part 1 was yesterday.
So there I was, queen of my domain, all the little minions obediently obeying every,
“Sally, get your foot out of the aisle. You know someone could trip and get hurt.”
“Gerald, we're at a light. There is no talking at a light so that the driver can concentrate.”
“Tommy, stop poking Sam in the back of the head. If you can't keep your hands to yourself you have to sit in the demerit seat for a week!”
I was, well, a real hard-ass. Power corrupts even the well intentioned. No worries though, soon powers greater than I were to come to my kingdom. High schoolers. Not just any high schoolers. Delinquent high schoolers. I thought I was ready for them. After all, everyone always did whatever I said, therefore I must have by my own actions conjured good respect of the authority I wielded, and everything would be fine. No. Not so much.
We picked this rag-tag bunch of kids up from the alternative school. As a former teacher, I now know a lot more about what sorts of behaviors can land you there. Not all of them are criminal, far from it. But we middle schoolers were scared of them. Really scared. We hadn't considered that some just had learning disabilities and didn't thrive in traditional school, or were teen mothers and attended that program. Nor did we know about the vocational section of the school where they were getting their auto-mechanic certs and a lucrative career upon graduation. Nope, we had them stereotyped right off. Scary criminals. Sigh. I was such a snob, it just makes me cringe sometimes.
Mind you, they were loud, and lewd (some of them) and kept their feet in the aisle, wandered the bus, and stole items from the scared, younger riders. You know, to toss around for keep-away but return later. It didn't take more than two or at most three of:
“Shut up little policewoman, you're not the boss of me!
Until I gave up. I didn't even bother patrolling the younger riders.
“Why should I, when they don't have to?”
Yeah, that was a good question. And though misguided, I wasn't completely stupid.
I don't know what would have happened to our relationship on this shared bus if it hadn't been for the ice incident. That adventure cemented us as ONE bus of kids, all in it together, and all needing to come together right then to get out of a rather dangerous situation.
On an icy, snowy day, our wonderful, regular bus driver was ill. I can best describe her as a blond, smaller Roseanne Arnold, complete with attitude and strident voice. She took some getting used to, but we all loved her. She knew us by name, asked about our lives, gave us candy on Fridays if there had been no infractions, and genuinely loved her job. Her sub was an idiot. Probably only the minimum age of 21, he had no business driving a school bus, let alone in ice and snow in the Nation's Capital where ice and snow send everyone into a frenzy. We're not talking Colorado where you need a foot or more for them to start thinking about closing. We got out two hours early that day.
One of the hard parts of sharing the bus with the high schoolers was that they each got dropped at their own house. I'm pretty sure that wasn't how it was supposed to be, I think “Florence” probably did that out of her own kindness. If there was only one kid per stop, might as well make that stop easy for them. That's the kind of lady she was. The sub? He was not so thrilled about this. But he listened to their directions and managed to take about half of them home before disaster struck. One girl lived in the last building at the bottom of a hill. A hill that was very icy that day. He dropped her off, managed to turn around, and tried the hill. No going. The wheels just kept spinning and spinning.
“Ok you kids, get off the bus and push!”
We thought he was joking, but he wasn't. He started pulling us out of our seats and shoving us off. All of us. I know I'm not the only one who was scared. At least he didn't know I was the patrol. I'd given up my prestigious uniform not long after the high schoolers joined us. What was the point? With no authority, why bother?
So we're pushing and pushing, and grunting, and finally, the bus actually gets some traction and guns up the hill. Without us. Well of course, one of the guys says, if he stops he'll be stuck again and we have to push again. Don't worry, he'll be waiting at the top of the hill. So we trudged up, and were just in time to see him take-off. As in leave a group of 20 or so elementary and middle school students, and about 7 of the high schoolers standing in dumbfounded shock as our ride disappeared.
Little girls were crying. Big girls (like me) were trying not to cry. The high schoolers? They sprang into action. Arms around little kids. “It will be OK.” “Let's go to “Mary's” house. She'll let us use the phone.” One of the girls still “on the bus” was “Mary's” friend, and knew which apartment in the building to go to. She took the kindergarten girls with her, while the rest of us waited in the snow.
Eventually a substitute bus came and got us and drove each of US to our own house. Never heard what happened to that idiot driver, or what he was even thinking about just leaving us like that. I can't imagine he ever worked with kids again.
As to our bus? We were now a team, and after that, when we picked up our beloved high school heros, we were excited to learn to play poker for grapes and listen to their music on their walkman, or even get to sit by one of them. I didn't so much mind I couldn't patrol them. We had older friends, and that made us cool. Cooler even than being a safety patrol.
AZ challenge for the month of April. Button and navigation in the side-bar.