The first time I ever stepped on a school bus, I had to be carried on.
I was in first grade, going to elementary school. I was so small, I couldn’t reach the first step, even after several tries. The kind bus driver, whose name was Glenda, got up out of her seat and carried me like a baby to the seat directly behind her.
“You sit here from now on, honey,” she said.
I did, and Glenda and I had a great relationship. I loved that woman.
Two years later, though, Glenda stopped driving the route through my neighborhood. She was replaced by Mrs. Spears at the beginning of my third-grade year.
Mrs. Spears wasn’t as kindly. Soon after the school year started, she placed a sign above her that stated, “There Will Be Complete Silents On This Bus!”
The future editor immediately noticed her error.
“Hey, bus lady, you spelled silence wrong,” I bellowed from the fourth row. “It’s not S-I-L-E-N-T-S. It’s spelled S-I-L-E-N-C-E.”
My helpful hint wasn’t met with enthusiasm. She grunted and drove off, not correcting the sign.
The next day, I noticed that she hadn’t made a correction.
“Hey, bus lady, that sign is still spelled wrong,” I said as I walked past her. “Silence is spelled…”
“Shut up and sit down,” she barked.
The next day, I didn’t say anything to her about the sign. Just walked by and winced. It was driving me crazy.
As we were unloading at school that morning, Mrs. Spears grabbed my arm. “You’re coming with me,” she grumbled, and ushered me into the office, where I was written up for “talking on the bus.” Truth is – I was. My punishment was running around the flagpole 20 times, which, as an 8-year-old, I would have done at recess anyway.
The school called my parents, and they weren’t too thrilled. I promised I would no longer talk on the bus, not realizing the connection between my correcting Mrs. Spears’ spelling and my disfavor in her eyes.
For the next couple of weeks, I didn’t say a word on the bus. But, then, one morning, in a generous mood, as I walked on the bus, I offered this to Mrs. Spears: “Hey, if you want, I’ll make you a new sign with silence spelled right. Can I do that?”
Again, I was oblivious that this was an issue.
She growled, “Sit down!”
The next morning, as we were unloading at school, Mrs. Spears again grabbed my arm and whisked me away to the office.
“This one egged the bus yesterday,” she told the secretary. I was sitting in a chair in the office when I heard that, but didn’t say anything. I knew I hadn’t egged the bus. In fact, I hadn’t rode the bus home the previous afternoon. I had gone to the after-school program.
The secretary and Mrs. Spears then went into some other room, and a few minutes later, I saw them talking to the principal. I waited, and waited, then saw both my parents walk in the office.
“What did you do?,” my mother asked.
“Nothing,” I said, wracking my brain for what I did for the school to call my parents. They then took me and my parents in the principal’s office, where Mrs. Spears was.
“Your son egged the bus yesterday afternoon,” Mrs. Spears said, rather gleefully.
“My son didn’t take the bus home yesterday,” my mother swiftly rebutted. “He was here, at school, at the after-school program.”
If you’ve ever seen “The Simpsons,” Mrs. Spears made Homer’s “D’oh” sound.
Another kid at my bus stop had egged the bus, we later found out.
The principal apologized to my parents, and sent me back to class. Mrs. Spears stayed on as my bus driver for another year. She replaced her “Silents” sign with a less complex, and demanding, order: “Keep It Down!”
We did, as much as elementary-school age kids can. Problem solved.
© Len Robbins 2013