“You better stop blowing that whistle Mr. 22 Gerry St.”
“I’m warning you Mr. 22 Gerry St. you better stop.”
I looked at the kid who actually WAS blowing that god-forsaken whistle thing, and the mixed expression of desperation and indignance on my five-year-old face somehow communicated it was time to shut it down.
I was five. Riding the bus to school. And the bus driver lady wrongfully accusing me of blowing that whistle? She was the Devil. Satan. Beelzebub.
Well, if she wasn’t, she was close. At the very least she was EVIL incarnate.
And she was my first introduction to such a dark and sinister force.
But it wasn’t the injustice of that moment that showed me the face of darkness. No it was worse. Much worse.
I had very clear directions from my Mom on the protocols of bus riding – ‘When the bus stops at your stop, you get off and you walk home’.
Simple enough. It wasn’t far. I knew the way. I knew my address (22 Gerry St.) No big deal. But my five-year-old mind hadn’t yet developed the ability to conjure up contingency plans in case something went awry. It just didn’t seem necessary.
So when evil bus driver lady passed by my stop one day, I just went, “Hmmph” and sat there not really knowing what to do. I or one of my friends may have said something – I can’t really remember; good lord I was five – but the response I got, or the lack of one, led me to believe that I was just screwed. I was staring into the face of utter darkness and a bus ride into oblivion.
With EVIL BUS DRIVER LADY at the helm. And she knew she missed my stop and said nothing. That’s what was evil.
I remember another bus ride I took a few years later in my fourth grade year. All of a sudden some girl just started quietly crying on the bus. It didn’t take long for the bus driver to get alerted and realize he missed her stop. Now this bus driver was a normal human being, and when he realized he missed her stop he actually pulled the bus over, walked back to the girl and said in a caring and apologetic tone, “I’m so sorry I missed your stop, everything will be fine OK? If anything like that ever happens don’t be afraid to come up and tell me OK? I’ll take you right back as soon as possible.”
I was like, “Oh yeah girl, I SO know what you are going through…”
But the difference between her and I was, I was five and she was nine and the difference in cognitive abilities between the two ages is light years. When you’re five the world is still a half-dream where monsters and Santa Claus and ghosts under the bed are still very much a reality.
So a bus ride to the end of the earth where I would never see my family, friends and my favorite Teddy Bear again was very much my reality.
So I sat there and watched everyone I know get off the bus, one by one, which in itself was surreal since they were always after my stop. Every stop was a new and different experience that brought me closer to ‘the end’.
Then everyone was gone except me. Then something strange started to happen as these ‘old’ kids started getting on. They must have been Junior High or High School kids; I’m not sure, but the dudes had whiskers and the girls were endowed. Then some guy sat next to me – he could have been twelve or twenty-two – they all look the same when you’re five, and said, “What grade are you in?”
“Kindergarten,” I replied.
“Kindergarten? What are you doing here?”
Good fricking question Einstein, I was trying to figure that out myself. Actually he was quite nice and I believe he went up to Satan’s bus spawn and told her there was a single-digit straggler in the back. We chatted a bit and he told me everything was going to be fine and I would be brought home soon.
Hope. Relief. But a reassuring word from She-devil? Nothing. An apology? No way. Just silence. As if I somehow shared responsibility for the mishap.
It wasn’t like was an incredibly shy or timid kid or anything, it just hadn’t clicked in my inner moral clicker that I had RIGHTS. And if they were violated I had a right to protest. The protocol was ‘when the bus stops at your stop, you get off and walk home’. There was no protocol for when the evil bus driver misses my stop AND I say something AND I cry AND my friends say something AND whisker-kid says something and still nothing happens.
The five-year-old mind just doesn’t get the notion to say, “Hey wench! I don’t know what kind of bad acid trip you’re still shaking off, or what daddy issues you’re trying to work out but you missed my stop and if I don’t get home at the appointed time my Mom is gonna freak so turn this yellow submarine around and drop me off or your boss will have your ass on a platter!”
Nope, that just didn’t come to me.
So eventually we somehow avoided the end of the earth with eternal darkness and the place with no toys and ended up back at the bus station where some guy in big red car brought me back to my house where yes, a freaked out mom awaited with my favorite Teddy Bear in hand.
How long was I gone? I don’t know, a couple hours maybe. But it seemed like an eternity. A bus ride into darkness where I first saw the face of evil. And lived to tell about it.
Oh, and evil bus lady? FIRED.