In grade one, whilst riding on the school bus in the morning, I used to stare at these twin boys who got on the bus a few stops after me. They wore glasses, had curly hair and massive Bugs Bunny teeth that seemed to fill their mouths. The boys’ mouths always hung open and their tongues rested underneath the top teeth. I used to imagine this was to hold their heads up. Sometimes I would imitate the brothers, but after a few minutes of hanging my mouth open I realized it was an over rated experience. Besides, who wants a dry mouth anyway?
Riding on buses came with mixed feelings. There was the unavoidable dread of barreling toward my fate — facing uninspiring teachers and hardened schoolyard bullies. On the flipside, riding the bus meant forty minutes of solitude as I immersed myself into the fictional book I happened to be reading at the time.
My early high school years were spent riding a bus that had been nicknamed Shitty Shitty Bang Bang. So aptly named as it was the oldest bus in the fleet and ever so ready to meet it’s metal maker. The old machine groaned, roared and farted like a much-distressed beast. One day Shitty Shitty Bang Bang broke down halfway to school. The engine conked out as the odor of burning crumpets wafted up the central aisle. Somewhere down the back of the bus a dickhead girlishly screamed, “We’re going to die!” Of course we didn’t. Instead we just missed a few classes that day.
The best mornings were when the bus just didn’t turn up at all. Most especially if it happened on a Friday, ensuring the early arrival of the weekend. On those days we never did find out why the bus never arrived. Did the bus simply fail to start at the bus yard? Or had the bus company simply forgotten to assign a driver to our route?
My third year of high school brought two major changes. Well three changes really, considering that Shitty Shitty Bang Bang appeared to have finally been decommissioned.
Firstly, the high school shortened the lunch hour so that the workday could finish a microsecond earlier. Thus messing with my body’s pee time clock. Since the bus waited for no student it left me no time to empty my utterly full bladder before taking a bumpy forty-minute ride home, followed by a twenty-minute walk. How I didn’t develop incontinence, I do not know.
The other change was the convergence of two bus routes. Some genius that clearly didn’t have to ride a bus with smelly, hormonal teenagers thought this was a practical cost effective decision. Yeah, right! We now had double the number of kids filling every last available breathing space, turning the bus into a stuffed sausage, very likely exceeding the legal limit. It was scary riding such a heavily loaded bus that stormed toward school at alarming speeds. One day the bus turned a right corner without slowing. The bus suspension moaned as the bus lurched onto a frighteningly extreme angle. Looking out one of the side windows the ground below was becoming too close for comfort. A kid yelled out, “LEAN TO THE LEFT”. Everyone who was standing or sitting responded with such speed that parents and teachers would never see from us. Oh yes, indeed! We leaned to the left for all it’s worth, as those seated on the right glanced out the windows silently praying to gods they didn’t really believe in, hoping that the bus doesn’t overturn. Although I suppose if the bus had overturned we would have had a perfectly valid excuse for being late to school.