The bus stop as part of a viable education process
Many mornings when I take my walk around the neighborhood I live in or I drive down the street to work, I see herds of cars waiting along side roads and within them are huddled masses of kids waiting for the school bus.
It doesn't matter that most days the weather is perfectly good, even balmy, and that the danger of someones kid being stolen from a bus stop in Carbon County is fairly remote. Parents seem to have this aversion to seeing their kids walk to the bus stop even if it is just a block or two away.
I see it differently. I believe the school bus stop remains one of the last vestiges of real social experience kids have anymore. Afterall where can a kid hang out on the street without someone thinking he is either part of a gang or a kidnap victim who has just been released from captivity.
Personally I found my time standing at the bus stop for the two years I did it as educational. In fact in that two years I learned three very important lessons that have stayed with me for the 30 something years since that time.
The bus stop was at a busy intersection in west Murray. One snowy morning my best friend Brent and I walked to the stop and said "Hey" to all our buddies standing there surveying the traffic as it tried to stop for the stop signs at the corner. Some cars slid through, nearly causing major fender benders with traffic from the opposite direction. Others couldn't get going once they had stopped.
Now there we stand, 15 year old kids who want to drive but can't, watching people who are supposed to know how to drive but can't. Around the corner came this lady in the white 1963 Pontiac speeding like she was on a dry street in July. She spun out of control, and mashed into the curb where we were standing. Her back wheel broke clear off the axle.
The woman driving got out of her car, kicked it, threw her purse at it, kicked it some more and finally started to yield forth a web of four letter words that I had never heard on my dads farm even when he would crack his knuckles working on the baler. In fact, I didn't even realize some of the words she said were words, and I certainly didn't know what some of them meant, but by the time the bus came I had gained a whole new real world vocabulary. That night I went home, tried one of them on my parents and was soon directed cease and desist or get the hell out.
The next lesson I took in was an education in hygiene. Our bus driver was Mr. Krebs. He was one of those adults who you could tell didn't really like kids much, but somehow he waded through the nine months of the year when he had to transport our cute little faces back and forth to school.
Up the street lived this red headed kid (whom I will hereafter refer to as "Red") who no one ever wanted to sit by, because he never took a bath. I am not talking here about teenage boys who have a tendency to not bath for a week at a time. No; I am talking about someone who everyone could smell when he came out of his house two blocks away.
One day Red was standing there at the bus stop, in his usual all alone place where we all wanted him to be and the bus pulled up with the folding front door right in front of him. Krebs opened the door and came out of the bus. He told the kid to stand there while the rest of us got on. I sat toward the front on the right side to see what was going on, but couldn't hear much over the buses diesel engine. Curiousity has always been a vice as much as it has been a virtue for me. I could see Krebs waving his arms around and the kid getting big tears in his eyes. Soon the bus driver got back into the bus and we drove off with Red walking back toward home, kicking at the curb, the grass, the telephone pole (which he really bopped hard and then he jumped up and down holding his foot.)
No one could get out of the driver what had happened, but the next moring there was Red standing at the stop with his mother when the bus arrived. We got on while Krebs had a conference with her. After some more arm waving, Red finally got on the bus and sat behind me. But as he passed he no longer had that ready-to-be-buried odor about him. I later found out that Krebs had told him that he could no longer ride on the bus because he stunk it up so bad.
So lesson two was learned: take a bath regularly or people won't let you ride with them.
The third and final lesson taught me that I never wanted to be a house painter. This was due to a car accident that I witnessed my final time at the bus stop. It was the last day of school, 1968, and that summer I would buy a car, never to ride the school bus again.
The roads at that intersection were always filled with traffic and the city road department seemed to be really neurotic about how to control the vehicles. Through a period of about three years they changed the stop signs at the intersection numerous times. When it all began there was a four way stop. Then they moved it to a stop from the east and west. Then they changed to north and south. Again and again they kept moving it. Just before that day in May, they had changed it back to an east-west stop and had put flashing red lights above the octogonal signs.
Just after we arrived at the bus stop a west bound Cadillac convertible, driven by a big guy in a suit, who didn't realize the signs had been recently changed again, came barreling down the street. At the same time, a house painters 1948 Ford panel truck was headed southbound. The two met in the nicest way right in the middle of that intersection, with the Caddy center punching the paint truck.
The Cadillac ended up across the street in one of my dad's hayfields, battered but not cooked. The paint truck tipped over, while cans of paint tumbled out the back doors and spewed their contents all over the road. It all happened in glorious living color too, no black and white paint job for that day. The only witnesses, besides the drivers, to this colorful affair were five 16 year old kids.
The big guy in the suit got out of his car and started to yell. The painter crawled out of the drivers side window; he looked like someone out of a Three Stooges movie. Every color in the truck was now on him. As he got out the big guy walked toward him menacingly. But that quickly stopped when Mr. Suit slipped on some red paint and landed in some green. The painter started to laugh; something a five foot, 110 lb. guy should never do when faced by an enraged 275 lb. 6'5" businessman. But violence was kept at a minimum, except some more yelling and cussing which added to my newly found vocabulary even more.
Finally the cops came and all was somewhat well. But the paint truck was blocking traffic so the police enlisted some of the bystanders who had sprung up out of the woodwork to roll the truck back on it's wheels. One of those enlisted was Red's dad. He stood about as tall as a normal door frame and weighed as much as the paint truck. He almost rolled it over all by himself. It looked to me as if the other guys helping out were just going through the motions.When the truck rolled over more paint went all over the place and some of it splashed back on the guys pushing the truck over. It was quite a hue filled scene. The bus arrived and I didn't see what happened after that.
That afternoon when we came home there was still paint all over the road, but it was dry. However, cars had run through it when it was wet and you could see colorful tire tracks running through the neighborhood in all directions for years to come. The incident is still uttered about in that part of Murray.
See I not only learned new words I shouldn't use and cleanliness, I also witnessed a legendary historical event in person.
Now doesn't all that make you all want your kid to stand at the bus stop.