Smack Down

Good things never happen on the bus.

When I tell Bryan that I ‘rode the bus to school,’ he looks at me like I’ve also noted that it picked me up from the tree under which I slept every night on a self-made hammock. But to me, the bus was always full of local suburbanite kids who also carried L.L. Bean’s newest over-the-shoulder ‘pack or wore Fubu puff coats in the winter because it was cool for more reasons than one.

The social dynamics of the bus (to my knowledge) are about as universal as the idea that someone will always bring Fresca to the family parties. I have to note that I don’t think I’ve ever consumed Fresca at a non-family-party-event. The cool kids- who are synonymous with the bad kids in middle school- sit in the far back. Dead last through three or five rows forward are feeding grounds for mischief. Then there’s the middle. Those in the middle are usually a conglomeration of individuals- mostly budding thirteen year old romances who don’t really want to be within eyesight of the driver or mocking distance from the rebels. The other category in this section usually belongs to those who are unaware of any seating hierarchy as a result of technology or just a lack of overall social awareness. It could also be that they don’t want to deal with those in the front of the bus, who are usually synonymous with those who want to sit in the front of the class and are so overly-efficient in their everyday lives that it spills over into their bus trip, saving them approximately three seconds of a walk had they sat near the rear.

I sat in the middle, as a very rare breed of middle-schoolers who were overly-aware of these classifications and trying to pretend that I was much more balanced than my (real) front-seater self. My time on the bus can be summarized as such: I witnessed many awkward first kisses (and one girl-girl incident in a front yard), I learned the slang for several of the so-called ‘bases,’ I was exposed to some cultural lessons that made me pay closer attention to my own deodorant application, I saw a few brawls, I was both asked out and dumped in the middle section, I learned that those who sat their backpacks next to them didn’t have ‘room’ for a fellow rider, I exhibited (then) unknown wit and self assurance when I pronounced that I was done with a ‘relationship’ because ‘talking to you is like talking to a brick wall,’ I experienced plenty of humility when trying new ‘outfits’ and realizing that the reaction on the bus I couldn’t get off of was ultimately the same of those who would be awaiting me in the locker room, and I learned about messing with the law from the back-row bandits ambushing the local mailman’s truck with water balloons thrown out the bus windows.

But I must confess that I myself contributed once or twice to the shocking scenes of the bus. In a fit of anger over the injustice that was a young man making some sort of mocking hand-gesture about a mentally handicapped rider, I raised my palm to the air. Within two seconds flat, I had executed my first slap-down directly in his face, silencing some passengers and eliciting some hoots from others. I will never forget this (almost?) isolated behavior that surprised even myself. The mockery died down, and the young man (who likely remembers this story very differently) turned out to be an honorable grown man full of ‘yes ma’ams’ and ‘thank you’s.’

I do believe this excerpt would fare well in an essay entitled, “Why I Support the Public School Bus System.” Ride on.

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