Friday, June 24, 2011

The Bus Driver

Last night I dreamed of Mrs. Wilson. The dream wove in and out of memory. I will tell you the memory.

I was in the seventh grade, and Mrs. Wilson was the school bus driver. She was a rather large woman with black hair. She tended toward the taciturn and I don't think she had the personality for school bus driving. But she drove the bus for many years.

We were not friends.

The bus ride for me was an hour long regardless of where I attended school. In the seventh grade, that was Botetourt Intermediate (BI), which is now called Central Academy. The bus would pick us up around 7:30 every morning and drop us off about 4 p.m. My brother, who was in the fourth grade, was at Breckinridge, and I would ride a bus from BI to Breckinridge, where we would pick up the smaller kids, then ride home. It made for a long day.

One day, my brother forgot his coat. He asked Mrs. Wilson if he could go back for it, and she nodded. He raced back into the building.

And she drove off and left him.

I yelled at her to stop when I realized my brother hadn't returned to the bus. But she did not. I turned in time to see him running out the door and after the bus, his legs pumping, his face scrunched up as he realized he would be left behind. His mouth was open as he cried out, and I thought I could hear his pleas. "Wait! Wait!" In my mind's eye, I even saw the tears streaming down his face.

Being left behind was a big deal. Both of my parents worked. Neither generally came home until after 6 p.m. We stayed with a neighbor until one of them came for us. I had no idea how my brother would get home or how he would fare. This was 1974. There were no cell phones. I was on my own, and so was he.

I cried all the way home because my brother had been stranded. And when we reached the bus stop, I laid into the bus driver.

"You are a big fat liar!" I screeched. "You said you would wait, and you didn't! You better hope nothing happened to him."

And I flounced off the bus.

I do not remember how my brother got home that day. I don't know if my parents picked him up or the neighbor went after him. In any event, he was safe.

The next day, as soon as I arrived at BI, I sought out Mr. Ferrell. He was the principal. I told him I wanted to report a bus driver. I remember the look of surprise on his face, that I would do this. He took me into his office and we sat down, side by side. He said Mrs. Wilson had interrupted his dinner last night to call and complain about me.

"I am sorry she interrupted your dinner," I said politely, "but she should not have left my brother. She said she would wait."

He told me I should apologize anyway, because otherwise I would not be able to ride the bus. She wanted me off the bus, he said. Besides, she was the elder and the grown up and I was supposed to respect that. However, he did concede that she was wrong to have told my brother she would wait and then drive off and leave him. And he said it was admirable that I loved my brother so much, and that I would fight for him.

I do not know what else transpired over this incident. Surely my parents were involved. They must have called the principal, too, not just at BI but also at Breckinridge, to complain about the bus driver who left their son. Maybe she was disciplined or at least given a stern lecture. Or maybe nothing happened at all.

In any event, when the buses came at 2:45 p.m. to pick us up, Mr. Ferrell met me at the door and he walked with me to the bus. Mrs. Wilson opened the door and glared at me.  I looked at Mr. Ferrell and he nodded.

"I'm sorry I said you were fat," I said.

And I climbed onto the bus and found my seat.


  1. Good for you, and at such a young age too. I too had a nasty old lady bus driver. I guess all the nasty old ladies in this world must become bus drivers because no one else will have them in their employment.


  2. Great story! Your apology reminds me of Anne Shirley's apology to Mrs. Rachel Lynde in Anne of Green Gables.
    I was cheering her on : )


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