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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Been Waitin’ For the Bus All Day

School daze

    I rode the bus to school from the time I was in kindergarten on up through the … well, almost all of high school- but that’s something that I’ll have to deal with over time;  even though it’s been, OH… a long time since graduation.  I used to dread getting up at 5:30am to be  one of the first students on the bus at 6:45am; only to be one of the last students exiting the bus at somewhere around 4:00 or 4:30pm.  I whined and complained about it all the time; until I heard "how" my dad made it to school.
    I remember stories about how dad had to “walked to school in the snow with old shoes, no socks, and it was up hill both ways.” 
    And I thought to myself, how could that be? Was Pickett County that bad? It's a rural area of Tennessee but give me a break. Was the entire school year consumed by a blizzard? And in the winter, why didn’t the school superintendent just shut down schools? How could he leave them open; knowing his students had to walk all that way dressed in “old shoes filled with holes, wearing no socks- WALKING UP HILL… BOTH WAYS?”
    Then I thought to myself, “My dad is a pretty big guy.”
    Why didn’t he just steal some poor kid’s socks and shoes, and figure out an alternate route to where he didn’t have to walk to school UP HILL BOTH WAYS?
    But then I figured it out.  My dad is a pretty nice guy, and he wouldn’t steal from anyone. The only part of the story that I thought he was “fibbing” about was the “up hill both ways” part… that is, until later in my life when he showed me one day where his school was in comparison to where his house was… and YES, there were big hills - both ways!
     It was then that I had a new respect for Dad, his brother and his sisters.  They must have wanted to go to school pretty bad to have to walk that far. And I’m sure when it was snowing, there was no reason to shut down schools. After all, how would they even get the word out that schools were closed?
     Most families didn’t own a TV where Dad lived, and most of those who owned a radio only had WSM on the dial.  Do you think WSM in Nashville is going to break away from the Grand Ol’ Opry  or the Lone Ranger, to say, “Hey, Pickett County Schools are closed because of the snow.”
    No way dude!  Radio was a brand new form of “entertainment.” They hadn’t figured out that whole “breaking news” thing yet… or even “good informational news.” And yet, in my humble opinion, I think maybe THESE days they have figured out that whole “breaking news” thing a little TOO MUCH.
    Trust me.  We'll know when Charlie Sheen farts long before we hear the Gaddafi crises has ended.
    It's no one's fault I guess.  Instant access to instant information is just a part of "our time."  
    At the risk of sounding old, I'll use the old cliche: BACK in my day... when the sun was shining, my brother and I used to enjoy walking the mile and half to and from school.  But that was a different time. You rarely saw a car and even without a single sidewalk, it was a pretty safe to walking distance.  You only had to listen and watch for one big yellow thing.  The bus would pass you going sbout 50 miles per hour. Nice to know some things haven’t changed.  But it only took about 35 minutes to walk home.  Riding the bus took at least 45 minutes to an hour. So of course, walking was the coolest thing to do! 
     And I remember a time when 5th or 6th  graders would laugh at other 5th or 6th  graders whose parents brought them to school or picked them up at school.  NOW, I reckin it’s the “in” thing.  Back then when you were 11 or 12, you didn’t EVEN want to be seen being dropped off by your parents. 
    They say kids are growing up faster these days. But I don’t think so.  I think they grew up faster when my dad was a kid… slower when I was a kid… and even slower today.  But with the news media hype about abductions, gangs, pure evil, etc… I reckin times are different. And as the REO Speedwagon song says, “We gotta roll with the changes.”
     But I think if I were in 2nd or 3rd grade today, I’d be one of those kids who insisted on riding the bus to school. But that’s just me. The bus is just a total experience in and of itself.  It was the place where you could take up for the little guys who always got picked on.  If you had some nerve, you could actually beat up the “so called” bullies and get away with it. It was the place where you could give up a good seat to the girl you liked.  It was a place spent glancing at your watch.  Anxiety levels rose to extremes; not from homework assignments, but from your stomach churning in hopes that you would arrive home in time. In time for what? Re-runs of Gilligan’s Island came on at  
     The bus was the place where we carried every single book home from school for homework assignments (apparently book bags hadn’t been invented yet). It was the place where…
     Well, I’m just glad someone came up with the idea of busing kids to school so they don’t have to walk to school “up hill both ways” anymore.

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