I was on my way home from an appointment early this morning, and got stuck behind a big yellow school bus. We’re having some pretty good rain and wind this morning, so visibility was poor and the bus was traveling at a frustratingly slow speed.
As I trailed behind the bus, I could see some blurry faces and hands on the rear window of the bus and looked closer. A couple of little kids were laughing and making faces at me, sticking their tongues out and wagging their fingers behind their ears! I laughed and waved back at them, making an appropriate face of my own.
Oh, man, what a great memory! I can still smell that sweaty, rubbery smell that overtook the bus, filled with squirming kids, all decked out in their yellow rubber raincoats, robot-like yellow hoods, and black rubber boots. I remember my hand wet with rain, clutching my Roy Rodgers lunch box, my other hand wrapped around the wet chrome handlebar on the seat ahead of me. See those windows, all fogged up? See that kid writing his name on the glass?
The bus driver’s name was Cordy! How did I remember that?! I loved him. He used to tap the top of his hat and salute us as we got on the bus. He held a “clicker” in his other hand, and would count each one of us as we got on. Sometimes, he would stand up and count us by hand, pointing to each of us with his index finger and then check the number on his clicker to make sure it was working properly. This was an important job!
He never got mad. Even when the kids started yelling. It seemed that he was impervious to the noise. I guess that was a job requirement back in those days.
I remember it as if it were yesterday. I was all decked out in my stupid yellow rubber raincoat and hood, looking much like a giant yellow duck, lunchbox in one hand. The school bus doors flew open and I stepped up onto the first step, first one in line as I was always early to the bus stop to make sure that I would not miss the bus. I looked up quickly to smile at Cordy and make sure he clicked me in, and tripped right over the next step, flat on my face on the wet rubber walkway. Lunchbox flew open and my peanut butter and jelly sandwich wrapped in wax paper, apple and two cookies (it was always the same) went flying. All the kids started laughing hysterically. The windows steamed up from all the hot air. I just laid there, face down on the mat, wishing that I could die, but couldn’t figure out how to make that happen.
It was then that Cordy stood up and slowly turned around, facing all the kids. He took me by my shoulders and picked me straight up in the air and set me down on my feet. And then, oh glorious day, he said, “How’d you like to be my clicker today?” The kids all stopped short in their revelry and stared. This had never happened before. They were all speechless! You could hear the engine purring, from somewhere beneath our feet. “Sit here, right behind me, and you’re in charge. OK? You click each kid as they get on. Got it?”
Some days are extra-spectacular. That was one of ’em!