Finding Ourselves on the Autism Spectrum

I’m going to say at the outset that this post doesn’t have anything in particular to do with autism. Sometimes I have other stuff on my mind, and I feel like sharing.  A post on Kathleen’s blog

 about her child not getting off the bus got me thinking, and I left this comment: “This is a serious flashback moment for me – except that I was the kid on the bus. And the driver didn’t bring us back. I think I’m going to write this up as a post on my blog, because it’ll be way too long for a comment.”

This happened when I was in elementary school and living next door to a family with four children, three of whom were boys and rode on the school bus with me. The youngest of the three was a boy I’ll call Ricky, and even though he had a brother my own age, I considered myself better friends with him, because I thought it was significant at the time that Ricky and I ran at exactly the same speed.

After school one day, I was in line behind Ricky to get off the bus. His two brothers were ahead of us. We had a new bus driver I hadn’t seen before, but I didn’t usually pay much attention to things like that. As the boys and I were making our way down the aisle after the bus had stopped, Ricky dropped some papers on the floor of the bus, and they scattered everywhere. The driver was not amused. The older boys had already made their way off the bus, but she told Ricky and I that she was in a hurry and would take us back at the end of her route through the neighborhood. I don’t remember anyone’s exact words, but the gist of it was that we should clean up and sit down and wait. Come to think of it, I can’t understand after the fact why it would save any time to do things this way, since we would have had to clean up the papers anyway, and she would have to make another trip down our street. But I was a quiet child and didn’t ask questions.

So Ricky and I remained on the bus as it made the rest of the trip through our neighborhood, waiting for the driver to turn back down our street. Except that she didn’t. She headed right out of our subdivision. I don’t remember having any particular thoughts or saying anything at this point. Under stress, I have a tendency to take on the appearance of a small animal caught in headlights. And I have no idea what Ricky was thinking.

After several minutes, we pulled into the high school bus area, and our driver got off the bus. I never saw her again. A few minutes later a male driver got on the bus and asked what Ricky and I were doing there. I think I was the one who told him that the papers had fallen and that the other driver said she’d take us home but didn’t. This driver didn’t seem to know what he should do with us and probably needed some time to think – I’m just guessing here. I don’t know whether he contacted anybody or not. But as the high school kids got on the bus – a few of them asking what we were doing there – I recognized one of them as a boy from our neighborhood. He was the son of one of my mom’s friends, and I decided that we could get off the bus with him, because I knew my way home from his house. I shared this with Ricky, and we had a plan.

As we were driving from the high school back to our neighborhood, Ricky and I were in the front seat with a good view of the rear view mirror, and I became aware of a car behind us. I believe there was a lot of honking and waving going on, but I’d have to verify that with my mom. She was in the car, and she was in hot pursuit of that school bus. When Ricky’s older brothers came home and he and I didn’t, both moms were considerably confused and upset. Through whatever process of travel and phone calls took place, it ended with my mom in her car behind us making enough of a fuss to get the bus driver to pull over and let us out of the bus.

We had an appropriately emotional reunion, and then my mom took us back to the school where the principal and other adults were waiting for us. I believe there was some assurance that the bus driver who had left us was new and would now no longer have a job, and as far as Ricky and I were concerned, that was the end of it. Ricky’s family moved away a few years later. I just recently found him on Facebook, and he remembers this episode, although even less clearly than I do, because he was two years younger.

Looking back, what I see in that episode reflects a bit of what I’m still like now. I still tend to go along with authority and hesitate to ask questions. I also have major trust issues and tend to make a backup plan of my own just in case. But these days, I do occasionally stop and ask myself if I really want to go along with someone else’s rules and realize that sometimes it’s better if I don’t. I also feel grateful that all I ended up with out of this experience was a story, and I remind my kids that they shouldn’t trust random adults and that I fully support them in not go along with anything they know just isn’t right or a safe idea.

I still find the opportunity to tell that story every once in a while, when someone mentions something about buses or losing track of their kids. I don’t have too many colorful stories, and this one is usually good for a few minutes when I need something to talk about at a gathering. I can usually do a much longer bit on the time I got robbed at a bank. Maybe I’ll write that down sometime, too. 🙂



Comments on: "When I didn't get off the bus" (11)

  1. Oh wow!I appreciate the story from the other side, The first day of school this year, the driver kept driving past me as I waited at the edge of the driveway for the girls to get off. As you can imagine, I ran after the bus screaming and waving my arms.

    • I imagine that’s a much scarier experience from a parental perspective. There’s a blessing in the fact that our elementary school is close enough that they don’t offer bus service. We don’t have that to deal with until middle school, and many of the kids are at least a bit better able to look after themselves. So if my kid doesn’t show up when the bus does, it’s generally because of some mistake or questionable choice on his part. 🙂 Still worrisome, but not in a “where are you taking my child?!!!” kind of way.

  2. Aspergirl Maybe said:

    Oh my goodness – I can only imagine how confusing that all would have been! It’s amazing that the second bus driver didn’t seem to have much of a reaction to the situation either. How strange!!

    Maybe I should share about the day we were escorted from our house by a SWAT team who thought they might need to use our house to apprehend the guy next door. 🙂

    • It still does seem pretty bizarre.

      The SWAT story sounds like it would be pretty interesting if you ever feel like sharing.

  3. Diane,
    I can only imagine this happening as thankfully I never had this happen to me and my children don’t ride a bus to school as neither school has a school bus. I do remember standing up and yelling at the bus driver that he had to let me off once when he almost ran past my house though and that in itself was scary. The other kids also yelled at him to stop to let me off, so at least I had help.

  4. Wow, I hadn’t even remembered my own “didn’t get off the bus” story for forever.

    Thankfully we had a wonderful bus driver in my first few years of grade school, who noticed quickly that I hadn’t gotten off and took me right back home.

    The problem was, I was supposed to get off the bus with Molly, an older girl who lived on my street. But one day Molly had been sick and wasn’t on the bus home. So I didn’t know what to do at all, and just stayed paralyzed with fear in my seat. My mother didn’t understand why the absence of Molly made me too confused to get off the bus by myself. All makes sense in retrospect….

    But it was stuff like this–this being a very minor example–that eventually made me angry and distrustful enough of authority to start figuring things out for myself. There were so many instances in which either the rules that I was told simply didn’t work for me, or I tried so hard to do exactly as I was told and got in trouble anyway, or I was given conflicting rules by my parents vs. my school so I was in trouble no matter what I did. Collective class punishment was another one–a few kids couldn’t shut up in class, so we all missed recess. It didn’t matter whether I behaved or not, I was getting punished regardless. I felt I was ALWAYS being put in lose-lose situations by adults, and noticed that trying to do what other people wanted usually only got me humiliated or in trouble. I can trace SO much of what I’m like now to these incidents, which made me figure that I had to be able to do things for myself, because no one else was trustworthy.

    • I’m glad you left this comment. It started me thinking. Those types of incidents have always really bothered me, too. The things you mentioned remind me of my first job at a fast food restaurant, where the manager told me to only fill the milkshake cups to a certain line and then berated me in front of a dissatisfied customer for doing just that. And there was that bank robbery story I haven’t gotten around to sharing yet. I was told the rule was to go put cash back in the vault after getting over a certain amount. I followed the rule, even though we were close to closing time, and despite knowing that several customers, the other tellers, and the assistant manager were clearly upset with me. A few minutes later I was robbed, and if I hadn’t followed the rules, I would have been held accountable for all the extra lost cash. No matter what I did, I was going to lose in some way.

      More recently my youngest child had a teacher who kept signing me up for activities for which I had an opportunity to volunteer and chose not to do so. I volunteered for some things I felt I could handle, and specifically didn’t volunteer for others. I was left having to go along with things or to appear difficult and unhelpful. And she kept assigning projects to the children that were too advanced for a child that age to possibly manage. I say that as the parent of one of the more advanced students in the class. So I was left doing a portion of my child’s work myself – which is a big pet peeve of mine – or allowing my child to be the only one in the class without an acceptable project.

      None of these people in these situations or the many others I’ve experienced seemed to have any awareness of or interest in the intense discomfort they were creating for me. So, not surprisingly, I have trust issues.

      • This is apparently not an uncommon experience…the psychiatrist who diagnosed me, near the end of the session, asked how my relationships with authority figures were. And then just laughed and nodded knowingly when I could only shake my head in exasperation.

  5. First-Bank robbery??!! You can not leave me hanging like that!! Thanks for the shout out too..:)

    What a scary story from a mom perspective…sigh..I was like you as a child. I sat quietly-even when i was freaking out on the inside. I have taught my kids to speak up! Although in my bus story-Zoe can not speak when under stress (selective mutism) which made it a much harder experience for her…

    • I’ve been wondering a lot recently how different some of the experiences in my life would have been if I’d been able to speak up about things. But we can only do what we can do.

      I’ll have to find some time to write up my bank robbery story. I used to be able to do a solid half hour on it during the months after it first happened, which was about 18 years ago. The robbery itself was actually pretty boring – it was the aftermath that was at least somewhat colorful, including an FBI agent named “Lucky” (I am not making that up) and a hearing in which I was cross-examined by the bank robber. Come to think of it, that may take up more than one post. 🙂

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