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 http://autismherd.blogspot.com/2011/02/misplaced.html#links
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. 🙂