Remembering Bus 47

I am up uncharacteristically early (seriously, before 8am of my own volition, what the heck?), and as I lay in bed pondering the oddness of this occurrence, I heard a sound that I haven’t noticed in years. Just like the smell of cherry-flavored Chapstick (dang it, Katy Perry, you have tainted that for all of us), this sound instantly flooded me with memories. It was the distinctly high-pitched screech of school bus brakes at the top of our street.

How many of you just heard it in your head? I don’t even have to describe it. If you rode the bus, you know. Oh my gosh, The Bus. It seems like it should be capitalized. If you don’t hurry up, we’re going to miss The Bus.

When I was young, we lived in a typical neighborhood where the bus stopped right in front of our driveway. Riding the bus back then was exciting, because my very bestest friend in the whole wide world rode the same bus as I did, and it gave us an extra thirty minutes to make up patty-cake rhymes and giggle about boys.

I guess then my mom was in charge of making my brother and I get out to the driveway in time, because I don’t remember it ever being much of an ordeal. There was one time, though, that the bus driver passed us even though she could see us running for it. My mom chased her down and gave her a good talking to. I remember because when she drove away, she used her handheld radio to talk to another bus driver. “Dude,” she said, “some crazy lady just chewed me out.” I purportedly piped up, “Hey! That crazy lady is my mom!” although I still suspect that I might have just wished I had the courage to do that.

When we were older my family moved to a different neighborhood that was more out in the country. It was residential enough to have a bus route, but there were no sidewalks or streetlights and most of the lots were at least an acre. Catching the bus back then was a quite a different story.

Ah, Bus 47. How you elude me still.

As you can imagine, our neighborhood was much too spread out to warrant a stop at the end of each driveway. In fact, our driveway was the only one on our entire side of the street. And it was a long street. Which, in turn, meant that we couldn’t just run out the door once we heard those trusty old brakes. Heck, our gravel driveway alone was a significant trek. We had to – gasp – actually be ready at the end of our street at 7:15. (Come to think of it, I think this might be why I have such an aversion to waking up early.)

Which, by the time I was a teenager with the frizziest hair that ever, ever existed (This was before straightening irons and the knowledge that you don’t brush curly hair. Seriously, in one of my school yearbook photos my hair was bigger than the box allowed to me.), was easier said than done. I can remember many a morning when my brother and I heard the brakes several streets down, looked at each other in horror, and ran. Sometimes I didn’t have my shoes on yet, forgot my backpack, or whatever, and my brother would run ahead to make the driver wait for me.

Those were good times. But actually, there was a sort of fierce glee in getting there just in time to make the bus – or even better, just in time to make it wait for you. It meant we didn’t have to stand there shivering. And since my brother refused to wear long pants unless it was below 40 degrees, there was a lot of shivering. Although, of course, this was a risky move on our part. Get there even fifteen seconds late and we had to make the walk of shame back to the house to ask Mom for a ride.

By the time we were in high school, which bus driver we had became exceptionally important. Namely, as a matter of status amongst other bus-goers (bus 63, in particular, was stiff competition). What you wanted back then was a young, attractive bus driver who was just a little lax with the rules. You didn’t want one too lax with the rules, because then they might miss your stop on purpose or ignore bullying when you were the victim, but a little lax allowed for cursing, standing up, and eating missed breakfasts. And most importantly, the cool bus drivers chose the cool radio stations. I.e., alternative rock. The lame bus drivers listened to oldies, NPR, or – God help us – country. Which is funny, since we actually lived in the country and I’m pretty sure 80% of us secretly loved country music. But hey, no one needed to know that.

I remember the ever-sticky floors, the smell and give of the leather seats, the way the fabric would stick to your legs in the summer. I remember how the windows stuck and there was always one or two people that everyone would ask to get theirs – the sound of them sliding down and slamming up. I remember slouching down to put my knees up on the back of the seat in front of me, and dreading the days when my seat-mate didn’t ride. Not that she was that great; she used to comment on everything from how often I shaved my legs to the brands of my clothes, but hey, she was familiar at least.

I learned a lot on the bus, mostly about people. I mixed with a whole different crowd of kids than the ones in my classes, and man did they know a lot more about sex than I did. They could talk a big talk, anyway. And they knew all the good cuss words, too.

By sophomore year, when kids started turning 16, The Bus became indescribably lame – no matter how cool the driver. Luckily, I was so active on my dance team, which had before- and sometimes after-school practice, that I really did need a car for my parents’ sake. So I got to drive to school and forget about the bus. Which I did quite successfully, until this morning when I happened to be lying in bed just as one braked at the end of our street, ready to drive a new load of kids down future memory-lane.

So what about you? Did you ride the bus? Are there sounds like bus brakes that send you immediately reminiscing? Smells that take you back?

And, of course, most importantly, which bus did you ride?

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  • Kitty

    Bus 49 🙂 I loved riding the bus. I was always the first stop so I had my choice of seat (right near the front on the right side) and it usually took over an hour to pick the rest of the kids up. I would bring my cd player and whatever book I was in the middle of and used both of those to totally shut everyone out. I now realize this probably made me very uncool. Oh well. If I was the subject of bullying at least I was never aware of it.

    • Aw, that sounds nice actually. I don’t think I had a CD player then, I can’t remember. And I did read on days when my seat-mate was gone, although I couldn’t concentrate much in perpetual fear that someone (socially) scary would sit next to me. Our bus was always really full.

  • Paula

    I was the geek who loved riding the bus. Here’s why:

    (warning: this may be a slightly longish comment!)

    In high school, I rode bus 1515 and…I… loved it! I still remember our incredibly country/cajun bus-driver, Mr. Danny. He was awesome! We all knew we could talk to Mr. Danny about anything because he’d respectfully listen (in that really nice way old guys from the country have of listening to you ramble without interrupting) to our long-winded and highly exaggerated teenage complaints. Then, when you were done complaining he’d nod real slow and say something hilarious at which you and everyone within earshot would laugh. But later, as you were walking home you’d suddenly recall what he said and realize, “wait a second…that actually makes a lot of sense.”

    For me, the bus became a more laid back extension of school. The popular mingled with the geeks, for some reason social barriers were crossed. So, as a shy yet attention-seeking ninth grade drama queen, this sent me over the edge with delight and the bus became my stage for stand-up. Every time the kids laughed at my antics, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Of course, back at school I was still a quiet geek, but on the bus- I was just me.

    That’s why I liked the bus, it was a great place for a shy wanna-be comedian.

    Plus that, I really liked the way those leather seats smelled : )

    Thanks for this post, it was (as always) a good one!

    • That’s really sweet. Now that you mention it, I do remember a mixing of cliques on the bus. I was very shy too, so I don’t think I was nearly brave enough to take advantage of even the bus social scene. Maybe if I had ridden it when I was older, but as a youngster I was always very aware that the older kids were way too cool for me. They talked about things I’d never even heard of, and some of them were pretty brutal, so I had no courage to try to make friends. I guess each bus has its own atmosphere. I’m glad yours was such a good one!

      Thanks Paula!

  • -j-

    I love this. LOVE. And I didn’t even have to ride the bus to school, because there were enough kids of driving age by the time I had to attend a school beyond walking distance, that a ride was always available. And yet… I know the sound. I even know the sticky floor and seats and windows. Maybe it’s the field trips that I’m remembering, or the bus rides to the mall because that’s where the cool kids hung out.

    So glad I stopped here between to-do items today. GREAT post.

    • Thanks J! That makes me feel good. And I don’t know how, but I totally forgot about field trips until you said that. Like they completely fell out of my head. But wow, field trips! A whole new wave of bus memories. 🙂

  • Kyle

    I can’t remember the bus numbers of the buses I rode in. I do remember that when I was in 5th grade through 8th grade that my brother and I had to walk a good distance to get to the bus stop… Unless we jumped the fence on our property as a short cut. The bus would always be waiting for us when we got there – it didn’t seem to matter how early we left. A soon as we rounded the corner of the street and the bus came into view my brother and I would break into a run, racing to see who could get there first. I only won on the days that he was carrying his big snare drum for band practice. Good times.

    • That’s such a cute mental image of you two kiddos racing and him holding a big drum. =D Thanks for sharing that!

    • Anonymous

      What about the time when you were home sick, and your brother was late getting home? I knew something was wrong. So, we jumped in the car and started back-tracking. Someone pulled right in front of the bus driver causing a wreck. No one was hurt but everyone was pretty shaken up. The kids seemed happy to see us. See, you were right. She was never late.

  • I never took the school bus. The closest I got was excursions, where the class crowded in, and the teachers made half-hearted attempts to keep us from getting rowdy (hahah like that was going to work!). After I started homeschooling, I still had the occasional bus ride with my ice skating synchronised skating team, and I probably rode public transport more from that point than I ever did before.


    • Huh. Is “excursions” Australian for field trips? =)~ I loved using public transit when I lived in Austin, because they had a fantastic bus & shuttle system. But my city now makes it impossible to use the bus system with any convenience.

      • Haha, yes, field trips (I usually catch my Australianisms better than that XD).

        I hear you on the lack of convenience! Gah.


        • Hehe. That’s actually really interesting, Ashlee! I think you should do a whole post on “Australianisms.” I’d read it.

  • This is giving me bus nightmares of my entire freshmen year of high school when I had the biggest crush on a senior and always felt mortified to get on the bus while he was getting in his car. I realize now, without the veil of adolescent narcissism, that he probably never noticed me AT ALL.

    • Aw, haha. You sound like me! I was like that too, although our bus line and car parking lots were on opposite sides of the school, so I never worried too much about who saw me get on the bus. Guess I was lucky. Sorry about those nightmares.

  • Anonymous

    In elementary school everyone would sing songs I didn’t know the words to.

    In high school we went everywhere on buses, ’cause I was in the band. Fun!

    In college I remember the bus being so crowded it would drive right by. Then I would be late to class. So I started catching it several stops earlier. Once I fell off the bus, tearing my best pants. Another time I fainted when getting off (turns out I was sick – a strong guy scooped me up).

    When my youngest son was going to wrestling tournaments, while in high school, I followed the bus. They can go pretty fast!

    And now I still ride a city bus, especially when my truck needs repairs. It’s only $1.25 and is air-conditioned. Those even squeal!

    Buses are great!

    • Wow, you could write a whole life story based solely on buses! 😉 That’s kind of neat, actually. Our dance team took buses to games too. Those were good times… usually. And I’m glad a strong guy was there to scoop you up. Hooray for conveniently-placed strong guys!

  • Anonymous

    No bus for me! Most of the time I lived a little too close. Plus my mother was terrified of letting us ride the bus. She heard too many horror stories. But I did get to ride it a handful of times for fieldtrips. It was like heaven. I was always jealous of the kids who got to ride the bus. They got extra time to chat with friends!

    • That’s so funny. Most kids that rode the bus would have loved to get a ride from parents. I guess it’s like the old curly hair/straight hair thing. We want what we don’t have.

      And randomly… why is your Disqus name Feberam? In my head I’m pronouncing it so that it rhymes with “CD-ROM.” Lol.

      • Anonymous

        it was soo annoying being dropped off by my mom. It was more time for her to nag and generally irritate me ha.

        haha. It’s my fall back username. It has two meanings. Febe Ram=Febe Ramirez (my maiden name) and Febe Ram= ram being the animal of the astrological sign Aries. I’m an aries:-)

        and because I kept forgetting my disqus username HA. I feel old now.

  • Anonymous

    Ooh speaking of smells, my father’s cologne. He used to wear brut cologne when I was a kid. I have this one really vivid memory of when he picked me up and hugged me tight and I could smell his cologne on his neck. He was wearing a suit. I think we were going to church. I must’ve been 5 or 6. And it was the most safest I had ever felt as a child.

    • Yup. My dad smelled like baby powder, coffee, laundry detergent, and saw dust. =)

      • Anonymous

        sawdust huh? Why sawdust?

        • He did a lot of woodworking stuff, like he built a bridge across a gully up to our house and a tree fort in the backyard. But even when he wasn’t currently building something, he was always out in the garage, which had sawdust still in it. *shrugs* I guess “raw wood” would be the same smell as “saw dust.”

  • Oh my gosh.. Memories of “Bus 1” and the nickname I gave our ANCIENT bus driver (I seriously think she drove bus when my mom went to school): Kizmo. It fit so well. But your story is making ME feel ancient. Music on the bus? Wha? Fabric seats? Wha? Good-looking, cool bus drivers? Wha? I had NONE of that… just vinyl green seats made of what must have been plywood only and a long ride.

    We lived rurally – as in, only three neighbors on our ‘road’ (they don’t count as streets when there are no street lights, no lines painted in the roads, and only corn fields and cow pastures in between homes… And the road is about 20 miles long… ha ha)… I can’t say I have any particularly happy bus ride memories… It was an hour and half ride with THREE crammed to a seat. I was more than happy when my sister turned 16 and I got to ride with her! So from age 14 on, I was never on a bus again, thank goodness.

    • This reminds me of the “When I Was Your Age” stories, in a good way. Except that you can’t be that much older than me. And come on. Your bus didn’t have a radio? Maybe your driver just didn’t like to listen to it? I’m thinking this is more of a rural thing than an age thing, because even the old school buses from the 40’s had padded seats. I will admit, though, that 90 minutes sounds miserably long, as does 3 kids to a seat. So you win. 😉 I’m glad you had a big sister to save you!

  • I keep coming up with all sorts of random and varied school bus experiences that I don’t know where to begin. The time a kid tried spitting over my seat to hit someone behind me? The year my best friend was a girl I met on the bus, who moved to Texas the next year? The time the bus broke down when I was in kindergarten? Or the time the bus driver had to call the cops because some guys were planning to jump a kid when he got off the bus? So many to choose from, so many different experiences that I don’t really have a single, concise image of The Bus like a lot of other people seem to.

    (By the way, I didn’t really live in as sketchy a neighborhood as that jumping incident would make it seem, though…yeah, that did happen in my town.)

    The school bus is sort of a microcosm of the entire school experience. It’s kind of amazing to think about how much of my childhood took place on a bus!

    • That’s crazy! Why did the man want to jump the kid? That’s quite a scary incident for a bunch of children to witness.

      And yeah, it is pretty amazing how much of our youth is spent on buses. I guess that’s why there are so many annoying kid songs about it. 😉

  • Regina Richards

    I walked the 10 blocks to elementary school. Lots of happy memories of those walks. Then I rode the bus to middle school for 2 years because the school was really far away and across several very dangerous roads. Hated it. The crowd was mixed: my middle class neighborhood with a troubled neighborhood. It was like riding a prison bus that had picked up a load of finishing school students. I still have a scar from where I was stabbed with a sharpened pencil. I had never even spoken to the kid. When asked why he did it he said he just felt like stabbing someone and I was closest. Anyway, when I started Mid-High despite the fact the bus stopped every day literally at the end of my driveway, I only road it a couple of times. Rain, snow, sleet or hail I walked the 5 miles to school and home. When I was 16 I got a car and never looked back.

    Cool topic.

    • Man alive! You guys rode some dangerous buses!! That’s horrible. What happened to the kid who stabbed you? Sounds like he needed some serious help. I think I would have chosen walking too.

      • Regina Richards

        The funny thing was, I didn’t have to walk. The troubled neighborhood wasn’t part of my Mid-High district. I would have been riding with the Golf Course kids on the other side of my neighborhood. But I just didn’t want to ride the bus anymore.

        Nothing happened to the kid. He got away with it as kids usually did 40 years ago. But I’m betting he didn’t stop that sort of behavior when he grew up; they usually don’t. So my guess is nothing good happened for him after that.