Don’t Judge Judy

    <a href="http://www.parks.cityoflansingmi.com/tdodge/New.html
” target=”_blank”>Cyndi Lauper
Sit down and shut up!
[<a href="http://www.parks.cityoflansingmi.com/tdodge/New.html
” target=”_blank”>parks.cityoflansingmi.com]

This gem from the New York Daily News about bad bus drivers reminds me of my youth spent in school bus humiliation. It was a dog’s life on those buses. If you could survive the embittered old drivers, you had to then deal with the assholes who sat in the back. Only a total suck-up would be nice to a bus driver. One dared not sit near the front of the bus for fear of association with him or her. The back was invariably reserved for the ones with the trendy haircuts and nice clothes. The ones who never seemed to carry a book or have homework. The ones who set fire to things with a lighter and an aerosol hairspray can.

Facing the crowded middle of the bus, I was many times forced to hunch down next to one of the lower-el kids, even my safely ensconced friends unable to offer me much more confort than a shrug of the shoulders and a weak grin.

I felt I understood even then why the drivers were so mean. (I came out of my retirement for this?) Every single one of them was humorless and wholely unpleasant, ready to strike unmitigated terror into us with a well-aimed glare or a brief tirade shouted down the aisle. Sometimes I felt I was truly in mortal peril for not sitting down and facing forward. They probably wouldn’t threaten to ram the bus into a wall to kill everyone, but … well, you never know.

Out of a string of drivers from age 6 through 15, I don’t remember faces, just attitudes. Except for one driver. Judy.

She was a manish woman with short, tightly curled hair and large, solid features. Her brow heavy and hard, her voice sharp and piercing. She was a highly aggressive driver. She was tough as nails, that woman. And I kind of loved her.

She was the “activity bus” driver. A few hours after the school day’s official end, she’d pick up me and my nerd compatriots, who stayed after school for the school newspaper and Students Against Driving Drunk and Spirit Committee and possibly the least active chapter of the National Honor Society in the history of public schools, and deliver us to within blocks of our warm, well-lit houses.

She didn’t much like it, I could tell. The kids were ungrateful and often late to the bus, holding everyone up. Sometimes it was just a few of us. It hardly seemed worth her time some nights. With my nascent sense of class, I picked up on some differences between her and most of the kids she transported. I don’t think she had much reason to pass down the same streets in her car that she did in a bus every day.

Being an unabashed kiss-ass, I and my friend Kiran befriended her. She didn’t trust us right away, and was rather tight-lipped at first. But we’d sit in the front-most seat every time, and eventually she’d ask us what we had been up to after school. She’d tell us about her family. I couldn’t imagine her having a husband. Kids. Kids much older than us. She’d tell us stories of misbehaving kids from earlier in the day. She’d openly complain about her job, which was shocking and fascinating to me at the same time, like we were being let in on a great adult secret.

There were times when she’d had a bad day, and we knew enough to stay. The hell. Away. But usually she was quite pleasant to us. I began to look forward to our brief rides. To be friendly with a bus driver seemed to cinched some sort of outsider cachet.

One year, we gave her Christmas presents. My gift was a set of kitchen hand towels my grandmother had crocheted. It seemed like we were breaking down an invisible wall. In my experience, bus drivers just did not get gifts from kids very often. She gave us a couple of those super-fat candy canes that last all winter if you wrap them every time.

When I turned 16, I started driving to school. I never saw Judy again.


0 Responses to “Don’t Judge Judy”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

the untallied hours

%d bloggers like this: