Back Of The Bus.

backofthebusChuck ruled the bus. He was our equivalent of The Fonz, stretched out across the back dispensing wisdom, standing up for the downtrodden, and generally being the epitome of cool. Except he was short, blonde, didn’t care about the downtrodden, rode the bus instead of a motorcycle, and mostly dispensed wisecracks, so I guess that’s not really the best comparison. He ruled the back of the bus, mostly talking just to his friends but occasionally he’d share something with the whole bus, like the time we had a substitute bus driver who ground the gears, got the bus stuck on a hill, and got lost. Chuck yelled from the back, “Didja get your license out of a Cracker Jack box?” It seems pretty weak now but in the world of first through sixth grade we had low standards and thought it was hilarious.

Anyway Chuck’s place was the entire back of the bus and everyone knew and respected that, at least until one day when I got on the bus and there was a commotion at the back. Another sixth grader, Jim, decided it was his turn to have the glory of the backseat for a change. Most of the time he sat at the front which was the equivalent of sitting at the front of the class. The cooler you were the further back you sat. I don’t know what the catalyst was on this particular day but Jim didn’t have a lot of friends on the bus and he was the son of a teacher. It was hard for him to achieve anything approaching being cool but maybe he thought if he could have the backseat things would change for him. The bus driver quickly pushed her way through the crowd and broke up the fight. She stuck Chuck in his usual spot in the backseat and sent Jim to the front where he’d quietly ride the bus the rest of the year.

There was something weird, almost comical about the way Chuck and Jim fought. They’d both had their eyes closed and were only punching each other in the stomach, and only hitting because there’s not a lot of room to move in the back of a school bus. I guess they were both really cowards but Chuck had found a way to compensate with an attitude.

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  1. Gilly Maddison

    So Jim was the son of a teacher man? (Unless it was his mum in which case that pun won’t work and I will need to make another comment.) So just in case, here is an alternative comment:

    Poor Jim, I wonder how long he had been working up the courage to storm the back of the bus and challenge Chuck’s place as Mr. Cool. But I don’t think either of them was cool – sounds like they fought like girls. (Don’t tell Chuck I said that.)

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Actually, yes, Jim was the son of a teacher man, but was he the only boy that could ever reach you? Unlikely–he didn’t have a lot of friends although he was a nice guy. He was one of those kids for whom being good did seem to come easy.
      Now his father–the teacher man–on the other hand was arrested for domestic violence and public drunkenness on at least one occasion, but that’s another story.
      And Chuck would find the “fought like girls” line hilarious if he heard it from you. If I were to say that he’d probably pull my hair.

  2. Arionis

    Where I grew up they only ran buses for kids that lived outside the city limits. So we walked to school (and all the kids today say “What? Walk? I don’t understand.”) or my parents drove us in inclement weather. However, my cousin did live outside the city limits and on occasion I would spend the night during the week and have to ride the bus with her. My cousin and I were only three weeks apart in age and grew up together but for some reason when we got to Junior High she started running with the “cool” crowd; me, not so much. When we boarded that bus I would cease to exist to her and be left all own my own. I was not a big kid (boy has that changed) and it seemed like everywhere I tried to sit was someone else’s “seat”. I spent most of those rides standing in the aisle, which I am sure is a safety violation. God damn I hated those bus rides!

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      You and me both. School buses were, and probably still are, a violation of all kinds of safety codes. I had to spend a few rides of my own standing in the aisles. And remember how we never had seat belts? The way the seats filled up was an impetus to get to the bus early but my last classes of the day always seemed to be scheduled on the far side of the building and besides those fleeting minutes between the end of class and when the buses started pulling out was my only chance to talk to some of my friends and I wasn’t going to waste that racing to grab a seat.
      In junior high I considered myself lucky to live close enough to the school that I could walk and that was good because in junior high I went to a bigger school where the number of assholes really increased.

  3. Ann Koplow

    In order to leave a comment, Chris, I looked up bus quotes online and here’s the one I picked:

    “Keys show up when you reconcile yourself to the bus.”– John Green

    Do you think those are the keys to the bus or to something else? Maybe Chuck would know.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      John Green has definitely provided the key to something although I’m not sure what it is.


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