One of the more convenient parts of life is when you can walk to school as a kid, having the luxury of someone (usually a parent) taking you there or being old enough to have a permit and drive yourself. But many kids never do have the luxury of either one of those three. When I went to grade school, I had the good fortune of being taken there by my parents and later changing to a closer school that enabled me to walk right up the street from home. Then the ultimate nightmare arrived: Being forced to ride a school bus for the first time once it came time to go to middle school and high school. There was no way to avoid it due to logistics. That’s when I ended up learning the hard way in how to deal with bus stops, an overcrowded bus and the usual vagaries of students with varying temperaments.
If you’re in a similar situation I was and have to ride a school bus for the first time or have a son or daughter riding one for the first time, it’s possible to make it tolerable if not enjoyable. While some things have perhaps changed or worsened since I rode a school bus in the late 80’s, other situations have merely stayed the same and never will change. One of those examples is dealing with waiting for the bus to arrive at the bus stop…
Waiting at the bus stop for the first time and after…
The worst nightmare for a kid riding the bus for the first time is having a parent coming with the student to make sure everything goes ok. For a middle or high school student, it’s asking for a lot of ridicule by their peers. This all depends on the type of students waiting there for the bus and personal philosophy of the student riding for the first time. Unless they’re in an early grade, a lot of kids will want to go to the bus stop on the first day alone to denote a sense of confidence or independence. Then again, we’ll assume we still have small towns out there where family values are more solid and a student won’t get mocked by fellow students for having a parent along at the bus stop just for the first day.
After the first day, of course, dealing with a bus stop is a matter of keeping warm in the fall and winter and perhaps trouble students who think they can pick a fight with no one looking. Be reminded that by October, a student will be standing out waiting for the middle or high school bus in pitch black at 7 a.m. That’s when it’s a good idea to keep all your books and other school items in a secure bag so there won’t be a chance of anything dropping on the ground you can’t see. Also be prepared to be standing in pouring rain in the pitch dark, which means buying or digging out the thickest winter coat you have if not a good (and good-looking) winter hat.
Should you encounter kids trying to pick a fight, your own personal philosophy will kick in to either fight back (perhaps dangerous fighting in the dark and mud) or using reverse psychology to warm up to the group around you. Most of the time, you’ll find it easy to make friends at a bus stop. At that early of time in the morning, it’s also likely everybody around you will be in a sleep-deprived haze and be silent until the bus arrives.
Dealing with seating yourself on the school bus…
If it’s within walking distance, try to head to the first or second bus stop in your neighborhood. Should you decide to wait at the last bus stop, the bus has a good chance of being filled to near capacity–meaning trouble in finding a place to sit that’s safe. When I rode the school bus, overcrowding was a big problem. I also had to endure the last stop that meant barely squeezing three students to a seat. It also created problems in finding someone on the bus willing to scoot over to allow you (the third person) on the end of a seat.
Even though a few states allow seatbelts on school buses now, most states still don’t. When you have the third student sitting and hanging on the edge of a seat when the bus driver has to make wide turns or slam on the brakes in traffic, it can lead to someone falling into the aisle, and possible injury if not inciting dozens of guffaws around you. It’s all the more reason to get a seat early if you can. That way, you’ll just be the third person on the inside of the seat.
Yes, that can mean feeling like you’re being squeezed out the window. At least you’re better protected from a bus driver who enjoys slamming on the brakes at traffic lights.
The politics of sitting in the front, center or back of the bus…
Those who’ve ridden the school bus enough years begin to understand the politics involved in where you sit. Consider it akin to working in Washington, D.C. where learning the ropes of that kind of politics involves at least a year or two of experience before being able to master it or rise above it. It doesn’t take that long to learn the politics of where to sit on school bus, despite it being exponentially easier once you get yourself out of the freshman year.
The politics of sitting usually involves three sections on the bus: Sitting in the front, the center or the back. If you’re an inherent good kid with some principles and who isn’t looking for trouble, then sitting in the front of the bus is preferable. Sitting there also allows you to exit the bus in a hurry and not have to wait in a long line to get back out into the fresh air. The general consensus is to think that all the geeks sit in the front so they won’t get pestered in the back of the bus where all the trouble exists. That isn’t necessarily true, but sitting in the very first seat and talking to the bus driver the whole trip might give connotations of it.
As a compromise, sitting in the middle section is where you can appear to be cool and where you can make friends. Here, you can sit with your friends without having to tolerate the problems in the back of the bus. You might encounter a lot more noise from student gab in the middle part of the bus, unless you get an irate bus driver who tells everybody to shut the…well, up.
And then the back of the bus is where all the high school seniors asking for trouble typically hang out. That isn’t always the case, though it’s a likely place to see every bus rule and commandment being broken where the bus driver can’t see. A first-time school bus student shouldn’t necessarily panic if they have to sit there due to overcrowding. Consider it the brave dive into the deep end of the pool when learning how to swim.
The more you can do that early in your entire bus riding experience, the sooner you’ll feel more comfortable climbing aboard each morning for the rest of your years going to school as a teenager.