Unspeakably Stupid
Unspeakably Stupid Story #28:
Tragic Bus

I don't know how it is today, but back in the seventies, junior high school students were the worst.

When it comes to a total lack of discipline and order, they were the champions of the juvenile food chain. They were the reason I never, ever wanted to be a teacher. When I was in junior high, it ran from grades 7 through 9.

Some of my teachers seemed to be woefully unequipped for this most difficult group of nasty adolescents.

There was Mr. Brown, a nerdy, socially handicapped shop teacher who couldn't keep his students from throwing projectiles all over the room, which usually consisted of sharp pieces of metal from various metal-shop projects. Sometimes students would flip bottle caps at each other. I'll never forget the story my cousin Bill, who had Mr. Brown's shop class during a different period than mine, told me.

During the class Bill was in, there was a kid with really serious acne who sat near the front of the class. One day, while everyone was flipping bottle caps, someone nailed the kid in the face. The bottle cap happened to land with great force on a particularly large zit, popping it and sending so much pus flying that it was visible from the back row of the class. Everyone let out a collective "Ewww!"

Mr. Brown, that poor bastard, eventually had to give up teaching and became a janitor for the same school district. Of course, he was eventually assigned to the same school where he once taught. Thanks to his past reputation, he was mercilessly harassed even then.

Then there was poor rookie teacher Miss Jahns, as close to a hippie chick as you would find on any teaching staff. She had a very passive, trusting nature, and the students just walked on her to the point that Mrs. Dougal, the English teacher in the next classroom, had to come over and complain about the noise on a regular basis. Adjacent to each of the two classrooms was a small common area. Although Mrs. Dougal's half of that area was always clean, Miss Jahns' half featured a ceiling perpetually full of holes made with pencils and dotted with pieces of metal from the shop class, which was not even in the same wing of the building. I remember the school tough guy, Wayland Masters, once taking the intercom phone, a direct line to the school office, and ripping it completely out of the wall just for the hell of it.

The students themselves were not immune, either. One year my locker was in a garage-like locker bay that had been, unfortunately, designated by the students as the official smoking area. Every day between classes, I had to wade through a crowd of adolescent smokers and vandals who littered the floor and sometimes the inside of nearby lockers with cigarette butts and matches.

But the worst behavior in all of junior high school was saved for the afternoon bus. Even though our bus had one of the toughest male bus drivers you ever saw, there was always trouble. Usually this consisted of students using a rubber band to fire projectiles made of folded-up gum wrappers. The goal, I guess, was to hit the driver, or land one on his shoulder so that everyone could see it in the large mirror just above him.

As a consequence to this behavior, the driver would yell, "That's it! We're turning around!" and back we'd go to the school, where the Dean of Students, Mr. Ludke, would board the bus and try to scare the students into stopping, which would result in much stifled laughter but few positive long-term results. This shit happened about once a week or so.

At some point, some school administrator genius decided that it would be a good idea to change the way the afternoon bus did its business. Instead of simply dropping off the students all the way to the end of the route, they began driving all the way to the end of the route first, then dropping off the students on the way back to the school. It was just as stupid as it sounds, and I have no idea what the theory was behind this idiocy. I lived near the end of the route, so I got home earlier than I did otherwise, or that is to say, I WOULD have gotten home earlier, except keeping an entire packed busload of juvenile delinquents confined for the full five miles led to even worse disciplinary problems.

Students would swear, smoke, and rock the bus back and forth like a boat until the driver began to fear it would tip over. We ended up back at the school more than ever.

I'll never forget the afternoon that I missed the bus, and found that my mom wasn't home when I called. I had no choice but to start walking home, which was a good four miles away.

When I was about a third of the way home, guess what I saw coming my way: the damn bus, with everyone still on it, heading back to the school. Everyone waved as it went by, and I could hear the usual cacophony going on as it passed. My mom found me a few minutes later, and I got home before anyone who rode the bus home that day.

But the ultimate result of this ass-backwards bus routing scheme came a few days before the end of school for the summer.

It was a typical late spring day. We were within a mile of the end of the route, where we would finally begin dropping off the students. The kids were restless as usual, so of course shit was flying around the bus.

Sure as hell, the driver announced his intent to turn the bus around. He slowed the bus as he pulled to the side of the road, waiting for traffic to clear. This would be the closest we ever got to the end of the route before turning around, and the students groaned as a group. Everyone was pissed off.

Suddenly, a loud, droning buzzer went off at the front of the bus. We recognized it from drills as the warning that the emergency door, located about halfway down the side of the bus, had been opened! I turned to see the back of one of my fellow students quickly jumping out the door. As it slammed shut behind him, he disappeared into a field.

The driver freaked out. "WHO WAS THAT?" he demanded. Nobody said a thing. When we got back to the school, Mr. Ludke had gone home for the day. The driver then turned around and went back to dropping off the students.

The next day, Mr. Ludke got on the bus as we arrived at the school, demanding to know who jumped off the bus the day before. Everyone sat silently. Mr. Ludke, red-faced, had to give up for the time being.

Over the next couple of days, every student associated with that bus was called in to Mr. Ludke's office individually. I honestly didn't know who the jumper was; I had only seen his back and didn't recognize his coat. But I wouldn't have told them anyway. I was impressed that someone had the balls to jump from a moving vehicle.

Nobody ever told Mr. Ludke who it was, and with school ending a few days later, he never figured it out.

I found out later that it was Steve McIrvin, a relatively quiet fellow who lived right across the street from where he jumped. He had no reputation as a troublemaker nor as a daredevil. Also, he was in the ninth grade and so would never face any consequences for his bold act. He was just some kid who didn't want to spend another 45 minutes on the damn bus.

The funniest part was that everyone on the bus held their mud. Nobody gave up Steve although at least a handful of people surely knew who jumped. The hated school administrators never did identify him.

EPILOGUE:

WAYLAND MASTERS, the school tough guy, became my friend a couple of years later when my actions kept him from getting busted for dealing weed in high school. I also saved him from getting about a half pound of dope confiscated. A couple of years after that, he died in a car accident after falling asleep at the wheel.


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