'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
STUCK BEHIND SCHOOL BUS, COMMUTER PROCEEDS TO DO—NOTHING
The other day I was driving to work and I got stuck behind a school bus. The bus stopped at EVERY house on the street, turning what is usually a one-minute drive along that particular road into a 15-minute crawl. Each stop was identical: a single teenager stood listlessly at the end of the driveway wearing baggy shorts, an overstuffed backpack, and a baseball cap turned sideways. (Even some of the boys were dressed this way.)
Whatever happened to the concept of a “bus stop”? You know, a designated location where all the kids in the neighborhood gather so the bus only has to make one stop rather than 14 individual stops? Just wondering.
At each stop, the school bus doors opened and the teenager at the end of the driveway proceeded to do—nothing. He or she just stood there with iPod ear buds blasting who-knows-what kind of music into his or her skull, completely oblivious to the fact that a 40-foot long bright yellow vehicle had just pulled up a few feet away.
After about five or ten seconds (but which seemed to those of us stuck behind the bus to be more like five or ten minutes), the teenager looked up, finally notice the bus, and then proceed to do—nothing. Maybe it takes a while for the visual message from the eyes (“Big yellow vehicle!”) to make its way past all the screaming rap music pouring in from each ear and reach the decision-making part of the brain (“Hey, it’s my bus—I should get on it”) and then to the motor control region (“So start walking forward, dude”).
When the teenager climbed aboard, I could see him or her walk slowly down the aisle toward the back of the bus. Then the teenager proceeded to do—nothing. He or she just stood there, contemplating which of the 21 empty seats should be used. And of course, the bus driver cannot turn off the flashing red lights and start driving until all the passengers are seated.
After a seat was finally chosen, the flashing red lights turned off and the bus started moving forward. When the bus had traveled about 50 feet (but which seemed to those of us stuck behind the bus to be more like, um, 50 feet), the flashing red lights turned on as the bus stopped at the next driveway. Then the exact same scene played out again—thirteen more times. I started to wonder if I would ever get to work that day.
Then it dawned on me that I had left my house early to beat the rush-hour traffic. I looked at my watch: 6:30 am. “Wait a minute,” I thought. “Why are these kids getting on the school bus this early? What time does school start nowadays?”
When I was in high school I didn’t even wake up until 7:30. Which, by the way, occurred in the 1970s. I did not go to school, as some people suspect, in a one-room school house with Abe Lincoln. Waking at 7:30 still gave me plenty of time to take a shower (2 minutes), get dressed (90 seconds), eat an entire box of Cocoa Puffs (3 minutes), and walk a few hundred yards to the bus stop where the bus arrived at 7:45.
No wonder teenagers today are zonked out. So the next time I get stuck in another early morning slow-motion conga line, I’ll cut the kids some slack and be more understanding. After all, they must dislike being awake at 6:30 much more than I dislike being stuck behind a school bus.
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