Don’t Laugh.

It’s a bachelor weekend for me here at The Manor. I have been fairly busy with my on-call duties this weekend and Earl is in Buffalo visiting our friend Jamie and partying at Buffalo Bear night. He is expected home later today. He’ll probably stop at Tom Wahl’s on the way home. I hope he brings me something tasty as well.

When I’m in bachelor mode the house instantly becomes a wreck, I keep weird hours and become a ponderous geek; I spend hours reflecting on my past, searching for my better self and chatting on the internet, occasionally all at once. I normally feel the better for it afterwards.

They say that time heals all wounds. I look back at my first 40 1/2 years and I say that for the most part that’s true, and while I am generally a happy person there are a couple of things that stick out in my past that would be insignificant to most but still had a relatively strong impact on the person that I am today. One such incident was when I was in elementary school. I was in first grade and it was spring time. Miss Kania had brought a note from the principal’s office; I needed to ride bus 49 home instead of bus 43 because Mom was at another house in town and she wanted us brought there instead. Who’s house it was escapes me now but she lived about a mile from our own house; her house was situated on the corner behind the mechanic’s garage.

Three buses passed our house daily (43, 45 and 49 – it’s frightening that I remember that) because we lived on the main road between the village and our little hamlet (the “town”). Once they got into town they went different directions.

I remember getting on bus 49 with my cousin once removed who also held a similar bus pass. The driver was Emma, a stern woman who didn’t put up with anything. She wasn’t like Carol, who talked like a truck driver and looked like a man, but Emma could scare the biggest of the seniors when she needed to. There was a lot of spunk in her 5′ 2″ frame.

Since I was a “guest” on bus 49, I chatted with those that I usually only saw in the lunch room daily and as we passed our mobile home, I pointed to it and said that’s where I lived. Apparently Emma saw and heard this and made a mental note. To return to school, bus 49 had to pass by our trailer again as part of the route back to the village.

When we reached the house on the corner in town that I was suppose to get off at I did as I was trained. I stood up and went to the white line at the front of the aisle. You had to stay behind the white line until the bus came to a complete stop. Only when the bus was stopped and the door was opened by the driver could you cross that line. Since the house was on the corner, the bus stopped at the stop sign. I started making motions toward the door, assuming Emma would open it. Instead she yelled at me for standing up before it was my turn and told me to get back into my seat. She yelled really loud, as she apparently assumed I was stupid and had gotten on bus 49 instead of 43 and didn’t know where I lived. I turned beet red and slinked back to my seat, very confused and utterly humiliated by the situation. The others on the bus laughed at me. They were pointing and laughing a lot. My cousin sat down next to me. Since I was the oldest and the boy, I was suppose to take charge.

Emma made her way back up County Route 2 and stopped at our house. No one was home; my mother was back at the house on the corner. I sat there when the bus stopped. Emma opened the door. The lights flashed. I could smell the hay being cut in the field across the street.

“Aren’t you getting off?”, Emma yelled through the mirror. Bus drivers never turned around, they always glared at you through that big mirror over the windshield.

“No!”, I yelled back. “No one is home!”. I could see the empty trailer; electric fence separating the yard from the pasture on two sides, a row of trees and a vacant dog house separated our lawn from my grandparents’. The cows and horses were grazing. But there were no cars in the driveway. The front door wasn’t open, something my mother would do on a beautiful spring day.

The few kids left on the bus laughed and pointed at me. I was going to be the laughing stock of the cafeteria for the rest of my life and I was defying Emma. That was never good. I was a guest on the bus and I was breaking some unspoken bus 49-only code.

“What are you talking about?”, another bark through the mirror.

“I was suppose to get off back there!”

They were still laughing and pointing.

“Well why didn’t you say so?” Emma was angry. She had to back bus 49 into our driveway and turn it back towards town. That would make the other kids on the bus late getting home. They were going to miss “Tom and Jerry” and it was all my fault.

God how I wished I was back on bus 43 with the bus driver (curiously) nicknamed “Bun”. Bun knew where I lived. Bus 43 had friendly faces. They didn’t laugh and point at me on bus 43.

Emma finally got us where we needed to be. She never apologised to me and I bolted off that bus faster than I had ever gotten off of bus 43. Bun always said “have a good night”. Emma just sighed. She was still angry. I was so humiliated. I couldn’t cry though. Crying was for sissies and though even in first grade I was a little confused on the subject, I was not a sissy. But I teared up. I was humiliated.

As predicted there was some mention of the incident by my classmates the next day at school. It was then that I started counting the days since the incident through the rest of the school year. They’d forget about it with the passage of time. They didn’t talk about it after the next big scandal, probably someone dropping their tray in the cafeteria or something. But I counted each from the day I rode bus 49 to the last day of the school year.

But I never rode bus 49 again. And I never forgot the incident and I went out of my way to make sure I was never laughed at or humiliated again. Though obviously not successful in that venture, the ride on bus 49 definitely has had a strong impact on the rest of my life.