Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Transportation Series

Scintillating, I know.

The Bus Stop

My kids' bus stop has always fascinated me. It's such an interesting little study of a disparate group of people thrown together on a daily basis. Every year it is different. A big part of me hates the bus stop—mostly just during November and December (and January, February, March, and a third of April)—but I show up there every day nonetheless.

My first year at the bus stop was when Sam was in kindergarten. That year the only people getting kids off the bus were me and a middle schooler who picked up his brother. They then walked over to a metro bus stop and took a regular bus home. I think they had a grandparent living in my school's area. I made them come over to my house one day when it was raining too hard for me to let them stand at the city bus stop. I fed them cookies and had them wait until it stopped raining so hard before they left.

Every year since then, more and more kids have started taking the bus to and from our stop. I don't know if more kids are moving into the neighborhood, or they're consolidating stops, or what, but it's turned into quite the happening corner in the early afternoon. The bus stop population seems to have peaked last year. We had quite the crowd then.

I was definitely the outsider in that crowd last year though. Most of the parents either spoke only Spanish or were bilingual, so they all chatted in Spanish. Every one would talk and laugh and I would stand sadly to the side, catching every sixth word or so. It was disconcerting. And it made me understand a little better what it must be like to be a Spanish speaker in this country.

This year, one week into the school year, the folks at the bus stop haven't really gelled yet. There are a couple of old standbys, but everyone kind of spreads out on all the different corners.

Jack's bus usually arrives first and although technically Jack gets dropped off in front of my house, I have the best bus driver in the world and she will let Jack off wherever I am in the block and a half between my driveway and the bus stop. She's been Jack's afternoon bus driver for four years now and I LOVE her.

Yesterday was the first day that she let Jack off at the actual bus stop, which is always entertaining, because it confuses the hell out of everyone else. Why is the bus smaller than usual? Why is only one kid getting off? If her kid just got off the bus, why is she still waiting? Where is my child?!

But there we are. We spread our special education awareness wherever we can.

The Commute

We did have some excitement the other day when Quinn got on the wrong bus, which means that he wasn't on the bus that stopped at our bus stop. I figured that as long as he didn't panic and get off at the wrong stop that he would eventually end up back at the school, and he did. He was a little bit put out, but not overly upset. Maybe deep-seated anxiety skips the blonds in our family.

I asked Quinn when he figured out that he was on the wrong bus and he said, "When it didn't go home." There you have it. I had a pang of sadness when I realized that all last year, Quinn had Sam to help him figure out where to go, but now he doesn't.

Also, Jack and Quinn spend a good amount of time navigating their way home from school only to have me scoop them up and drive them back to the school not too much later, which is where Sam's bus drops him off. But it is working for us.

I can't tell you how the bus stop is in the morning these days, because we're not there. And, hoo boy, do I miss it. There is nothing like an hour of commuting in the morning to remind you of how easy it is to walk your kids to the bus stop two minutes away.

Both of my kids' schools have the exact same 20-minute drop off window in the morning, which is aaaaalmost long enough. As of now, we drop Sam off early, then I drop Jack and Quinn off late. It's just a couple of minutes on each end, but I'm waiting for the day I get yelled at by both schools. Maybe if I whine loudly and often enough about trying my damnedest, they'll let me slide.

And that's the bus stop.

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