My youngest daughter has been attending an all day camp this week. The highlight for her is being taken there by a school bus. I spend just as long driving her to the bus stop, but she doesn’t care. She finally gets to ride the school bus.
The yellow American school bus is an icon, known throughout the world. I never envisioned that one day I would be collecting my daughters from this bus. I also never dreamed that my older daughter’s first bus journey would end up with a police escort!
My girl had just started Kindergarten (nearly two years ago now!) and had been nagging me to allow her to use the school bus. I finally agreed she could use the bus to come home. I am not a morning person, so an early morning rush to the bus stop simply didn’t appeal.
I checked the details with the school and happily waited on the allotted corner with my little pre-schooler, watching for bus #2. We were even early for this momentous event and excited to see our big girl get off the bus! Five minutes before the bus was due a bus passed without stopping – obviously not ours. Ten minutes later a #5 bus passes and stops halfway down the road. Not ours … and then some local kids get off and the bus departs. “Oh hell”, my instincts said, “This doesn’t feel good.” We wait another ten minutes. Our bus is now 15 minutes late.
The dad of the local kids is still in his garden and I know his wife. He confirms that it was the correct bus, despite the WRONG NUMBER AND STOPPING IN THE WRONG PLACE!! Hmmm, where, oh where was my daughter?
For some reason I don’t have my mobile with me – not something that happens often given my addiction to it. I go home and phone the school, the dad will keep an eye out in case the bus returns. The school puts out a call for Rebekah … she is not there. The school phones the bus company in a bit of a panic (I can hear them sweating!). Meanwhile I put a post on facebook stating that my daughter is lost after her first time of using the school bus. There is a full blown panic on the ether, at the school and the bus company. I tinker with facebook, my little one watches TV. Us English are good at keeping calm in a crisis.
Finally, my girl is found lurking on bus #2 (which has #5 on it). I am told the bus will drop her off directly at our home, and I should stay there. Okay. I update facebook. Less than a minute later I am phoned again and told to meet the bus at the allotted stop. “Oh, would that be on the corner WHERE STATED or halfway down the road WHERE IT SHOULDN’T BE?” Unfortunately my wit is wasted as the woman in the office has just fainted in relief that the English kid hasn’t ruined their stats for “kids lost in transit”.
I stroll back TO THE CORNER, feeling slightly defiant … and notice a police car is stalking me. Do I look dodgy? The #5 bus that should be #2 drives past the corner and stops HALFWAY ALONG THE ROAD. I wonder if the nice policeman will arrest the driver for stopping in the wrong place.
My daughter finally gets off the bus, the bus driver apologises and the police car cruises away. The other kids’ dad offers me a beer so the kids get a play date, while we swap horror stories of lost children.
I have been asked how I could stay so calm when my daughter was lost, and it is because I have great faith in the care that Americans take over their kids. I knew that my girl was on that bus, but she didn’t know when to get off. Perhaps if the bus acted as expected, I would have been there to get her instead of standing like a plonker on a street corner (not a good place to stand, in England!).
It was similar to when I lost my little one in Target … but that’s another story.