The wheels on the bus go round and round …

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.

Posted in Brats, Expats | 1 Comment

Magic Mike and the day my t-shirt got shredded

With three cats, neglected housework and an old house I had problems with large, ferocious dust bunnies.  They scurried around in packs, growling and biting my ankles.  Wooden floors and air ducts were new to me when I moved to America – in England we had fitted carpets and (hot water powered) radiators.  Dust bunnies tend to breed better in American houses, and they were certainly thriving in mine.  In spite of multiple crusades against the bunnies, I finally broke and I booked an appointment with some duct cleaners.

The cleaners were due at 11:30am, so at 10:30am I am still relaxed and in post-school-run-chilled-I’ll-do-it-later-breakfast mode – no bra, hair not brushed, not doing much, just supping coffee.  Then I get a phone call from the duct men, lost somewhere on my road and totally baffled.  This happens a lot.  Our road is divided by two towns – my town is at one end, the adjacent town starts with my neighbour.  The only way you can spot this, is by the inconsistent numbering which has been fooling people for years.  I explain exactly where my house is and continue my morning chill out.

With my new improved directions they arrive before it occurs to me to put my bra on or brush my hair.  I’ll have you know I am wearing a t-shirt and my hair is tied back – not too shabby, but I do have to cross my arms to hide the chilly nipples caused by the super-efficient-menopause-fighting air conditioning.  Damn.

My house is now very full of young Hispanic men and the cats are getting all fluffed up about the sudden invasion.  These energetic men go quickly from room to room finding the ducts.  I was having a talk with the supervisor about how to deal with the cats and must have come over as very ditsy as I suddenly spotted my bra draped over the back of the sofa.  I was trying to work out how I can keep an eye on the young men, keep the cats contained, hide my chilly nipples, grab the bra, put said bra on and HAVE A WEE in one of my bathrooms with no locks!!!  All that concentration so early in the day made me tighten the grip of my crossed arms, the consequence of which was a sudden bulge of cleavage – poor supervisor practically ran away!

An hour later, clad in bra and bravado, (and a few other items of clothing) I need to move the cats to another room.  The rest of the house has been done.  Three men are standing nearby with a giant vacuum, waiting to get access to the last room.  I move two cats with a little trouble – they are edgy and don’t like it, but manageable.  The duct men have been very patient as I poked the first couple of cats out of their hiding places.

Then I try moving my bad boy cat.  Blasted cat, on the best of days, is a nervous soul and easily spooked.  He was firmly welded to the floor underneath a bed, and resisted all attempts to sweet talk him out.  Torrents of verbal abuse and a battering with a cuddly toy and a frisbee finally moved him.  I pinned him down in a good English rugby tackle as he tried to reach behind the wardrobe which didn’t improve his nerves.

I hold him firmly to my shoulder and walk towards the other bedroom to lock him in there.  As we passed the workmen, they gave a little victory cheer which made the scaredy cat panic – big time.  He scrabbled wildly and I had to clench him tighter to me to stop him jumping away.  This resulted in the cat raking my chest savagely, ripping my t-shirt in several places and gashing my poor bare skin.  The cat and I bolted into the sanctuary of the bedroom, to the snorts of laughter from the workmen.

I was so glad I managed to put the bra on.

There may not be an obvious link, but I found myself reminded of this feline episode as I am driven home from seeing Magic Mike at the cinema.  I couldn’t think why I was remembering this, and then it came to me.

As we came out of the cinema we saw a young, good looking policeman in the lobby, which is normal for the late night, weekend showings.  “OHHH – man in uniform” ran through our over-heated imaginations “Is there any Velcro?”.  The policeman informed us that he was NOT part of the show, and YES he had been asked that a lot the last couple of days!

And the link?  That policeman looked as nervous as my cat did.

Posted in Cats, Expats | 1 Comment