oxymoron67: (dino head)
[personal profile] oxymoron67

I am Facebook friends with several people who grew up in the same town that I did. Every now and then, one of them is overcome by nostalgia and posts something about how magical our childhood was and, really, wasn’t our hometown a great place to grow up?

This makes me wonder what drugs they’re on. I grew up surrounded by people who were a curious mix of crazy and stupid. Granted, this has given me lots of fodder for stories, but I don’t really look back upon my childhood fondly.

Take the following tale from the mid 70s, for example.

In elementary school, the powers that be would occasionally call an assembly to show a “safety first” movie. These movies would consist of three to six short stories, wherein children our age did horrendously stupid things which led to them dying ridiculously over the top deaths.

Think of these movies as more violent, less subtle versions of Afterschool Specials.

After the movie, a policeman, fireman or paramedic would come out to talk to us about what we had just seen and give us safety tips.

This… didn’t work as well as you’d hope. Frequently, the safety officer would be unprepared, or would just discuss something completely different.

One fall day, we watched the bus safety movie. This one was divided into three vignettes.

In vignette one, some school prankster jammed the school bus door open. The school bus driver attempted to close said door while still driving. The bus crashed into a nearby house and many students were injured: I remember one child being paralyzed and I think the prankster died. Troublemakers usually did in these things. There’s a kind of karmic justice to that, I suppose.

No, I don’t know why the school bus driver didn’t stop the bus to fix the door, because that’s the obvious solution here, right?

In vignette two, the bus was careening down a dirt road in a rainstorm, when the bus driver turned around break up a fight. The bus veered out of control, crashing in the woods, but, since it was on a dirt road and the rain had caused flooding, no one could find where it crashed for a few days. As a result, many students died, including, of course, the ones who were fighting.

No, I don’t know why the bus was CLEARLY not on its regular route. Because… wouldn’t a search party immediately check along the regular route? And wouldn’t a bus crash leave debris behind that they could easily follow?

In vignette three, a child was bringing his pet mouse to school for show and tell. He dangled the mouse in front of the bus driver, who immediately fainted. The students celebrated this for a moment, until the bus rolled down a hill and into a lake, killing everyone on the bus.

The last shot of the film was the rear of the school bus, slowly sinking into the lake.

No, I don’t know why anyone would let a person that easily overpowered drive a school bus.

After that, two policemen walked in with a bike and German Shepherd. The bike and the dog had nothing to do with bus safety. In fact, the policemen did not mention bus safety at all. Instead, we heard about making sure that all our bikes had headlights on them. Also, we got to pet the dog.

It was like they had prepared for a different (yet equally grisly) safety film.*

So, while the administration clearly hoped that we would be good little boys and girls on the school bus, this did not happen.

A few weeks later, we were going on a trip to the high school for a pep rally. Our high school football team was going to the playoffs for the first time in forever, and all the students school district wide were going to the rally. The high school was at the very top of a hill, and the only way to get there was to take these rather narrow roads that were carved into the hillside.

The was an issue, since some of my classmates thought that the bus safety movie wasn’t so much a warning as it was a how-to guide for vehicular mischief.

So, about five of my classmates started bouncing from side to side in the bus, hoping that this motion would cause the bus to tip over into the ravine, so we could tumble down in the hill in the bus, just like in the movie, because that looked like fun.

As you can imagine, I was not thrilled about this, but I figured that most of my classmates weren’t so stupid as to join in, so I thought we were safe.

Here is where I made my mistake: never underestimate the stupidity of other people.

One or two of my classmates joined in. Then, more and more of my classmates did, until it was only a handful of us who weren’t actively trying to send the bus down into the ravine.

The bus was rocking, but as not as much as my classmates hoped, so they just started going faster and faster. The rocking increased, and I’ll admit that it was a little scary.

My fellow students were determined to flip the bus, and nothing was going to stop them.

Until the bus driver got sick of it, that is.

Our bus driver was named Esther. She was four feet tall and about as wide. Esther did not put up with much. Seriously, if she caught students smoking on her bus, she’d pull over, grab her fire extinguisher and turn it on them**.

No one fucked with Esther.

Esther pulled the bus over, and then waded into the students who were bouncing around. After a whirlwind of slapping and screaming, my classmates had all settled down and the instigators of this whole thing were sitting in the front of the bus, totally silent and scared shitless.

Once we got to the high school, we had to stay on the bus until one of the principals came out. He lectured us for a good fifteen minutes then the bus turned around and took us back to the elementary school.

The instigators got in all kinds of trouble: detention for a month, extra homework and their parents had to come in for a conference with their teachers and the principal.

As for the rest of us… we had to sit through the bus safety video AGAIN. Only this time, we had to write an essay on why trying to tip over a school bus full of children was a bad idea.

So, when I hear people discussing what a wonderful childhood we had in my hometown, I think about events like this and wonder what the Hell is wrong with them.
*The bike safety film was just as bad, but neither the bus nor bike safety movies could hold a candle to the fire safety movie. That thing gave me nightmares for weeks.

**Yes, the parents of the smoking teens complained about this. However, Esther said that she saw the smoke and was worried that bus was on fire, so she had to do SOMETHING. The administration backed her, and the issue was dropped.

Date: 2013-08-05 01:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] judo100.livejournal.com
That's a great story, really. Trying to rock a bus back and forth to send it over the side. I can totally see how some kids might view those movies as "how to" sessions.

Sort of reminds me of the time in junior high that the administrators of the school I was in put on an "anti-drug" lecture in the school gym. There were probably 300 kids up in the bleachers, watching. I think there was some inane movie, and then the teachers sent around some "drug paraphernalia" (like roach clips, etc, not smokable drugs per se), only to have the ... well, disappear for lack of a better word ... into the hands of the same 300 kids. The teachers go so mad, yelling and waving their arms. The kids were laughing so hard, some fell off the bleachers. The only thing missing was some cops to talk about bike safety.

Date: 2013-08-08 01:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oxymoron67.livejournal.com

Why would they pass that stuff around? Surely they would figure... I guess not.

Date: 2013-08-05 05:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] adoptedwriter.livejournal.com
I hated riding he school bus. AW

Date: 2013-08-05 12:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fox-bard.livejournal.com
That's a great story!

The only safety film I remember most poignantly from that era was one in which a kid used a butcher knife to carve an apple. (WTF? A five year old with a butcher knife?) Instead of rinsing the knife off and putting it promptly away, he dropped it in murky dish water. Later his mother is rooting around the kitchen sink in a bright red summer frock dress from the 60s (showing that the film was already nearly a decade out of date when I finally saw it), and of course, she slices up her hand. She pulls her hand out of the water in dismay and there's fake blood all over her hand.

Now... when I was five, I wasn't allowed near the knives. Any of them. Why was the Mom rooting in dirty dishwater, anyway? She could have drained it. And with bare hands? Even Palmolive didn't do jack for water as dirty and greasy as they showed in that film!

But you know? The movie still haunts me from time to time when I'm doing my dishes - especially the knives.

Date: 2013-08-08 01:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oxymoron67.livejournal.com
I don't remember a "Don't play with knives"/kitchen safety film.

I'm sure we had one, but it can't have been that bad.

Date: 2013-08-05 03:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] angelamermaid.livejournal.com
Trying to make the bus roll ... OMG.

Two safety films haunted me - in one, there was a girl doing food testing. She drank some cola and it made her cough, and then she passed out on the floor like she had died. As a kid I was convinced she died, but now maybe she passed out? Either way, the poor girl was on the floor by herself, nobody was coming to help her.

There was another film about some kids that found some old grenades and stuff, and set them off in a closed area, like an old bunker or something. They didn't die, but they were deafened for life.

It seems to me that I saw the grenade one while living overseas in Belgrade, at the Anglo-American school. So that film might've been British. Because nobody worries about finding bunkers full of grenades in Canada.

Date: 2013-08-08 01:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oxymoron67.livejournal.com
Our fire safety film's message was NOT don't play with firecrackers and gasoline in the family garage. It was more when you catch fire while playing with firecrackers and gasoline in the garage, remember to "stop, drop and roll."

It was horrifying.

Date: 2013-08-05 05:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theun4givables.livejournal.com
Oh, safety films. Ours weren't quite as epic as yours. Seems like yours followed infomercial rules -- where everyone does everything so wrong it's like wait, how do you even FAIL That badly?

Date: 2013-08-08 01:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oxymoron67.livejournal.com
I've never thought about them like this before, but you're absolutely right. They are like infomercials.

Date: 2013-08-06 09:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alycewilson.livejournal.com
O_o Wow, really? Just goes to show that below a certain age, there really is no fully formed sense of right and wrong.

We watched movies like that, too, especially during driver's ed. That's why I waited until I was 17 to even attempt to get my license. I kept seeing horrific scenes in my head and worried I'd cause a terrible accident if I got behind the wheel.

Date: 2013-08-08 01:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oxymoron67.livejournal.com
Re: No fully formed sense of right and wrong
You;re giving the instigators too much credit. Last I heard, two of them have done jail time.

Date: 2013-08-07 03:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lrig-rorrim.livejournal.com
My schoolbus driver was a sort of Esther, too, tough as nails and a great sense of humor. We never tried to roll the bus off a cliff though. Yeeeeeesh!

Date: 2013-08-07 04:37 pm (UTC)
ext_224364: (Default)
From: [identity profile] x-disturbed-x.livejournal.com
Oh sometimes those in their youth can be so stupid. I've done some stupid things but never like this. I really had a 'what the hell' reaction while reading this.

Date: 2013-08-08 01:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oxymoron67.livejournal.com
That was my reaction while living through it.

Date: 2013-08-07 09:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] plantmom.livejournal.com
I wanna grow up to be an Esther!

Oh, wait...

Date: 2013-08-08 06:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] halfshellvenus.livejournal.com
I think you win-- your fellow schoolmates/etc. were far stupider than the average stupid kids. Seriously, tipping the bus over into a ravine? What did they think was going to happen when they hit bottom?

Esther sounds awesome, and exactly the kind of driver your schoolmates needed.

But making the innocent kids rewatch the dumb video, and then write essays about the dumb things they had already not done? Gah. If you're going to be punished for it anyway, where's the incentive not to do it? Well, apart from death...

Date: 2013-08-08 08:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kathrynrose.livejournal.com
If I had directed that last video, I'd have had the final scene be the back of the bus sinking, with the rat swimming slowly to safety.

Date: 2013-08-12 10:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cheshire23.livejournal.com
Oh, those horrible cautionary-tale scary movies! The ones that tell you all the things you wouldn't actually do until someone puts them into your head by telling you not to do them. *sigh*

Date: 2013-08-12 11:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] agirlnamedluna.livejournal.com
I do admit I sometimes fall prey to that kind of nostalgia as well. My town wasn't too bad, but we definitely had that kind of stories as well. Esther sounds like a hoot of a busdriver though, looking back, of course ;)


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