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.
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October 2013

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