Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Return of the Infernal Yellow School Bus

I can tell it’s September. You want to know how? Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I DID look at the calendar. Duh.

But the other way I can tell it’s September is because it’s the Return of the Infernal Yellow School Bus.

I like kids and all – and I really like school bus drivers (or at least one of ‘em!) – but I really don’t like waiting behind buses for the little darlings to get on the bus and sit down before the driver can inch along another 10 feet to pick up even more kids. It eats up precious moments I cannot spare on my morning commute.

The Return of the Infernal Yellow School Bus means I have to readjust my departure time, but I can’t remember if it’s 5 minutes before or 5 minutes after my current departure time. And, yes, it’s a critical point because those school buses seem to reproduce at an alarming rate and I’ll see them in front of me and behind me and beside me. Unbelievably, no one in the school district has bothered to e-mail me the bus schedules so I could try to slip in there between pick-ups.

But, heck, there are so many school buses on the road, I could almost walk to work faster. I won’t, of course. It’s 17 miles one way to work and I’d have to get up at 5:30 in the morning to get started. And if you are familiar with me at all, you know how dedicated I would be to getting up at 5:30 in the morning!

Anyway, I tried to outsmart the Infernal Yellow School Bus this morning and took a long loop around the subdivision to try to get ahead of it. No luck. That bus somehow managed to beat me to the main road then had the nerve to make a couple more pick-ups! Even worse, it then had to cross two sets of train tracks. Sigh. I mean, you know how cautious those bus drivers are when it comes to crossing train tracks. The wait behind them seems interminable.

And, yeah, okay, so I’m glad they’re cautious because they do have some precious cargo on board. But it’s very unlike my behavior when it comes to train tracks. If the lights aren’t flashing and the gate arms haven’t been activated, I fly across the tracks fast enough to become slightly airborne. (I call it my Starsky & Hutch moment. And, yes, you young’uns…I’m referring to the original series – not the remake. I was halfway in love with Paul Michael Glaser…what can I say?!)

At any rate, after I extricated myself from slow-moving large yellow vehicles, I vowed to try the five minutes earlier departure time tomorrow. But I was still trying to shake off a little frustration. I took a couple deep breaths and debated whether or not it would be safe to do a little Zen meditation while driving. Deciding that closing my eyes – even briefly – probably wouldn’t be a good idea, I instead turned on the radio, which happened to be tuned to Sunny 95. And heard the beginning chords of the song Amie, by Pure Prairie League.

Suddenly I was transported back to high school in Alliance, Ohio. I was sixteen again and sitting in the backseat of my friend Jodie’s convertible on a Friday night with a group of girlfriends. We were driving down State Street with nowhere in particular to go and singing Amie at the top of our lungs. We were young and had our whole lives ahead of us and were in the moment just enjoying ourselves.

I didn’t have deadlines to meet and utility bills to pay and grocery shopping to do before I could get to the fun moments. I could go to Fred’s Drive-In and eat a burger and onion rings without worrying about things like cholesterol and fat content. And Infernal Yellow School Bus problems weren’t anywhere near the horizon of my mind.

Hearing that song was better than any deep breathing exercises or Zen meditation I could do. My grip loosened on the steering wheel. I smiled. And then I started singing along. Maybe it wasn’t quite at the top of my lungs, but if someone in the vehicle next to me were watching, it would’ve been obvious I was singing to the radio. (Fortunately, I don’t have a convertible so the ears of my fellow commuters weren’t subjected to my off-tune rendition!)

And by the time the song ended, I was in a happy place again. Ahhhh… Interesting how songs can bring back such immediate and powerful memories.

By the time I reached downtown, I didn’t even mind (very much) that there was an overturned semi that had dumped half its load on the exit ramp I needed to take. I just waited patiently until I could merge with the slow-moving traffic and took a little detour and eventually arrived at work. Relatively on time, even.

Yeah, when I get home tonight (in between grocery shopping and utility bill paying) I think I’ll make a CD of my favorite “take me away” tunes for the car. So, tomorrow when I see that Infernal Yellow School Bus – despite my altered departure time – I will be all mellow and happy.

Either that - or I'm really going to need to find a job where I can work at home...

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