I rode the short bus my entire school life, and while I was keenly aware of an otherness - a sense of being different and separate - the experience in and of itself was not a negative one. In fact, I still recall the faces of some of the drivers, aides and fellow passengers with fondness.
I remember Charlie, who drove the bus in when I was in second grade, and who was so concerned when my sis fell out of her seat into the aisle, thanks to a seat belt that was too loose. I remember Bob, the aide on the bus I rode in fourth grade, who never minded when my sis and I sang songs from Disney movies the entire ride to school.
I remember riding the bus with Steven, who licked the windows, especially on cold days. Chris, who was our neighbor at one time. John and Braxton, and Kristen and Latisha and Eddie. I remember really liking Brian, who was so nice and had such an engaging personality. They all had various disabilities. In high school, we shared the bus with three teenage mothers and their babies. They made the bus ride extra adorable. Still have lovely memories of riding the bus with those babies and their moms.
Ironically, I remember having more trouble riding a mainstream bus than I ever did on a short bus. During one field trip when I was in fourth grade, I was told I couldn't go on the trip unless they could install a seat belt in one seat or get a short bus to take me (and a couple other kids, so I wouldn't feel ostracized.) I remember being nine years old, and thinking, "Why does my safety matter more than my classmates'? If I have to wear a seat belt on the bus, why don't they?" On the short bus, no one made fun of me, even when we sang"Part of Your World" and any other Disney song I liked. I loved riding the lift on and off the bus. I loved that my bus stopped right in front of my house. It was always so positive for me.
Though I was teased occasionally, in school, it was never about riding the short bus.
It was safe, because all of us were different. We all knew how it felt to stick out because of something we had no control over, so none of us ever made life hard for anyone else. Even the kids who had emotional difficulties. Even the older kids. We treated each other kindly because we knew the world was not as gentle as we needed it to be.
But we made it that way for each other, for twenty minutes or so each way.
I like to think it made a difference.
This was written for The Short Bus Flashblog