Jan 8, 2014
I would have to say that my favorite teacher was not a teacher at all, but instead was a bus driver. Ms. Anderson drove the route through my neighborhood for the middle school. She was also our neighbor.
I remember being in the fourth grade, years before I would ride her bus, and hearing about how great she was. She was funny and she was compassionate and caring. Plus, the older kids spoke as if they could do no wrong and were not hampered by rules and regulations on Ms. Anderson’s bus. All us younger ones had visions of an angel behind the wheel of the yellow behemoth she handled so well.
We would catch her raking leaves on the weekends when we rode our bikes past her house, usually on our way to the convenience store for candy and soda. She would smile and wave and always seemed to be in such a good mood. I often wonder to this day if she ever got tired of it all and wanted to strangle every rotten junior high brat that dare come near. I really doubt it, actually.
When the first day of middle school rolled around, I was excited to see Ms. Anderson’s white hair and big glasses behind the doors of the bus that opened to let me on board. I would spend the next year and a half with nothing but good times on that bus. We were not regulated, though she made us stay safe. She played good music, usually country, and that worked okay for most of us. She didn’t mind the noise and didn’t play seat director. She kept us safe, but allowed us to be ourselves.
By the middle of my eighth grade year, I had begun delivering the local paper in our neighborhood. The newspaper itself still sits near the previously mentioned convenience store just outside our neighborhood. Naturally, Ms. Anderson was one of my customers. She was a great customer. She had no outlandish delivery requests. I had one customer that insisted I lay the paper directly, square in the center of their welcome mat and another that had me deliver the paper into the lawn for the dog to fetch, rain or shine. Ms. Anderson always paid on time and tipped appropriately.
After years of acquaintance with Ms. Anderson, I was starting to change. All of the kids in my neighborhood were changing. I had always been quiet. I didn’t like to stir up trouble, but most of the time other kids found a way to torture me anyway. Well, as I waited to exit the bus one day near the end of eighth grade, a neighbor boy started teasing me. Usually, I would take it and just run home to cry in my room, but that day something happened. I saw Ms. Anderson watching me in the rearview mirror, waiting to see what I would do. I suddenly felt steeled, and brave, so I punched the boy square in the jaw. Ms. Anderson didn’t scold me, the boy didn’t hit me back and my hand didn’t hurt. She asked me why I did that? I simply answered, “He was being an asshole.” Ms. Anderson said, “Okay, then.” And she opened the door to let us off.
That day, I learned that I could stand up for myself. I didn’t have to cower there and listen to people insult me and berate me. I didn’t have to be quiet. I learned that it doesn’t hurt to be brave.
I have Ms. Anderson’s kind, approving face to thank for that. And maybe the boy, just a little bit, too.