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The Trouble Bus

Rick Ryckeley's picture

The path to Mt. Olive Elementary School started back behind Neighbor Thomas’s house and wove deeply into the woods. Along the way, kids from Flamingo Street had to traverse across Cripple Creek, skirt the outer boundaries of the Haunted Forest, and scale the treacherous Rock Hill — all before reaching the safety of school grounds.
It was a perilous journey by anyone’s account. The path to the high school was very different and even more dangerous. That journey started out by a mailbox. A mailbox located at 110 Flamingo Street.

Anything that happens on the big yellow schoolbus stays on the big yellow schoolbus. This was the motto for the mode of transportation that delivered us to hallowed halls of Briarwood High School, home of the Mighty Buccaneers.
Or at least it should’ve been. Such a motto would’ve kept yours truly out of a whole bunch of trouble during those five years I toted around math books, science books, and those dreaded English books.

A side note: the English language has so many rules that must be followed that my English book should’ve been called a law book. Back then I was a big rule breaker when it came to writing. Just ask Mrs. Newsome, my 10th-grade English teacher.
She punished any and all rule breakers with bad grades. Once home, I was punished again for the same offense. And no, Dad didn’t want to hear my defense regarding double jeopardy. But I digress.

This story isn’t about my never-ending battle trying to understand the many rules of a foreign language called English. It’s about our mode of high school transportation – the Trouble Bus.
Even today the bus ride can still land you in the principal’s office long before reaching the sanctity of school grounds. Here are but a few examples of events that happened on our way to school.
Not that I’m admitting to any of them, mind you. Principal Baker could still track me down. After all, there’s no statue of limitations on breaking bus rules. I know — I looked it up in my English book.

So take your seat. The doors are quickly closing; your ride on the Trouble Bus is about to pull away from the curb and take a sharp curve.
Changing out of the plain clothes your parents made you wear and into that cool outfit you snuck inside your backpack. Such an offense will quickly move you from a seat on the bus to a seat in the principal’s office.
An overthrown spitball won’t normally land you in the office, but an overthrown spitball that lands squarely on the back of the bus driver’s bald head certainly will.
There’s really nothing that’ll wake up a sleeping bully on a schoolbus faster than a snowball down the back of his shirt. Just ask Down the Street Bully Brad.

He woke up faster and madder than when someone accidentally spilled disappearing ink down the front of his shirt. Not that I’m ever gonna admit that one.
Incidentally, 2-year-old disappearing ink from back in the day didn’t really disappear. And neither did Bully Brad’s anger. He chased me for weeks after that one.
Arms, heads, and legs belong inside the bus at all times — especially when they are connected to someone else not wanting you to push them out the window.
A sign posted above the bald-headed driver stated that nothing is to be ever thrown from a bus that is in motion. Telling the principal that the bus was at a stop sign and not in motion will not keep you out of trouble when you “accidentally” dropped your English book out the window.

Nor will it get you out of an English test you didn’t study for.
Finally, for all my young readers out there, here is some advice from the old guy who writes for the paper.
Once out of school, you can break all the rules of English that you wish. You may not get hired anywhere, but you can feel good that you can now break the rules.
If you still ride the schoolbus, your life will be much easier if you follow all the rules. Break them and you’ll find yourself in the principal’s office in a whole bunch of trouble.

And if you have an old bald-headed bus driver, tell him I’m sorry about that misguided spitball. It was meant for one certain bully and not the back of his head.
Not that I’m admitting to anything, mind you.
[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, served as a firefighter for more than two decades and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His books are available at]

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