For children, buses can be frightening sight

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 20, 2006

Yes, school buses can frighten little children. When I visited with Alton Abrams, principal of R.L. Austin Elementary School in Georgiana, he reminded me of that fear.

Kindergarten children, he said, were afraid to get on the bus, especially if they didn't recognize their bus driver. It is the bus driver, after all, who delivers the child safely home to mother and father. The bus is just the necessary creature that gets you there.

Up until around the third or fourth grade, I was always picked up at school. Usually by mother. Sometimes by my grandmother. Very rarely by my father. The times he did come, he was accompanied by my mother. I remember once he was driving for my mother and couldn't talk. When I asked what was wrong, mother told me he had accidentally sprayed perfume into his throat, thinking it to be breath spray. Many of you know my father, so this story needs no explanation. (Dad, if makes you feel any better, many say I act just like you and your poetic justice may come when Colin – my son, your grandson – decides to air my own laundry in public, as I have done with you.)

Anyhow, (seriously, my father's escapades could fill up this newspaper. As, I'm sure could many stories of your own parents), back to the story at hand. After years of being happily carted back and forth to school, the powers that be – parents or teachers, I don't know who decided it was time for me to go where just about every child had boldly gone before; to the bus. Had the bus been happily crowded with my own classmates and teacher, I'm sure I wouldn't have had a problem. But getting on a school bus for the first time is scary. For one, you know nobody and the kids are all different shapes and sizes. Most taller and bigger than you.

The first day, my sister, who had been riding the bus for sometime, smuggled me to the back and sat me between her and a friend.

But I was soon found out and hauled forward, under the teasing, scalding eyes of everyone on board. The back was for junior and high school students only.

After my initial bit of fright, though, riding the bus became routine. I was soon comfortable with my surroundings, but looked forward to the end of the ride where my grandmother was waiting with the peanut butter sandwiches and ice cream.

Then they started showing us the bus accident movies in school. Where the kids were smoking pot on board and looking at dirty magazines and then someone held a mouse up in front of the bus driver's face and she fainted and the bus careened out of control and into a river and everyone died graphically. In slow motion. With the best bloody graphics that late 70s public service films could offer. And they always ended those pictures with a ‘this could happen to you' message.

I sat on the edge of my school bus seat for weeks after that.

Frightened again.

Kevin Pearcey is Group Managing Editor of Greenville Newspapers, LLC. He can be reached by phone at 383-9302, ext. 136 or by email at: