A Weekly Smile

My work takes me into the community working with people of all walks of life and I do enjoy it. Recently, I was required to catch a high school bus, with one of my clients, something that came with a few shocks and a few delightful surprises.

School Day Memories

Not having caught a school bus for many years, the prospect of doing so had me thinking of the halcyon eighties – read: the days before public transport was air-conditioned whereby temperatures inside a bus packed full of students surpassed 45 degrees Celsius, or way over 120 degrees F.

Just the kind of temperatures that makes the skin on your thighs stick like super glue to those hard vinyl seats buses are famous for. Fun? Not!

Inside a high school bus from the Eighties

These ‘overheated tin cans on wheels,’ were filled with the happy chatter of school kids, but the fetid air was mostly punctuated with wafts of poorly maintained engine emissions as the diesel engines laboured up and down suburban hills via their given routes. Ah the joys, I thought.

Typical Eighties Council Bus Photo Credit: BCC

The aisles were more often than not strewn haphazardly with school bags, of various shapes and sizes and the floor looked much like the shores of a tropical paradise post-tsunami. The omnipresent group of testosterone-filled teens adorned with lanky locks, smelly armpits and hefty doses of attitude, were constantly jostling for the privileged rear seats where the cool kids sat. Fun, I remembered. Maybe.

When the sought after back seats were already taken, the not so cool, lanky lads would hook their wrists into the straps that hung down the aisles, thereby securing their upright stability when the bus was in motion.

However, this also meant their sweat-stained, stinky armpits were fully exposed to the passengers sitting opposite. After a full day of [hyper] activity at school and minimal ventilation inside the bus you could imagine the atmosphere was close to combustion!

Image Credit: Cartoon Stock

That’s right – year round subtropical summer is really great if you’re relaxing on the beach; not so great if you are travelling around on public transport. Even in winter, our sun is strong enough to induce a sweat with only the mildest amount of physical exertion. So, perhaps my armpits were not as sweet as a daisy, either! Oops – Note to self: arms down by your sides.

All up, I foresaw this upcoming bus trip as a bevy of aromatic armpits, filled with gum chewing teens shouting a cacophony of lewd/suggestive comments amidst their smartphone induced haze, complete with earbuds perpetually insitu. What WAS I letting myself in for, I mused?

If you are imagining this scene as I did, you’d be wrong.

For it might surprise you to hear this recent bus experience made me smile, a lot.

Waiting at the Bus Stop

The first kids to arrive at the designated wait zone for the bus were smartly dressed – shirt tucked in, hair neat and tidy! I was a little surprised but not completely convinced my stereotypes were not up to date, so I decided that a strict school uniform policy accountered for that anomaly.

Next, I was warmly greeted by a fifteen something teen who introduced himself as Colin. Colin politely asked if I was catching the school bus too. Manners? Surely this wasn’t the norm, I thought?

Add to that, another student followed Colin’s introduction in a similar fashion offering to mentor the student I was there to assist. [How sweet is that?]

I then passed several minutes exchanging small talk with these kids about favourite subjects and activities at school, when a young lad moved directly in front of my line of sight, enquiring as to whether I liked, ‘tea.’

A little confused, I replied that yes I did, in fact, like tea.

“I thought so,” he said, sporting a huge grin.

“Can you tell me why you thought that?” I asked, clearly unsure of where we were headed with this discussion on hot drinks.

“Well, Grandmothers like tea,” he said.

Me: Oh, he thinks I’m a Grandmother! I thought, under my breath. [I am not a Grandmother, btw.]

Let’s hope he was alone in this, I thought!

Me: “Can I ask you what makes you think I’m a Grandmother?” I asked.

“Your hair,” he said. “Grandmas have grey h….,” his voice then trailed off.

Me: “Oh, okay, so you think if my hair was grey, I might be a grandmother?” I suggested gently.

“Err, now I’m not so sure,” he responded, craning his neck to see the back of my head.

“No… it’s blonde,” he discovered dejectedly. “Oh.”

I guessed he was a little embarrassed. I was just about to reassure him all was okay when…..


This loud interjection created more than a few horrified looks at the bus stop.

“RILEY!” – said the boy, Colin, in a reproachful tone suggesting that he was embarrassed by Riley’s behaviour. “You shouldn’t say that.”

A*SEHOLE!” – Riley said again, shouting louder this time. There was no sign of regret in his face.

Colin: “You’re not allowed to say that, Riley!”

Me: (thinking in my head) Admonishment from a peer? I like this Colin kid. Seems to be taking a responsible, leadership role.

“Sorry,” Riley muttered, his eyes now downcast.

Thinking that most high school bus stops would hear much more colourful language than this, I started with,

Me: “Listen Riley, it is oka…

Riley: “A***hole, Bum, Sh*t.”

An awkward silence descended on the bus stop, then –

Ah… Sorry.” Riley in a softer tone this time.

I had just started to think that poor Riley might have suffered from Tourettes, when I noticed a wry smile emerge on his face and a twinkle in his eye.

I looked away lest Riley see my own mouth curl upwards into a giggly smile.

Some things are still the same with teens, after all.

This bus trip was going to be okay and the air-conditioning meant it ended up being a lot of fun.

What made you smile last week?

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