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July 01, 2009  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Growing up yellow

by Thomas McMahon, Executive Editor


My son loves buses. And trucks, trains, planes and probably any other massive craft that he’ll encounter.

When he hears a siren in the distance, his 2 ½-year-old face lights up as he gasps, “Fire truck!”

When he spots something flying through the sky, his face, again, lights up as he exclaims, “It’s coming! Plane!”

We don’t often see actual school buses in our area, but he has a large toy school bus with monster truck wheels that he enjoys parking in unexpected places, like on the dinner table or in the bathtub.

And my 1-year-old son likes to try to grab and chew on the bus, although he’ll go for pretty much anything that his older brother is playing with.

Cool bus?
The reason I mention this is that it got me thinking about perceptions of the school bus.

I wonder what these little guys will think of the grand yellow vehicle the first time they climb aboard it on their way to school. It’s hard to imagine them not thinking it’s one of the coolest things they’ve ever gotten to do. But there will surely be some feelings of trepidation mixed in with the joy as the bus pulls away from their waving parents.

Then I wonder whether my boys will get to a point in their youth when they begin to think the school bus is not cool. Will I need to lecture them on how safe it is, how convenient it is, how it reduces traffic and our own gas consumption? And will they care about any of that?

Up through middle school, I attended small schools that didn’t have bus service — or if they did, if it was very limited. So I didn’t get my first taste of yellow transportation until I started high school.

Initially, it was a great feeling to get on the bus with neighbors and a bunch of kids I didn’t know, all free from the command of our parents. It seemed like anything could happen, and a lot of questionable acts did (not by my doing, I assure you).

But as I got further along in high school and became more “mature,” I realized that the bus was not considered the cool way to get to school. You had to have your own set of wheels, or at least a friend who had his own.

Of course, we teenagers either didn’t know or disregarded the fact that more than half of student deaths in school-travel accidents each year occur with a teenager at the wheel, according to the Transportation Research Board. Only about 2 percent are school bus-related.

Losing my edge?
I’ve also been wondering whether my boys will get to an age when they no longer think their old man is cool. I hope not, but it seems inevitable.

So if their dad, by default, is not cool at that point, and if school buses are not cool at that point, and if I’m editor of a school bus magazine … they’ll probably never want to be seen with me in public.

And then, I’ll long for the days when a bus or a truck or a train was something they’d get excited about.


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