I never had to ride a bus to school, and that was a blessing. To this day I’m still a little wary of them. Rare class trips confirmed that they were the ideal breeding ground for my anxiety; an enclosed space with mysterious and opaque social rules and customs. Where you sat and with whom was evidently meaningful to other riders. On those rare trips I knew enough to stay clear of the back of the bus. Even as a very small person I sensed that no good could come from being so far away from an adult. As a younger child those seats seemed very high and quite conducive to hiding bad behavior. Bad behavior has always frightened me.
A story of a bus matron (which we did not have on our class trips) being verbally abused by children does not surprise me. Children are people. Some people are lovely some are disgusting and some fall somewhere in-between. What does seem inconceivable to me however is that this behavior would have continued for any amount of time. It stands to reason that at least a handful of children on that bus are little versions of me. They were frightened by the behavior. The thought of getting on that bus every morning made their stomachs hurt. They told their parents. They asked to be driven to school. They explained that they’re bad kids on the bus. There is no vow of secrecy or non-disclosure agreement on the bus. These are not members of organized crime. They’re just kids that happen to live along the same bus route. Someone (if not many) told. Kids tell.
Following that theory (and it is just a theory, devoid of any factual support whatsoever) could it be that the parents did nothing to stop it? Once we get past our shock, it does sound plausible, no? Don’t we tend to assume that things are not our business? Don’t we usually duck and dive under a bush to avoid any form of confrontation (unless it’s from the confines of our car and involves obscene gestures, or through anonymous comments on the web?) Despite all government pleading, how many times do we really see something and say something? Do we “suffer” through a broken streetlight, or wonky elevator? Or do we fill out a maintenance report? Do we gape, horrified at teenage girls pulling their tops up on the side of the highway? Or do we explain how those photos they’re taking might someday limit their options in life?
Hopefully we speak up. Hopefully we’ve been on the planet long enough to understand the dangers of silence. Hopefully every day we choose to tip the balance away from disgusting and towards lovely.