Managing the Bus Stop: Day One
Eighth Grade 1966-67
Wilson Junior High School
I don't remember now how I got to the bus stop, but I'm sure I must have told Mom not to bother taking me, that I would walk - not because I'm such a thoughtful, unselfish daughter but because I would have been mortified beyond belief to have anyone see me in public with my mother who had worn the same hairstyle since 1840 as far as I could tell. I was starting the year from hell - eighth grade - in the States.
So there I was at the bus stop, relieved that I was the first one to arrive. Or maybe I was the only one at this stop. What if I had the wrong one. What if this was the stop for the high school and I ended up at the wrong school! I'd read and re-read the map and instructions in the information packet that came in the mail just to make sure. Self-doubt and self-confidence battled inside me for prominence as I stood there. How should I stand so that I look cool? If I stand with my weight on one leg and my hip out does that look casual or campy? If I stand on both feet hugging my notebook in front of me will kids think I'm hiding a spot on my dress or being cute and shy? I wonder if my notebook is the kind everyone else is bringing to school. I really like bright colors and psychedelic flowers and I've seen a lot of those kinds of notebooks at K-Mart and Sears, but what if that's not where you get your notebook from. I wish some girls would arrive just so I could compare, but I dread comparing my notebook, my dress, my hairstyle with them because if I look different from them . . . What if they aren't polite and just laugh out loud when they see me. I hate America! Especially California. I mean. If I lived
someplace like Ohio I could probably look weird and get away with it, but in California everyone is cool - and tan. I hate my freckles and light skin. I'm just going to have to wear long sleeves and pants all year.
I hear soft talking and footsteps. Two girls walk up together and stop about six feet away from me. I don't look at them - afraid to make eye contact; afraid to see what they're wearing compared to my A-line dress that was donated by Mrs. Lazarian whose daughter wore it last year . . . at Wilson Junior High. At least it's an expensive dress. Anyway I think it is because the Lazarians are really rich. They live up on the hill where all the expensive homes are and they give a lot of money to the church and to missions. So I think my dress at least is okay, but I'm wearing nylons because I'm self-conscious about my white legs. Probably all the other girls at school have been at the beach all summer and have really tan legs so they don't have to wear nylons to look decent. What if the hippie look is in, though, and everyone's wearing tie-die wrap-around skirts and flowers in their hair! I'll look really stupid in my neat navy blue A-line dress and nylons. I really hate America! Especially California.
I notice a guy has also arrived but is standing behind us, crammed up against the hedge dividing the sidewalk from someone's front lawn. He's pretty skinny and his hair is kind of greasy looking. He looks about as scared as I feel, and when he sees me looking at him I smile as if to reassure him that he's not as weird as he thinks he is, but he quickly looks away. Oh no! What if he thinks I like him! Did the two girls see me smile at him? Do they think I'm a big flirt?
But I have a new problem to figure out. Now I see the yellow bus turning the corner down the street and my stomach is starting to knot up with real fear. I realize I don't know the system. Everyone will know that I'm a new kid. Are new kids supposed to sit in the front of the bus or at the back? How will I know who the cool kids are so I don't accidentally sit next to or around them and get told to move? What if I pick a seat and someone says, "That's saved"? Should I wait for the other two girls to get on before me or go ahead of them? I hope there are still some empty seats so someone will have to sit by me, but what if I get into an empty seat and no one comes to sit by me? Or worse yet, what if a really weird girl sits by me and everyone thinks we're friends, or a guy sits by me and everyone starts teasing me about him? The bus is here and the door has opened.
I don't remember now what happened or where I sat that first day on the bus. In fact, I don't remember any of my bus rides to or from Wilson Junior High School. I've probably blocked those all-too-painful memories. All I know is that I managed to survive - like so many of my friends who call themselves MKs.