Sunday, November 6, 2011

The End-of-the-Day Bus Ballet

At the end of each school day, as we teachers embark on the journey home, we are treated to a special show:  "The Dance of the School Buses".  On some days, it is a short performance, with only a few students nearly being flattened and some intermittent horn-honking.  Other days, we are witness to five or more buses all determined to enter the school gates simultaneously, while at least ten other vehicles block them (with musical accompaniment from several shouting guards, a few bystanders, and an irritated policeman).  One Friday, however . . .

The ballet opens with a backdrop of a gloomy, rainy day at the school campus.  Our heroine, Stephanie, spectacularly avoids injury while darting down slippery steps and even-more-slippery path, convinced she is about to miss the bus (having been somewhat distracted by melancholy reflections on her poor performance on a Chinese dictation quiz minutes earlier).  Off to stage right, a chorus of jacket-clad children frolic on playground equipment, oblivious to the rain.  Off to stage left are more buildings, with assorted extras scattered hither and thither.

As Stephanie nears the buses, she becomes immediately aware that, regardless of whether or not she moves in time, bus #8 is going to back off the drive and into the grass . . . where she is presently standing.  Whilst hopping out of the path of bus #8, Stephanie nearly encounters bus #5, also intent on backing up into the grass (and possibly into bus #8 as well).  The guard, who is one of the focal figures in this scene, darts to and fro amongst buses, somehow avoiding getting hit.  It is CRUCIAL that each bus driver initially ignore him -- this is all part of the dance.

A chorus-line of cars in varying colors now approaches, completely blocking any buses from exiting the gate.  Although there is absolutely no room for them, a chorus-line of construction vehicles joins the cars, gracefully weaving in between one another at rapid speed in death-defying fashion.  It is CRUCIAL that each vehicle come within at least one and a half inches of one another -- this, too, is all part of the dance.

Teachers and students, standing wherever they can fit (all nicely warmed by the buses that are never more than six inches from their bodies), now flock onto the buses in musically disorganized fashion.  There are, naturally, fewer seats than there are people.  Rearrangement of some of the passengers takes place, while, simultaneously, the guard continues to dart about between buses, the horn symphony plays background music, and the far-more-vehicles-than-any-sane-person-would-ever-cram-into-one-area continue to interweave -- right wear Stephanie's bus is determined to go.

The uneven, potholed dirt road, complete with lose stones, is now nearly as crowded as Black Friday at Best Buy.  A choir of shouting people add to the festivity of the scene.  Every vehicle moves at once, some in the same direction (mere coincidence), and most in opposite directions.  Our heroine bravely digs her long fingernails into her thigh as a defense mechanism against panic (until you have witnessed this bus-ballet in person, it is impossible to grasp the intensity of it).

At 4:48, the 3:45 bus at last makes it off the dirt drive and onto the main road.  Stephanie releases a breath that she has been holding since 3:46.

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"