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The Day I Quit the School Bus – and the Bullies

Remember junior high school? Ditto jeans, big combs in our back pockets to comb our Farrah hair, disco music on 8-track tapes? Today we call junior high “middle school,” but no matter the words we use, this particular stage of American life remains a giant petri dish for Lord of the Flies. Does anyone come through this rite of passage unscathed? The scathing I endured was sourced in a big yellow school bus.


My school is exactly 1.5 miles away from my house. District policy allows a bus ride for kids who live more than 1.5 miles away from school, which excludes me. Barely.

Mom, being concerned and well-meaning,  has made arrangements with the school district to have a bus transport me for medical reasons. I have exercise-induced (and everything else-induced) asthma. As I begin 7th grade, the plan is for the bus to pick me up at the elementary school that just graduated me, two blocks away. And it will drop me off there at the end of the school day.

The only kink in this plan is that the bus will pick me up AFTER it engorges itself with all the other savages students that live just outside my neighborhood. And it will drop me off BEFORE it disgorges the other beasts boys and girls.

This means I have to run the gauntlet. Twice a day.

Boarding the bus after everyone is settled, I rarely find a seat. Girls are already paired up. Boys are looking for amusement, which they often pair with weakness. They find both in me. I don’t like being the center of attention. I avert my eyes. I will myself invisible, but they see me anyway.

They hone in on my vulnerability like sharks to a fresh scab. The name-calling starts on Day 1. “Asthma! Asthma!” Sick Girl!” “What a little wussy girl!” “Hey Wheezy! Can’t you even get yourself to school?”

How do they know? Who told them why I was riding?

It becomes a game to put out a foot and trip me. To block any available seats. To see if I will crack.

My pride and joy at this time is a denim bag. I ordered it myself out of a Lillian Vernon catalog. I love it because it has slots for my pens (don’t ask me today why I thought this was cool back then — I just did).

Some of those pens even had my name engraved on them, also thanks to Lillian Vernon. A particular 9th grade boy delights in plucking my pens out of my bag. They have my name on them. As a burgeoning writer, I perceive these Lori-fied pens as extensions of my 12 year-old self.

I endure the trips up and down the aisle for what seemed like the entire year. Odd how one’s sense of time at that age has no anchor, no tether. It may have been for only a week or two. Torment messes with the space-time continuum.

I consult with my Dad, who gives me some advice. We make a plan and I put it into effect one afternoon as I get off the full bus.

I walk up the aisle as the taunting and takings happen, as usual. This time, though, I pause just for a moment at the front of the bus to address the hostile and surprised audience.

“Stick it up your asthma.” I say it clearly, loudly, confidently. Now that I write it, it makes very little sense, but trust me, it seemed very clever at the time.

I walked off the bus. Alone, relieved, proud of myself. And from then on, I got to school on my own power.

Read more from Lori Holden on her blog, Lavender Luz 

Lori Holden

Lori Holden blogs at Lavender Luz and can be found on Twitter @LavLuz. She lives in Denver with her husband and two tweenagers and is an aficionada of dark chocolate, red wine and good coffee. Her book, “The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole,” was written with her daughter's birth mom and is available in hard cover and Kindle formats. Lori is an award-winning speaker and writer whose work has appeared on The Huffington Postt, BlogHer and the Denver Post moms site, and in magazines like Parenting, Adoptive Families, Conceive, and Partners in Health. Find Lori on Instagram: lavenderluz

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Thursday 11th of September 2014

As a bullied child, I feel your pain, i'm glad to hear you found your voice and I hope that you were treated better.

Lori Lavender Luz

Thursday 11th of September 2014

It was highly empowering to use my voice in this way. I certainly began to treat myself better.

I'm sorry you endured bullying, too, bodynsoil.

Lori Lavender Luz

Wednesday 10th of September 2014

It took a lo-o-o-o-ot of coaxing from my dad to get the one moment of extroversion.

Leigh Ann

Tuesday 9th of September 2014

I'm so glad you had the courage to say it, whether or not it made sense! I know I would have been too shy and introverted to stick up for myself.

Lisha Fink

Tuesday 9th of September 2014

Ohmygoodness. I wanted those personalized pens from Lillian Vernon so badly. I actually ordered them when I was a 20-something with my own checking account! Thanks for the flashback.

I'm glad you found your voice on that bus, and glad you're sharing it with us now.

Lori Lavender Luz

Wednesday 10th of September 2014

Those we awesome pens (except for the fact that they didn't write very smoothly). I bet those were even fun checks for you to write!

Virginia Woodruff

Tuesday 9th of September 2014

Lori, I could relate this post completely. I was also tormented on the school bus, that lord-of-the-flies zone between the comfort of home and the boring routine of school. My trip was longer--about 45 minutes, and I wish I had a parents like yours, who would have helped me talk back. My mother's advice--"just ignore them"--didn't help and may have exacerbated the teasing. Looking back, I don't even remember what they were teasing me about, beside being different, sensitive, quiet. As you said: "weakness." Though they're nothing like me, my kids will never ride the school bus. Thanks for you honest post.

Lori Lavender Luz

Wednesday 10th of September 2014

Oh, Virginia, 45 minutes must have been an agonizing eternity twice a day!

I'm glad you're able to prevent your children from living this type of Lord of the Flies.

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