“I’m supposed to be on that bus!”
This is not the sentence one wants to hear when the bus in question is easing out of the parking lot. It was, however, exactly what a desperate freshman shouted on Tuesday as he burst out of the lobby doors by the auditorium. The school day was ending, and this student — let’s call him Zayton, which is almost his real name — was quite late to catch the bus.
So late, in fact, that he didn’t catch it at all, except to wave goodbye as it rolled down Academy Drive. I was outside to help with afternoon car line pickups, so I sprang into action with him to try to flag down the departing bus. However, despite our frantic shouting and waving, Zayton and I could only watch the Jonesboro bus head off campus.
Zayton was inconsolable. He collapsed onto the warm asphalt in a heap of freshman angst and textbooks. There was a practice scheduled that afternoon in Jonesboro that was important to him, and the bus was his best hope of getting there. I was trying to figure out how to get this kid back on his feet, when a light came on. No, not the figurative light one has when a good idea arrives — I’ve never experienced such a thing — but the flashing yellow arrow on the back of the Jonesboro bus as it idled at the stop sign.
The Jonesboro bus was turning left. This meant that it would have to go by Falcon Drive, the city street to the west of campus that connects the school to Spring Grove Road. If we could get to the bottom of Falcon Drive, this upset student might yet catch his bus.
“Zayton, get your stuff and run!” I shouted, grabbing his backpack. And off we went. With Zayton in the lead, we sprinted downhill on Falcon Drive, passing many of you as you waited in the afternoon pickup line. (I hope you enjoyed the show.)
I had to stay close enough to Zayton that he could hear me yell about any traffic danger on the road. This, of course, assumed (incorrectly) that I could’ve drawn enough breath to yell anything. As we sprinted, I counted the age difference between us — let’s just say that if our ages were a football score, Zayton would be down five touchdowns — and wondered if the bigger safety worry was traffic or my lifelong affinity for breakfast meats. Of secondary concern was the road rash I would have when (not if, but when) my legs gave way and I tumbled down the street.
Remarkably, there was no medical emergency. We reached the end of Falcon Drive, caught the Jonesboro bus, and got a suddenly rejuvenated Zayton back on track to make his practice. My heroic efforts complete, I limped and huffed back up Falcon Drive toward school, feeling the fire in my lungs and jelly in my legs. I must’ve looked as bad as I felt, because from her spot in the car line, my longtime friend, Amber (York, ‘89) Hill, offered either to give me a ride up the hill or to call a hearse. I can’t be sure what she said, and she has a mean streak which she generally shows by telling her freshman daughter all of my embarrassing stories from our days as students here.
As I topped the hill on this glorious survivor’s walk, I saw Mr. Hagood standing in my usual spot in the afternoon car line. Beside him was Zayton’s mother (Zessica), a staff member here at school. In anticipation of a wellspring of gratitude, I was already practicing my Superman speech — “You’re welcome… No need to thank me… All in a day’s work…” But as it turns out, there’s another sentence one does not want to hear when the bus has left the station, and Zessica said it:
“He wasn’t supposed to be on that bus today.”