Yesterday afternoon we faced the disconcerting task of chasing down Buster Boy after he didn’t make it home to the bus stop. He’s only been catching the bus for a bit over a week, and only on a few days during that time, so this week was supposed to be the start of a regular routine. Not knowing where your child is has to be one of the classic fears of a parent, so it’s interesting to reflect, 24 hours after the event, on what happened and how we all reacted.
We’d waited at the bus stop for a long time with no sign of the bus and had assumed that it was extremely late as we’d arrived at the right time and hadn’t seen it drive past. That was when my phone rang. The call that we got from the school said that Buster Boy had caught the wrong bus and gone to West Albury. We both thought that seemed strange as he’s very good at remembering details, but didn’t dwell on it as we were more concerned with when he’d get home. We were told he’d been transferred to another bus and would be dropped at his normal bus stop soon. At that point we decided to split up, Rach stayed at the bus stop where Buster Boy gets dropped off in the afternoon and I walked to the other side of the block where he gets picked up in the morning.
After a short wait a bus rolled around the corner and pulled up at my stop, there was no sign of Buster Boy so I assumed that he’d got off at the other stop where Rach had been waiting. I rounded the corner and looked up the hill to see Rach and the Troll Princess, but no Buster Boy. At this point the concern really began to kick in.
I called the bus company to find out what was going on. It turned out that Buster Boy had been on the right bus, he’d told the driver that she’d gone the wrong way, so she assumed he should be in West Albury, which was where he was now headed. I was placed on hold while they got in contact with the bus driver to organise somewhere for us to meet. I was told to be in town in fifteen minutes, the bus would meet us at the last stop in town before it went back to Wodonga. We rushed home, grabbed the car, and raced to the bus stop where we nervously waited.
After what seemed an eternity a green and white bus lurched into the bus stop and Buster Boy hopped off and ran over to us for a hug. We looked for blotchy eyes, or tear stained cheeks, but saw neither; he’d held it together through the whole ordeal, only letting the tears fall once he was safely back with us.
Rach and I felt absolutely horrible. Buster Boy had been on the right bus, so we figured that we must have been late to the bus stop, and were therefore the cause of his distressing afternoon. It was made even worse when through his tears he started to apologise for not getting home.
What came next was rather confusing, Buster Boy said that he’d missed his stop because the driver, who he hadn’t seen before “didn’t go up the hill”. He told us that when the bus started going in an unfamiliar direction he went to talk to the driver, telling her the street that he lived in and even pointing it out as they drove past. Rach and I didn’t know what to make of this, we didn’t doubt what Buster Boy had told us, but we also couldn’t imagine why the bus would deviate from its route.
We took him home, comforted him, and tried to reassure him that it would be OK to come home on the bus again. Buster Boy wasn’t convinced, so we agreed to leave any further discussion until morning. Despite that, Buster Boy told us again, more than once, that the new driver had gone a different way and that’s why he’d missed his stop. The certainty with which he told this story had me wondering where on earth the bus could have gone.
This morning we made a note to put in with Buster Boy’s bus pass, with his bus number and the stop where he gets off in the afternoon. Buster Boy wasn’t happy about coming home on the bus again, but realised that he wasn’t going to win the argument. We walked to the bus stop and Buster Boy obviously still felt some anxiety about the return trip, in honesty I did too.
By this stage I was almost convinced that there’d been some unaccounted for change of the bus route yesterday, but couldn’t imagine how or why. I rang the bus company to say thanks for the way they’d looked after Buster Boy, but hoped that I’d have an opportunity during the conversation to ask whether the bus had taken a detour for some reason. The opportunity didn’t present itself, I was left wondering.
As the time for the bus grew near this afternoon the sky remained grey and the rain poured down. Nevertheless, I went to the bus stop about twenty minutes early and stood beneath my umbrella, still with a slight pang of guilt, thinking that perhaps the bus had been early yesterday and we’d missed it. Today the bus pulled up on schedule, and my heart leaped as I saw Buster Boy tearing down the aisle to be first at the door. As the bus came to a stop I could see the driver talking to Buster Boy and as the door opened I caught the tail end of the conversation.
From what I could gather she was telling him that he should have said that this was his stop yesterday when she asked, and that had she known she would have come this way. Buster Boy was right, she didn’t go up the hill. She must have asked the kids on the bus as a group if any of them got off at Chambers St, the other kids from his stop weren’t on yesterday and Buster Boy wouldn’t have known the answer, so she took a short cut.
After a big hug, Buster Boy told me that he’d shown the bus driver his note, and what’s more he’d told her that she needed to go up the hill today. I was proud that he’d overcome this morning’s anxiety and taken some control of his situation, but the best was yet to come. As we walked down the hill towards home, hand in hand, Buster Boy looked up to me from underneath the little hood on his wet weather jacket and said, “Dad, you were right. It is OK going on the bus in the afternoon”, my heart soared. One of the wonderful things about kids is how quickly they can regain their confidence.
We got home to Rach and the Troll Princess and plenty more hugs. I retired to the kitchen to put make some hot chocolates and share what I’d heard with Rach. Her relief was palpable, quickly followed by a sense of absolute disbelief that a bus driver who was unfamiliar with all of the kids on her bus would change her route. Personally, I’m just glad to know that on this occasion we hadn’t failed our little boy, and that whatever worries he had have been well and truly dispatched.