Rule Breakers: Amy and the Bus

It was a Wednesday, and Wednesday meant what in 1979 was called gifted class, and gifted class meant getting out of regular class (yay!) and getting on a bus (yay!) and driving along a really curvy road with a bump on it that made us all fly up from our nasty green bus seats and touch the ceiling (yay!) and we got to do creative stuff (yay!) and the classroom had carpet on the floor (yay!) and so, Wednesdays were good.

I was nine and in third grade. My hair was short, my jeans were short, and there is only a fifty percent chance I brushed my teeth that morning. But who cared? It was Wednesday. I had only ten minutes at school before the bus would pick us up.

Except…my homeroom teacher told me that the gifted class was cancelled for the day. My nine-year-old ears could not handle this news. I was devastated, and I knew I had to do something.

Here’s how it went down. The usual bus pulled up where it always did. Same bus driver. I saw my gifted classmates in the hall, walking toward the exit. So I went with my friends and we walked outside like we always did, to the door of the bus.

The bus driver had by then gotten the news that gifted class was cancelled. Some of my classmates started to turn back. But for some messed-up reason, I stood at the bottom of the bus steps, looking up at the driver, and said, “Class isn’t cancelled. We’re going.” He argued only once. I said again, “No. We’re going,” and he let us on and drove us around all the curves and over the bump in the road and arrived at the school with the carpeted floors, only to be met by the principal outside…who told us that class was cancelled.

There is a large part of me that still doesn’t accept this as a breaking-the-rules story. It was more like activism than badness. And I didn’t really get in trouble. But my mother almost did, because she was the head of the special education program for the county. She had nothing to do with it, so why they gave her any hassle I don’t know. Maybe because they were embarrassed that some nine-year-old girl commandeered a bus in their fleet. (Probably.) Maybe because my mom was a woman and in charge of something in 1979. (Probably.) Maybe just because it must have been a frustrating hour for them, trying to locate eight kids and a bus driver.

A.S. King
Amy Sarig King

Amy Sarig King’s latest books are The Year We Fell from Space (Levine/Scholastic), illustrated by Nina Goffi, and (as A.S. King) Printz Award winner Dig. (Dutton). Her novel Ask the Passengers (Little, Brown) won the L.A. Times Book Prize for YA Literature in 2012, and Please Ignore Vera Dietz (Knopf) was a 2011 Printz Honor. After ten years teaching literacy to adults in Ireland, she now lives in Pennsylvania.

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