The American School Bus
As an American let me ask you a simple question. What do you regard as your Nations most magnificent and iconic piece of engineering? Ok hands up all those of you who immediately thought of the Statue of Liberty? If not my guess is the vast majority imagined Mount Rushmore, the Golden Gate Bridge or the White House. No? The Hoover Dam perhaps or the Chrysler Building?
Now let me tell I find all those things impressive. Spectacular even. But while I may be in awe of them I don’t particularly hold any affection for them. For me, the object that sums up all that is best in American society is much smaller, more prolific and passes us by at least twice a day. Best of all it is a unique shade of yellow that is brighter than a canary-eating sweetcorn in a field of daffodils. I am talking my friends about the humble school bus. It makes me smile each time I see one.
The coolest looking thing on the road
These buses are found nowhere else in the world. Like the red “Routemaster” double-decker buses of London, they are more than just a mode of transport. They are a state of mind. Think about it. They are a symbol of continuous regeneration. Of a caring society that believes in itself. This is rarer than you may think. In many countries, children are left to fend for themselves once past infancy.
Yet these squat lemon bugs carry our children safely in all weathers. They are punctual, unyielding and efficient. But best of all they are so cool looking that If I had to choose just one tattoo, the yellow “kid hack” would be on my arm in a heartbeat.
I confess I have no idea how each school district can afford to run these buses, especially in rural areas, but all credit to them for doing so, They should be slapped with a preservation order. Rather like the 1950’s Chevys, Chryslers and Dodges in Havana never changed, never modernised and never replaced.
A symbol for all that’s good in American society
I once travelled behind a school bus for nearly five miles in upstate New York. As it weaved its way through the dappled reds and burnished golds of the Autumn road litter, the only passenger who got on or off was one small pigtailed girl. She looked for all the world like a character from a Norman Rockwell painting. It was as beautiful, innocent and enduring an image of everyday America as I have seen, made all the more remarkable by its commonplace banality.
Now America didn’t invent the school bus. We did. But we didn’t take it to our bosom in the same way, and today English school entrances are a nightmare of squabbling parents each trying to drive their offspring as close to the school gates as possible while still in their pyjamas and nightgowns. Well, the American school bus may be taken for granted by its native citizens, but not so by this English man, and so to echo Principal Skinner from “The Simpsons”, “all hail to the bus driver, bus driver man”!