I was, for lack of a better term, a failure at childhood. Some of my friends joke that I was “born 40,” while others accuse me of being ill-equipped to have fun. For the first half of my life, this was probably true. Then, sometime in my mid twenties I finally learned to embrace the (pardon my French) “Fuck-It” principle, wherein I just learned to relax and go with the flow, controlling what I could and not worrying about the rest. And I think I’m a much happier person for it. But as you might notice, this enlightenment didn’t happen till halfway through my second decade of life.
Before this change of outlook, I was a bit, um…tightly wound. This might be acceptable for a straight-A student in high school and college. But I’m not even talking about high school and college. I’m talking about grade school, when I should have been a care-free kid. But instead, I was probably the most tightly-wound kid in town (of those kids who didn’t have a reason to be tightly wound, that is, because to tell you the truth, I don’t have any clue why I was the way I was. I had a lovely upbringing. I didn’t live in a war zone or anything. But I guess it’s just who I was). Here is a prime example:
This is the story of the time I got trapped on a flaming school-bus headed straight for hell. Or, more accurately, the time I happened to be on a school bus headed for Chuck E. Cheese’s. That might not make sense. Let me begin from the beginning.
I think it was maybe 2nd or 3rd grade. I took the bus to school because it was just a smidge too far for an 8-year-old to walk all alone every day. It was the late 80’s and parents all over the nation were being convinced by the media that their children were constantly in danger of being kidnapped by dangerous pedophiles (yes, more than one). So we rode the bus, which, if I must be honest, seemed to be only a slight improvement over being held hostage in a dank basement somewhere. But I digress.
I rode the bus every morning. It was bad, but it was bearable. It was a 20 minute interlude between the familiar safety of home and the cold comfort of school. Most of the time the bus was a moving, self-contained, demilitarized-zone, where you could get by OK if you just kept your head down and didn’t draw attention to yourself. And also, it was driven by a crazy person.
One morning on the way to school the bus driver decided to make all the kids on the bus happy and take their minds off the drudgery of institutionalized education, if only for a few fleeting moments. So, at the T intersection where the bus usually turned left to head towards school, the bus driver inexplicably turned the bus RIGHT. AWAY FROM SCHOOL. I immediately began to get nervous. Other kids began to notice this discrepancy as well. But where I was nervous, the other kids were merely curious.
Then the bus driver announced over his announcer microphone: “OK kids. Today we’re not going to school. We’re going to Chuck E. Cheese’s!!!!!!!!!!.” At this announcement the whole bus erupted into an exclamation of pure joy. Kids were hopping up and down. They were crying with excitement. All of the kids, of course, except me. I was sitting there, stunned, looking a bit like this:
To give you an idea of how utterly abnormal I was as a child, here’s a comparison of what was going through my mind versus my classmates’ minds at this moment. While everyone else was rejoicing at the fact that a grown-up was giving them permission to skip school, I was freaking out:
|What a normal kid would think||What I was thinking|
|1. Holy crap this is awesome!||1. Oh my gosh. I’m going to get in so much trouble for skipping school.|
|2. I’m going to spend the day in the ball pit!||2. But I didn’t bring any money. How will I play any of the games?|
|3. I’m going to eat pizza and cake!||3. Will mom be mad if I don’t eat the lunch she packed me?|
|4. I’m going to watch animatronic animals play in a band on the stage!||4. Does this mean my homework won’t be due until tomorrow?|
|5. This is going to be the best day ever!||5. This sucks.|
|6. Oh no! He’s turning the bus around. We’re not really going to Chuck E. Cheese’s after all.||6. Oh thank god. He’s turning the bus around. Wait…am I going to be late for school?|
So, like I said, I was a bit of a failure when it came to being a kid. Also, when it came to being a teenager. I made up for it in college though. Yup…Or at least I think I did. I can’t really remember much of my college years…