School Bus Stories: Part 2

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I was in Kindergarten along about 1975, and the bus, as usual, was 3 or 4 kids deep per seat. We were almost the last bus stop, which meant my seating options were limited. The bus had already covered the entire east side of the island and the kids on board were eager to be off.

It was an old bus. The kind with no “cush” in the cushions. The kind where you felt every single bump on the road. The kind with a metal bar on the top back of each green seat as opposed to full vinyl covering, front and back.

So there I was, teetering on about 3 inches of seat, bouncing along at 30 miles per hour (the top speed limit on Orcas Island) when suddenly Mr. Faff had to slam on the brakes, right at the four-corner stop between North Beach Road and Mt. Baker Road.

I slammed forward and my mouth smashed on the metal bar of the seat in front of me. Teeth on steel. I tasted blood. I felt a broken tooth. I cried.

My two sisters – bless them – mopped me up the best they could with the napkins from their lunch sacks. I remember feeling so badly that they wouldn’t have any napkins that day. What if they spilled their milk? I was really quite worried about that.
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I also remember feeling quite excited that I got to miss school that day. I had to go to the dentist and he pulled the tooth which, thankfully, was a baby tooth anyway. I also remember that Mr. Faff (whose name has been changed though he’s been dead for years so it probably doesn’t matter) felt very badly about what had happened. He tried to comfort me in his quiet, awkward way. Did he remove his dentures to make me smile? I don’t remember. But it was kind of him, just the same.

I remember one other thing about Mr. Faff. Never, in all the years he drove the bus and cleaned the school, had we seen him out of his baseball cap and coveralls. Never…until, one day, my sister and I attended a funeral and, low and behold, down the aisle of the church came Mr. Faff. He was wearing a suit and his head was bare. My sister and I turned to each other, our eyes wide, amazed grins on our faces.

Who knew? He had hair!

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