Seeing Whimsy In The Middle Of The Whirlwind
I saw a school bus slowly driving down my street the other day. It was empty, deserted, like a gymnasium of a local high school at 1 am after the Homecoming Dance.
There were no windows down, no heads bobbing into and out of view. There was no sound coming from the bus but the creaks and groans of machinery past its prime and ill-taken care of.
The benches sat empty, enjoying what they knew would be an all-too-brief respite. They were all-too-familiar with the pounding and smashing, kicking and tugging that they endured at the hands of ill-mannered tykes that they knew to be tyrants, no matter what their parents otherwise believed.
There were no loose wrappers of bubblegum or Skittles, no scraps of paper or pen caps that seemed to disappear into the crevices whenever Mrs. Oliver’s first-grade class took their field trip to the local science museum. There was one empty orange juice bottle who was simply looking for his cap that had somehow fluttered off amidst the confusion and calamity. He knew he’d have to be careful, the silence would give away his position if he rolled too sporadically, like an ill-timed shot from the rifle of a man in waiting for his enemy. Luckily for the orange juice bottle, he knew where all the cracks and holes were on the road from years of riding buses just like this one. So he timed his movements with precision, covering the sound of his tracks with the exactness of a master thief.
From her perspective, the ladybug, who normally sat on the back of the fourth bench to the right, had the bus to herself, and she was happy for it. No more swirling and diving, fluttering and flying to avoid the grubby hands of the fourth graders who once used to be her friends. She had enough exercise for a lifetime. Didn’t they know she was a 3x Insect-Olympic medal winner in the 10-inch hurdles and that she could lift 0.07 oz with her wings? She deserved the life of luxury she now experienced. Wasn’t that what all insects wanted in life, simple peace and prosperity?
The rear exit door harrumphed with every turn. How would he ever be opened now that the risk has been effectively mitigated and extinguished? You see, he was a very existential thinker, pondering the reason for life and the ways in which he was woven into the fabric of meaning and purpose. Thus, he found himself concluding that if there were no school children, no more potential accidents, no more opportunity for his exit to be flung open in one normally ill-advised but now heroic moment; he had no more reason to live. For he was truly purposeless, or so he thought, for perhaps the first time in his long life. Without the possibility of danger, what was his function?
The extendable stop-sign that was attached to the left side the school bus figured now was as good a time as any to get that elective surgery on his shoulder. The good doctor has told him that he had torn a ligament or two from all of the constant opening and closing. The doctor referenced the injury was similar to that which a talented professional baseball pitcher would experience when he threw one too many fastballs, and for this, the stop-sign was proud to be compared to such a professional. He did have an important job, and without his extendable arm, the world would be a much more dangerous place. But before the slow down, who truly had time for elective surgery? He was always ill-prepared to be out of commission for more than a day or two, for who would guard the children? But now, with an ice-pack and some painkillers, the stop-sign sang himself in and out of sleep with a popular tune, known to many on the school bus.
Speaking of the wheels, they were just happy to be getting some exercise. For no one likes to be cooped up with their siblings for long periods of time. Oh yes, the wheels came from the same family, in fact, they were 8 of 4,567 siblings, each with similar names that weren’t worth mentioning for the sheer fact you wouldn't be able to keep them straight. The siblings were ill-tempered if confined together without the possibility of exercise, so as the bus lumbered down the road, they whooped and hollered with joy, teasing and nagging one another for the wear of their treads and the ornament of the rocks that stuck in each of them like diamonds on the ears of an heiress at a state dinner.
As the school bus rolled down my street, I was standing in my driveway when I noticed the driver who tipped his cap and gave me a quick but knowing wink. Of course he knew. How could he not when so many perfectly reasonable and extraordinary folks surrounded him in that very moment. One day, the buses will be filled back up, the children will once again pound on the benches and swat at the ladybugs on aisle four. That plastic bottle will be reunited with its cap, the emergency exit will once more find meaning in his function and the stop sign will hopefully be rested, recovered and ready for action.
On that day, we will smile and perhaps think a little more closely about the magic of the mundane and the mystery of the joys that are all around us.