I am a Late Bus Mom. A Late Bus Mom tells people that her children are involved in after-school activities and therefore, cannot catch the early school bus. While there is some obvious truth to that, it's really just our cover. What really is occurring is that Late Bus Moms are the outside-the-home working moms. We sit at our office desks diligently working and then, with the precision of a fine timepiece, drop everything to rush to the school bus stop to arrive at least 30 seconds ahead of the Late Bus.
There is no second chance when it comes to meeting the school bus. They leave your kid whether someone is there to get them or not. Kicked to the curb, if you will, although in my case, it's kicked to the side of the highway, where they hover in a parking lot filled with disrobing surfers and a couple of homeless guys fishing recyclables from the garbage cans. I floor the gas pedal to make it to the Late Bus stop, and submit to the higher power of the traffic gods to please keep my children safe until I get there.
The good news is that we Late Bus Moms have a little club thing going. While a few of us consider the three minutes or so between work and the onset of daily parenting chores to be "me time" and just kind of kick back in the car seat with the music blasting, most of us enjoy the adult camaraderie. We exit our minivans and, you know, talk. We generally don't know each others' names, but we do know which kid everyone belongs to and which after-school sport or club they stuck that kid in to be able to take the Late Bus.
One common beef we have is that the Late Bus is sometimes late. The Late Bus driver clearly doesn't worship at the same altar of the traffic gods that we do. That, or he's paid by the hour and in no particular hurry. Driving the Late Bus, of course, is no walk in the park. I suspect it's more like a daily fraternity hazing. The kids are tired, riled up after a long day of academic confinement and ready to let loose. Probably the bus drivers draw straws to see who gets the Late Bus duty each year.
I will say this: Late Bus drivers can be grumpy, like the one last year who banned the use of cell phones and then didn't wake up my sleeping daughter at our stop. I chased the bus halfway back to the depot, tooting my horn. I think the driver couldn't hear me over my daughter's snores because he never stopped to let her out. With her phone set to vibrate, we finished the school year without further incident.
But yeah, we Late Bus Moms do find ways to amuse ourselves while we wait. Our stop is by a state park beach frequented by surfers. Since there are no changing rooms, surfers tend to just slip out of their wetsuits in the parking lot, their privacy protected by a towel. Towels drop sometimes. Surfers get nicknamed by the Late Bus Moms. You see where this is going, right?
The other thing that marks members of the Late Bus Moms club (besides the occasional surfer disrobing photo on our cell phone camera) is what we carry in our cars. Kids who exit the school bus 10 hours after they got on it in the morning tend to be hungry -- ravenous actually. I think a little third grader was eaten alive last year, but I don't know that for a fact.
Late Bus Moms carry big coolers in their cars. We scoff at the Early Bus Moms who can get away with a bag of baby carrots and a juice box. We need to come prepared with full-on meals because frequently, we aren't even going directly home, but merely serving as the late transportation to soccer club practice or singing lessons in town. The Subway sandwich place knows our orders before we place them. The guy at the Subway I go to no longer even questions my son's preference for pickles on his pastrami sandwich.
Late Bus Moms also carry a change of clothes -- for us, for them, for fellow Late Bus Moms who had to borrow their spouse's car that day while theirs was in the shop and came unprepared with the usual stack of sweatshirts and a case of water bottles in the trunk.
Late Bus Moms, we stick together. Especially when it comes to dealing with the parking lot enforcer. The lot we use while waiting for our children is a state park beach, which charges $3 a day to park. The school district gives us a single parking pass, which invariably gets left in your partner's car and you are left with the choice of paying $3 for what is a five-minute stop or run the risk of getting a ticket. And they have an evil parking lot enforcer on duty to harass us. We Late Bus Moms set up lookouts and protect one another.
And of course, the first day of the new school year is a chance for the Late Bus Moms to reunite after the all-too-brief summer break and begin the annual Lost Bus Pass competition. I am pleased to report that, this year, I came home with the trophy again. I set not only a personal family best by having one of my kids misplace a bus pass on the very first day of school, but we are well on our way to retaining the title of "most bus passes lost in a single year."
The reward? I think it's a dropped towel.