It had to happen. Just as when you haven't been picked for jury duty for years, and the summons is on its way in the mail... it's that little feeling that tickles at the base of your skull, near the pituitary, and works its way up. Your turn's next.
I had that feeling before I even got to the buses. On larger field trips, the students are separated by gender: boys on one bus, girls on the other. The girl bus is rank with privilege: good smells, lady-like laughter, and enjoyable conversation about shoes, makeup and clothes. The boy bus is...well...jammed with 13 and 14 year old boys. On this field trip to visit area universities, I drew the boy bus. My turn had finally found me.
I love my male students and female students equally. I enjoy the direct communication style of boys; their take charge attitudes, and their budding gentlemanliness. But the boy bus is...well...the boy bus. I was to be the only female on board this day on a lengthy field trip. I had some misgivings, but I pasted on a smile, even as I glimpsed my colleagues jovially laughing on the girl bus, and resolved to make the best of it.
I learned some things.
On the boy bus:
1. In your instructions to the boys as you are leaving the school, as you try to delicately broach the subject of controlling body odors (because of a prior bus incident found here) and fumble for words, the straightforward boys will understand when one raises his hand and says, "Oh, you mean for us not to fart too much?"
2. In preface to a question as to why a certain girl might act like she does, a boy across the aisle asks you, "You used to be a girl, right, Mrs. M.?"
3. The boy who is sitting immediately behind you begins his conversation with you like this, at approximately 30 decibels louder than normal conversation, "IgotupSUPERSUPERearlythismorning!Howhasyourmorningbeen?Huh?Huh?OMG!OMG!WearegoingtohaveSOSOSOmuchfunonthisfieldtrip!!!" You see three Venom drinks in his open backpack (super-caffeinated energy drinks) and the empty cans of another two. You pick up the three and hide them away.
4. The boys have won a behavior incentive and get to choose the radio station that will be playing on the bus stereo system. They have chosen a heavy metal station whose catchphrase is "Loud and Proud, 24/7" and covers even the 7:30 AM hour. The air guitars and air drums being played all over the bus do provide a respite of entertainment from the battering ram active inside your head.
5. As you near the first university, a faint odor whiffles past your nose. It is only moments later, though, when a runaway train of smells barrels through your sinuses. Behind watering eyes and a narrowing throat, you investigate and find at least 12 boys liberally spraying themselves, their arm pits, and even their shoes with all manner of manly body sprays and colognes. Hair gel is being passed around and all variations of spikes are coaxed from short hair styles. In answer to your choked inquiry as to why, they smile and one answers, "College girls!"
6. On the return trip, allow yourself to become an active participant in conversations about Hemi diesel engines, which rims are the best for a Ford F150 truck, and how much torque is required to really pull a trailer up the hill near the school. Wantonly sprinkle the conversation with words like head gasket and turbocharger without regard or knowledge as to even what part of speech they are.
7. You imagine you are swimming in a sea of testosterone while they talk excitedly about the newest line of Case tractors, the great scope one of the dads got for a hunting rifle, and why A-Rod costs his team too much money. Look at your cute shoes and let your mind longingly spin what you could have been talking about on the girl bus, all the while nodding your head and pretending to understand what they are talking about.
8. Smile when one boy tells you he's glad you rode the bus with them because, "You're cool!" and other boys nod, smile, say thank you, and express their appreciation on the way out of the bus.
The boy bus...is...well...maybe not so bad after all.