alex started middle school this year. for what it's worth, bella started high school, which means we have reached that unenviable milestone where we have three kids at three different schools. we were more than a little nervous towards the end of summer as the days left grew fewer with each sunrise. i don't think it would be a secret to say most of our nervousness was reserved for aleo. there are a couple of reasons for this. all are understandable but alex showed us that all were not necessary.
our first point of concern was the bus as alex had never had to ride a bus before. well, that's not entirely true. alex has had opportunities to ride a bus and in some regards was supposed to ride the bus to elementary but he had options and he seemed to know this and definitely chose to exercise those options. there were a few times we tried to get alex to ride the bus and he as much as said that it was not going to be a pretty affair for anyone involved. he made a convincing and believable argument so we opted to not test it. thus our worry about day one of middle school. but leading up there were no ticks or nerves or threats so marty and i said nothing. when the morning came our easy-going son remained just that, easy-going. we took our pictures on the porch and walked him down to the corner tick, nerve, and threat free. he got on the bus with a smile and wave that would have made an outsider think he'd been riding public transit for many years. marty and i looked at one another with satisfaction wondering if we got to claim any of part of that mysterious victory.
almost nine hours later my cell phone rang. i was on a work call and glanced at the screen with curiosity. i was not curious about who was calling, i was curious that anyone was calling because even though i've carried the phone for more than seven years, i've received less than five calls on it in that time (the running joke is you would have more luck getting minka kelly's number than mine -- granted the pretty girls name changes as the times do). i ignored the interruption and continued on my work conversation. thirty seconds later the phone rang again from someone else. more curiosity. more ignoring. sixty seconds later another call from a different number. twenty seconds later another call. after not answering five incoming calls, i told the person i was speaking with that something seemed to be happening that i needed to look in on and dropped off the call. before i could check my now building voice mail the phone rang again.
hello mr. dearmitt. this is E.S, the principal at the middle school.
ok. is everything ok?
well. it seems alex and another student got on the wrong bus for home.
and i'm calling to let you know that we are aware of this and doing everything we can to fix it.
well, can't you just call the bus drivers and see who has him?
we could but the problem is they have all returned and none of them have alex or the other student.
which means right now we don't know where they are.
oh. i see.
but please know that the police have been notified and all units are looking for them. i also have a couple of administrators out and looking as well.
i will call back as soon as we know anything.
i don't think marty or i would ever be considered helicopter parents. by today's standards we possibly even look like we don't give a hoot where our kids are, letting them go to public parks without an adult or bike to adjacent neighborhoods on their own to visit friends. but, we pretty much have always had a sense for where our children were. when i hung up the phone and realized i didn't have this sense, i was struck a little numb and a lot dumb. i mindlessly started throwing my things in my bag to head home. my phone rang again. it was bella. she reported with some excitement that when she went down to get alex he didn't get off the bus and that she didn't know where he was. i told her i knew and would be home in a few minutes. during my walk home, calls continued to come in from people doing the looking and updates from people i had already spoken to. then before i reached home the call came that the boys were found and they were ok.
numerous thoughts ran through my mind but the dominant one wondered how alex was faring through this. i wondered if our good fortune that morning had just been dashed on the rocks and we were going to go back to a twitchy and resistant bus rider. i wondered how shaken he was. i wondered if he was able to hold it together. once home i waited outside. when marty got home i (and bella) updated her on the excitement. an hour's time had passed and still no alex. i continued waiting outside wanting to be there for him the second he returned. marty and neighbors came out and naturally congregated and chatted naturally. then the car pulled up and a alex emerged, he flashed his easy smile and bid me a casual "hello dad". i stood him before me with my hands on his shoulders sizing him up. he gave me a goofy smile, indicating all was well. seeing this, i turned to the man who brought him home. he was a neighbor and the father of the other missing boy. he also worked for the school district and explained that the boys' ids had the wrong bus number on them so they did exactly what they were supposed to do and it was an administrative mistake, one that would be fixed first thing tomorrow.
when marty asked alex about, fighting back a grin he said, "it was a war out there mom. and we lost a few good men." with this we knew all was truly well.
in later researching what happened i learned more about the what led to the situation as well as how it got resolved. as noted above, due to a clerical error, alex was instructed to get on the wrong bus, which he did. during the trip home, he and the other boy noticed that the bus was not on the same route the morning bus was and were confused by it. but each of them being new to the bus they thought that maybe this was how it worked. at one point they recognized where they were as alex had a friend in the area. upon seeing familiar terrain they decided to get off and walk home from there, which was about three miles from our house. being the first day of school the bus driver would not yet know that those were not her boys and that they had no business getting off at that stop, especially since their id's said they were in the right place. meanwhile at teh actual bus stop a waitiing bella was surprised after the kids filed off the bus, less alex, then closed its door and drove off. she asked one of the riders, isabel, about alex. the girl said that he (alex) and her brother (the other missing student) must have gotten on the wrong bus.
in regard to social media, over the years i have had exactly one good thing to say about it. i am thankful that twitter and texting and facebook ended road rage. granted it ended it because people no longer pay attention to what the hell they are doing when they are driving but folks no longer get angry when they get cut-off, namely because they don't realize they just got cut-off, but hey, i'm mature enough to admit when something got better. now i have a second positive story about social media, texting in this case because on this day a school district and police force were out-thought and out-performed by a thirteen year old girl, her network of friends and a cell-phone. thank you isabel for your quick thinking and even quicker finger-typing.
- when isabel got home she called her dad who worked in the school district and said her brother and alex got on the wrong bus.
- her dad called the principal of the middle school reporting the incident.
- isabel's dad called her back and asked if she knew what bus they did get on. she did not.
- after hanging up isabel texted a bunch of her friends who rode busses and asked them if they saw her brother on their bus.
- after a short bit one of the girls texted isabel back saying he and alex were, surprisingly, on her bus.
- isabel called her dad with the bus number.
- the dad called the middle school principal who then notified the police and his administrators who were out looking for the boys.
- now with a more focused area to search, the boys were quickly located, happily walking towards home.