When I was a child, I knew evil.
Evil drove my school bus. She wore black sunglasses and watched us in her rearview mirror like a hawk eyeing prey. In my school people whispered of the “Nazi” bus driver. I never admitted, “that’s my bus driver.”
I don’t remember what her name was. It could have been “Mittens” and I still would have considered it to have an “evil ring”.
Most children are happy when school ends. For me and everyone who rode my school bus, we marched to our doom. We felt as if we rode a prison bus, one that contained grades 2nd-6th.
Whenever a substitute driver came, they would be greeted as our hero and asked repeatedly, “will you be here tomorrow? Please stay!” No matter how we pleaded, sooner or later Evil always returned.
However, the Evil One did teach me how to survive the heat in Texas on those hour long rides home. Back then there was no air conditioning on school buses. (Kids today are so spoiled in Texas).
You might wonder why we considered her THE EVIL ONE.
Maybe we were dramatic children, but she was our Dictator, our Professor Umbridge, our She Who Must Not Be Named. She cracked her whip without impunity and made life on the bus a misery.
Here were her rules on her bus:
No reading books
No doing homework
No pogs (those were popular then)
No talking (except in a whisper and only to your seat mate)
No opening your window more than an inch (she would measure)
No staring at her too long
No eating or drinking
No laughing or giggling
And that was just the few I can remember.
If you stared too longer at your lap, you’d hear her call back like a evil demon from the shadows, “Are yooooou reading Mara?”
You’d quickly slip the book back in your back and shake your head, yet you’d feel her eyes on you. If you laughed too loud, she’d call, “I heaaaar you. Tom, come to the front.”
And there’d go someone, head bowed, like they were marching to their doom to side in the worst seat: right behind the bus driver.
I would spend the baking hot summer days melting in my seat with nothing to do but imagine stories. Even Rock, Paper, Scissors was banned. Fun was pretty much a “no-no”. You weren’t even allowed to fan yourself with your own hand.
I was so happy when I transferred schools and I no longer had to ride the bus. I escaped the Evil… for now.
Nevertheless, to this day heat doesn’t bother me. If you can survive on a hot school bus at 3pm with the windows mostly rolled up, you can survive anything. (hint: it’s like being left in a glass box out in 110 degree weather).
What I never learned was how to survive cold weather. Every now and again Texas would get cold. A few snowflakes would be declared a blizzard and the highways would shut down as we declared “a new ice age has begun!”
When I first came to Japan, I lived in an area that got really cold. To make matters worse, my apartment had no insulation. (Lots of Japanese apartments don’t have insulation). My apartment had no central heating. I had a window unit in my bedroom and one in my living room and they did not do a good job of heating even one room of the apartment.
I came as a teacher with the JET Program. I would ride on my bike to work in the cold. The only room heated at the schools was the teacher’s room and I was rarely there (often bounced from class to class like an English tape recorder).
In these days, I discovered that THE EVIL had taken on a new form: THE COLD.
It followed me where ever I went. I learned to not feel warm. Winter in Japan were hell. Time slowed to a crawl as I’d wait for the end of March when it was supposed to warm up. It took forever.
Even when I married my husband and moved in with him, things were drafty. The cold haunted me.
When his company transferred him, we moved to a warmer area of Japan (not warm enough). Our new apartment was old and drafty. The cold would slip in under the curtains and between the gap of the front door. It was nefarious.
But this story has a happy ending.
We were forced to move again and this time we got a new apartment, one with great insulation and great air con units. Within minutes it can warm a room and keep it warm even in the coldest weather.
Since moving here, The Cold waits outside.
I have escaped it… for now.
And the winter’s aren’t so awful and bleak. But I’m sure it’s waiting out there like an evil bus driver watching me through black sunglasses in a rearview mirror.
Evil never dies…