I Got Left By the Bus on My First Day of Work
Updated: Oct 22, 2020
Beep! Beep! Dumbass on Board!
In 2002 I began my first year as an elementary school teacher. I was fresh out of my teacher certification program, and overeager as most first-year teachers seem to be. I had gotten a job at a school in a suburb of Atlanta, and the district had just gotten a new superintendent.
The school superintendent was overeager too because he decided it would be a great idea, and a great way to spend taxpayer dollars if he required every employee of the district to be bussed to a stadium in the central part of the county for a big inspirational pow-wow.
Rumor has it he had initially planned to parachute into the stadium out of an airplane to make a grand entrance. But he thought better of this plan because maybe that would be a waste of funds. I swear I am not making this up!
So, on my second day of employment, all teachers were required to be at the school by 6:30 AM to get on the bus to ride together to the stadium for the big shindig. We were not allowed to drive ourselves there. Yes, this rule was probably due to the limited parking at the stadium. Still, it makes me laugh to think of it as an extra element of torture added to what was already Satan's Team-Building Extravaganza.
It was murderously challenging to get up early enough to be at the school by 6:30 in the morning. I didn't live far away, but I had just come off a summer where I got up whenever I wanted and lounged around all day. It was my last hurrah of enjoyment before being assaulted by the horror that is the adult world!
I don't know how many teachers you know, but I will tell you one thing I have noticed about most teachers: Teachers don't like to do anything we feel is even a five-second waste of time. I know most people are like this. But at the beginning of the school year, when teachers have limited time to prepare their classrooms for students, you better have an excellent reason for taking us away from our preparations! Like, we need to donate blood to save the Dalai Lama's life because we are the only one in the entire world who is a match for his blood type. Or George Clooney is coming to visit, or something like that.
For most of us, riding to a stadium on the big cheese to engage in motivational activities during August in Atlanta, when it is 90-plus degrees outside, does not fit the bill as a necessary activity!
Once we got to the stadium, it felt like we were there to watch an Olympic event; it was that crowded. But there was none of such an occasion's excitement, so it was like an Olympic event, but without any of the good parts like excited fans, famous athletes, and a concession stand. The only positive thing was we didn't have to pay for a ticket to go. Though I'm sure, many of us would gladly have forked over $500 we didn't have to be allowed not to go!
When we entered the packed arena, I tried to stay with the few people on staff I had managed to meet during my solitary prior day of employment. Fortunately, my friend K, with whom I had done my student teaching, also worked at the school. I was so happy that K was pretty tall because it was harder to lose her in the crowd that way. And since I barely knew anyone else's name, I stuck to K like I was covered in molasses.
Despite my attachment to K, I later developed a sudden and fierce need for independence, as I am wont to do, but we will get to that in a minute.
The group from my school found seats in the heinously uncomfortable concrete stands, and the inspirational jamboree began. I remember that the superintendent gave a speech about the upcoming school year. My clearest memory is that he, for some reason, led the entire stadium full of already disgruntled teachers in singing a rousing rendition of "If You're Happy and You Know It (Clap Your Hands)." It was unforgettable, but not for the reasons I'm sure he'd hoped!
While some teachers half-heartedly participated in the nightmare, a few full-blown psychos seemed really into it. Most of us looked at each other like, "Who let the crazy man out of the asylum?" I have no idea what happened during the rest of the event, as the PTSD and dissociation set in very quickly after that song. Mercifully, we made it through, and the events finally ended close to noon.
Now, before we go any further into this story, I must tell you two essential facts about myself:
First, I am always interested in efficiency. I continuously look for the fastest, most direct, and effective way to do things. Sometimes in this quest, I overlook noteworthy facts, such as why a longer route to the same solution might be more advantageous than a more direct way.
Second, I have the most godforsaken, abysmal sense of direction of anyone ever born on this earth. I literally could not find my way out of an earring box, even if you gave me a GPS and five navigational experts to help me. I have lived in Atlanta for 42 years, yet I still require step-by-step prodding from a GPS app to get anywhere. Don't ever ask me how to get someplace, because you will end up lost.
Now that you understand these two critical things about me, I can explain how the remaining events unfolded.
When Lucifer's Hoedown ended, everyone was in a rush to get out of that stadium. It was like we had all been incarcerated for 87 years, and someone had just told us we were being released! And the chaos was not organized. There was no way to make sure you stayed with your school, except to hold hands with your co-workers and forge ahead through the crowd.
I was in the stands with K and a couple of other teachers from my school. We would have to walk all the way through the stands like the tail end of an enormous herd of cattle to be able to exit the far end of the stadium and get back to our bus, and it would take forever. There were two parking lots, and buses had parked on both sides of the stadium.
Some brave souls climbed over the tall concrete wall that led to the field and jumped down into the grass. They took a shortcut and walked across the field to get to the parking lots faster. They were able to circumvent the sweaty, hostile, and, no doubt, hungry crowd. I decided this was a fantastic idea, but none of my co-workers agreed. They said we should stay in the stands and walk back to the bus following the path we had taken to get to our seats. It would take longer, they said, but we would be sure to get back to the correct bus that way.
Logical idea, right? So, what did I do? You guessed it! I went rogue!
Because I am clearly insane, I decided it was a great decision to jump down over that wall and make my way back to the bus by myself. All I can say in my defense is that I was young and dumb and didn't have a good sense of my own limitations. Also, I was hangry and uncomfortable and sweating in places I did not know it was possible to sweat.
I got to the parking lot where my school's bus was located and walked down the rows of buses trying to find the one with my school's name displayed in the window. I walked and walked, but I could not find the correct bus. I started to feel worried because buses were pulling out of the parking lot, and the lot was emptying pretty fast. The only bright spot was that I saw my most recent ex-boyfriend's face in one of the windows as I walked by one of the buses. That is really random, I know.
I knew he worked in the same district I did, and when I dated him, I had not yet lost that fun weight some of us put on during college. But by that day at the stadium, I had lost it all, plus a little bit more. And there he was, to see how great I looked!
I was all strutting around thinking, "I look amazing," and I enjoyed the nonchalant supermodel poses I struck. It is highly likely I more closely resembled a lackluster contortionist with a face frozen in the mask of the "Blue Steel" expression from Zoolander.
My ex-boyfriend's bus pulled away, to my chagrin, and I quit with the poor man's runway-model antics. The momentary euphoria wore off, and I realized there were only two buses left in the lot. Oh crap! Neither bus contained my co-workers or my school's name in the window!
I climbed on to one of the two lonely buses and, in a panicked voice, told the driver I could not find my bus. I asked her to help me.
"Honey," she said, "These two buses are the only ones left. Everyone else is gone. Maybe your bus was in the other lot."
I had kind of forgotten there was another lot, and at that moment, I felt like the big dumbass it turns out I actually was.
"What should I do?" I asked, mortified.
The driver informed me that the two remaining buses would carry all of the people who had been left by their buses back to the schools. I was surprised and comforted to see about 15 other teachers spread out between the two buses. And all of them were huge dumbasses like I was! I had found my people!
We sat on the buses, no doubt trying to look smarter than we felt. On the ride back to my school, we dropped teachers off at their respective schools. During this time, the bus driver announced loudly to dispatch over the very public radio system each time she dropped off one of "the stragglers."
By the time I arrived at my school, it was an hour and a half later, and I had missed most of an important meeting. On my second day of work. At my first real job as a supposed "adult."
Needless to say, walking in during the middle of that meeting to a cafeteria full of my puzzled co-workers was one of the more embarrassing moments of my life. Okay, not really. I have had an interesting life!
I later explained to my principal what happened, and she was very nice. But I bet she went home that night and told her family about the idiot teacher who missed the bus like a kindergartener on her first day away from mom and dad. I bet the principal and her whole family had a good laugh about it. I wouldn't blame her if they guffawed over dinner about "the incident." I know that's what I would have done!
That afternoon I told K about the debacle. She told me that after she got on the bus, she asked everyone if they had seen me, but because I was brand new and it was the second day of work, no one knew who I was. Well, after that little incident, no one forgot!
Word got around to my co-workers that I was left by the bus, and, as the years passed, they learned that such occurrences were not unusual for me! The story became legendary in the annals of teaching history. I learned my lesson about straying from the group and trying to find my way somewhere without help.
My hope for you is that you never have to sit in a stadium in the South at midday in August when it is hotter than the six shades of hell. I also hope you never have to hear the "big boss" sing "If You're Happy and You Know It (Clap Your Hands)." It's a horribly cringey experience. Also, the stadium seats are uncomfortable and so hot in the 90,000-degree heat that your butt gets third-degree burns sitting on them, even through your pants! And, you sweat so much that you realize the true meaning of the term "swamp ass." I do not want these things for you.
I do hope you randomly run into an ex right after you've made a positive change to your appearance so you can give them a look that says, "Uh, huh, see what you're missing, buster? "Then you can contort yourself into "sexy" poses while simultaneously pulling faces that look like the countenance of someone in a horror movie just before the evil villain stabs them to death. I'm not gonna lie. That experience was pretty damn majestic. Your ex will never forget you and might wish they had you back, even though your antics will make them wonder if you have just broken out of the sanatorium.
If you do end up somewhere in a massive crowd like I did, please do not develop the delusion that you are MacGyver. Do not think you can do anything with very little training and almost no resources. Although to be fair, this mindset will serve you well if you ever become a teacher! I suggest that if, like I did, you need to find your way back home from the Devil's Ghastly Gala, you stay with the crowd and leave carving your own path for your future career achievements!
Organized-Crime-Related Note: I have not been a teacher since 2015, aside from doing some tutoring here and there, yet I still refer to myself as a teacher. This is because I will keep my certification current until I drop dead, and also because, in teaching, as in the mafia, you are best to never renounce your membership. In both cases, just when you think you're out...they pull you back in.