I'm a big fan of kids. For whatever reason, I seem to relate to kids better than I do adults. There's no politics with kids, no real expectations, and a smiling face still means something to them. I have kids of my own that are growing up way too quickly. We used to go to Cosmic Adventures together, wearing those too-thin dirty blue kneepads and run around like idiots while laughing, jumping, and sliding down any obstacle we could find. I was that dad that always seemed to wind up with 10 kids following him around. I'd wind up shucking half of them off my leg like snow pants as I tried to get away for a few minutes to pretend to be an adult for a minute or two. Now I'm knee deep in teenager problems and report cards.
A few years back I was driving the number 1 route on a daily basis. Traffic is thick along that stretch of Bank street north of Catherine, and I'd usually wind up stuck sitting for long stretches between lights. I had the usual regulars, mostly suits and sunglasses, and the occasional Starbucks employee or two. It was a boring morning run. Stuffy. Slow. Always late.
Every once in awhile, this daycare would get on. Two smiling ladies dressed like The Glebe in teachers' garb, yanking with them a knotted rope that tugged a gaggle of kids along like one of those chains you use when you catch a pile of fish and want to keep them in the water while you finish the beer and conversation with your buddies on the dock.
These kids would trot in, each face lit up and smiling with the glee of riding a bus. Kids usually make eye contact, and I would smile back like I was a fireman or a police officer. Kids love bus drivers and they could care less about the difference. Funny how riding a bus as a kid is a complete and total win, while riding a bus as an adult is something completely different. But I digress.
Stuck in traffic, and having not moved for awhile, one of these daycare sweeties had a brilliant idea. And so began the first few bars of "The Wheels on the Bus". As the other kids joined in, the chorus grew a bit louder, but not obnoxious. I laughed a bit as the song referred to the people going "Up and Down!", as Bank Street certainly can do that if the speed would just pick up a bit. I mouthed the words "Move on Back!" silently as the song progressed to the part about me and my role as a Steering Wheel Placement Technician. Then I had an epiphany.
As the song moved to "The horn on the bus goes Beep! Beep! Beep!", I honked the bus's horn three times. At first, the kids didn't quite realize what had just happened. The horn had clearly sounded in time with the song, but was that a figment of our imagination? Did that really happen? That has never happened before in the history of Wheels on the Bus. Luckily, the horn goes Beep! Beep! Beep! nine times in the first segment of the chorus, then the horn on the bus goes Beep! Beep! Beep! nine times again mere seconds later to confirm our suspicions.
Two of the kids had clearly caught it, and began laughing hysterically. Although the lyric had run its course, the laughter lasted well beyond, and the daycare workers were explaining to the rest of the troupe that the horn had indeed gone Beep! Beep! Beep!. It was suggested by a small voice that the lyric be tested again to make sure it works, with the response from the collective that "Okay, YOU do it!".
One small voice began to test the lyric out. She sang the lyric more as a question than a melody, and as she hit the payload trigger word, I blasted the horn as the bus exploded with laughter. .What happened next I'm not sure I can adequately put into words. We began a run of 25 consecutive verses of "The Horn on the Bus goes Beep! Beep Beep!", and a good 5 minute run of tears streaming down our faces at the sheer joy of 4 year olds laughing until they nearly peed themselves. Even the suits were laughing.
Each person that exited the bus thereafter did so by the front door, and said thanks for the laugh.
Now the car in front of me may have had a different opinion, as he was certainly puzzled at the idiot bus driver who was behind him honking despite the clear fact that we were all stuck in the same traffic jam. But to be honest, if he had taken the bus instead of the car, he would have had one of those moments he would never have forgotten.
With all of us, and the simple joy of laughter.