Sometimes, when you're writing (especially if you're writing about teenagers and/or the place where you grew up), you have to write about something that hits close to home, something that brings back less than pleasant memories.
Here are some of mine, all in one big yellow package:
Maybe some of you city dwellers never had to deal with one of these on a regular basis. But I did, nearly every day.
When I was little, I remember being so, so scared to cross the busy highway after I got off the bus. For a long time, I needed a big kid helper. I remember being terrified that my bus driver, Lorna, would yell at me for doing it wrong.
Then, when I got older, it got even scarier. When you're one of the last people to get on the bus, you don't get many choices about where you sit. And if you're not the popular type, your bus seat status might be less than stellar. People might even refuse to sit by you. So then you have to walk up and down, back and forth, hoping somebody will let you in. Maybe one of the little kids. And then the bus driver has to yell back at all the bus people for someone to let you sit with them.
When you finally sit down, you wait for either someone to find something nasty to say about you, or for the other person to let you know they're not going to talk to you so you'll have to ride the whole way to school in silence, and you're not sure if this is better or worse than what they might say if they spoke to you.
But the thing that makes a school bus worse than a school cafeteria is that whatever people say, they have a built-in audience. Including you. Even if you're not sitting directly beside the mean ones, you're going to hear every insult, and so will everyone else.
Traumatic, you think? Sure, but it's great novel-writing material. And the best part is, my characters get to rise above those mean nasty bus-riding bullies. They can tell them off in a way I never could. That's why the pen is mightier than the sword. It can slay a whole busload of rude, self-absorbed meanies in a single stroke. That school bus is going down, baby.