I live opposite a primary school. In fact the school crossing is right out front. On weekends and during holidays it’s rather quiet. And when I’m having a slow morning, I hear all the noises and chatter of children arriving, crossing monitors, parents’ vehicles, and finally the school siren signalling the official start of the day.
At this time of the year, when school will finish up in a week or so, I also hear the buses. School day trips where the children hop onto big commercial buses and head off to, well wherever they head off to.
All these sounds, in particular the buses (the hiss of air brakes, parked, but engines still rumbling) bring up memories from long ago. Over thirty years’ past. My experience was summer day trips to a swimming pool somewhere up in the hills. I suppose it was intended to be a change of environment, with a scenic enjoyable ride. Or perhaps one of the teachers lived up that way and had an association with the area. But my memories are not particularly fond of these times.
I recall feeling uncomfortable. Perhaps the shift away from the known structure of a typical school day. I recall feeling lost and confused. Why were we doing this? Where were we going?
I have always had a good sense of where I am spatially, a sense of direction. As in North is that way, so home is this way. Something to do with growing up in a city based on a square grid street layout. Occasionally getting disoriented, and feeling very confused until I find my North reference again.
Anyway, back to school day trips. I only ever recall these uncomfortable, unpleasant feelings and worries. Where is my lunch – did I remember it? It’s going to get very warm before lunchtime – I don’t like warm sandwiches in summer. When is lunchtime – how will I know when we are allowed to eat? Did I remember my bathers, my towel? Will there be change rooms or do we need to change before we leave?
And then the kids. Bus behaviour. Outside of classroom behaviour. Some enjoy the fun, some revel in the chance to misbehave under less supervision. Bus journeys were a strange thing at that age. We always walked to school, fine weather or rain – the one and half kilometres or so. We rode our bicycles to the local shops. Family car trips to farther afield. Four-wheel-drive trips to the outback. Buses were a foreign experience. As were these day trips.
Am I any better these days? Sometimes the unknowns of a new journey can be terrifying, especially travelling in a foreign country. But I always survive. Often it is even fun. It’s just that, having spent most of my junior years trying to avoid the personal unpleasantnesses of daily life (and for me there were so many), it’s still my instinctive reaction to unfamiliar situations. I don’t like being too hot – too cold, too tired, too headachy, itchy eyes and runny nose from hayfever. These all impact on my ability to enjoy a situation. Am I oversensitive to the impact of these ails? Or is my body so sensitive to the many everyday provocations, that it takes so much effort to keep up and survive?