Short bus is no joke for riders

Carly Gilleland, Carly Gilleland, and Carly Gilleland

It has an 8 by 24 foot yellow frame. It carries people to where they need to go. It’s a bus, a short bus.

Place in the word “short” and it gives the vehicle a whole new meaning. A meaning that forces young students to laugh and point as it rolls by. To them, it stands for something they can’t accept. It is a stereotype to be socially funny. It is out of their norm.

But this was my norm when I was their age. I saw the thing at least three times a day: before, during and after school. I never joked about it and I could never understand why all my friends did. The fact is, is that they’ve never been forced to ride it, see it, or understand it.

Why? They aren’t special. But my sister is.

She is non-verbal, but can communicate through gestures, pictures and sounds. Our family-life is similar to playing Pictionary. When she wants a Diet Coke she will point to her throat and make an, “oooo” sound. I will ask, “Coke?” and she will nod her head up and down.

She lacks some hormones, which makes her look about 6 years younger than her actual age of 17. She doesn’t have much strength, which causes her to need extra assistance in getting dressed, brushing her hair and teeth, and climbing onto the bus to go to school.

Because she has these characteristics, plus a few more, she has the opportunity to ride the short bus to school. The funny thing is, she doesn’t even acknowledge the kids staring, pointing and whispering. I, on the other hand, was forced to.

It is like when your parents make you go to your grandparent’s house for dinner and you are obligated to eat your grandmother’s green bean casserole, even though you can’t stand the taste.

I would have to go to school everyday and listen to kids giggle and make fun of the “retards” riding the short bus. Where the heck did they get the impression that this was funny?

A common stereotype, that’s all it is. Just like blondes being dumb, models being anorexic, or emo-punks being suicidal. Jokes are made all the time about these categories, just like the special-needs kids that ride a smaller version of the normal kid bus.

The difference is that these kids are born with their stereotype and they can’t help the fact that they are different. Looking at my sister and her friends, I find it amazing that they are so happy and content with their life. Each one of them has their own special disability but they connect with each other in ways that the other kids in school can’t. They love their life and take advantage of every minute of it, which is one thing we all can learn from them.

My point is not to say that every “normal” kid is a bad person for laughing and joking about something they don’t know anything about. How are they supposed to react to something out of their norm? And, honestly, I don’t think the humor will ever stop with the short bus or the special kids that ride it. I mean, people are even making movies with well-known actors to crack jokes about the handicap, like “The Ringer” with Johnny Knoxville. And don’t get me wrong; they do a good job on giving much credit to the Special Olympics, which I was appreciative of. But most that watch the movie are laughing at the actions and voices of the “retards.”

So don’t be fooled by the 8 by 24 foot yellow frame rolling down the street. The kids that ride it are just kids, only special kids. And the bus is just a bus.