You probably call them tart carts. I don’t. I’ll explain why later. Those short little buses where certain students ride on always capture our attention. They stand out despite looking more like a normal vehicle instead of a large stupid yellow bus. These automobiles are a strange thing. It’s wrong to call them tart carts. It’s one of the few things that offend me. Why? Because I rode on that bus.
To clarify, I only rode on the bus for about 2 months. I had broken my leg and my parents didn’t love me enough to drive me to school. A girl with cerebral palsy lived up the street from me, so it wasn’t that inconvenient to pick me up too. I was about to embark on a strange journey. A journey that few able minded children ever do. I was taking a ride on the short bus.
The first thing I learned about riding the short bus was that you shouldn’t look anyone in the eye. Those kids didn’t like that. They’d curse at me if I did. Here I was, sitting in a wheel chair, them having to sit on a sticky seat that matched their sticky hands. Put two sticky things together and you’re not going anywhere anytime soon.
I don’t remember what the schedule was, but I do know that at some point I was the only one on the bus that went to my school. The rest went to a nicer school that had air conditioning. Maybe that’s why they didn’t want me looking at them. The sweat from my eyes might tamper with their 68 degree room temperature flesh. The kids that went to the other school were really mean. They didn’t bother me much, but they were not comrades. Not like the short bus riders that went to my school.
I liked the kids that went to the same school as me. They all knew each other. They had their little niche group. You think kids without autism are cliquey? Try riding a short bus with them. I had to remain silent for a month before they would accept me. It was terrible hazing. If you ask them, they’d say it was gentle ribbing. I knew better.
My most memorable thing about this clique was that they didn’t call each other by their names. They called each other by their street names. It took me a while to realize this too. I thought it was cool to meet a boy named Wolfgang, only to discover that his street matched his name. The short buses pull right up to your house so they all know exactly where you live. Maybe that’s why they all got along. If you pissed someone off, they’d take some goons and throw crayons at your bedroom window.
The day I belonged was the day that Fleetwood called me Overton. I was no longer Tim. I could throw away my slave name and go by my street name. My street name that matched the black guy from the UPN sitcom “Living Single.” Finally I belonged.
(Actor John Henton, whose character Overton was immortalized after the mayor of my town named a street after him, which I grew up on)
My leg eventually healed and I had to say goodbye to my new friends. The friendship was over before it began. Occasionally in the hallways I would still see Wolfgang, Fleetwood, Flock, MICHAEL CARGILL!!! ,Maple, and Route 33. They’d be going to their classes to learn and I’d be going to mine. I may have looked different now, no longer wheelchair bound, but to them I was still Overton. And always will be.
I wish I remembered more about my days on the short bus. It was brief and really for some reason has faded out of my head. Maybe it wasn’t as interesting as I remember it being. 10 minutes of everyday, trapped on the same vehicle as these other students might not be enough time to really develop into a great story.
Oh and for the record, I don’t care if you call it a tart cart. Coming from me, a tart cart alumni, I feel that my endorsement of the word makes it political correct to say. So go ahead and use it freely. We know we are. We’re whatever street we currently live on. You can’t take that way from us.