So I found out today that my kids’ school district doesn’t actually tell you in any normal way that your kid has been assigned to a bus route. You fill out the application on Google Forms, and then all contact from that point is through their online portal. Supposedly, the school was supposed to tell me this and didn’t, but either way, it means I am now released from the burden of picking up my kid at school and dropping him off again. Which these days, the movies seem to expect is my job.
For thousands of years, people have traveled. Not necessarily far, but whether nomads or settled, you at the very least had to get to your food source and back. Maybe that meant just walking to your field, but maybe it meant wandering across vast tracts of land, gathering seasonal produce and hunting for assorted animals. Or following your herds. Or great voyages of discovery. Or, for most of us, driving to the supermarket. You know how it goes.
In the movies, everyone drives. Not just adults, either; I didn’t have a driver’s license as a teen, and that would have been shocking to the people who made the movies I was watching. I’ll grant you that Pump Up the Volume features Christian Slater actually walking to and from school, and genuinely I’m not sure he’s ever seen driving. But everyone else in movies seems to. Possibly the only other movies of my era where people old enough to drive didn’t drive were the Young Guns movies and Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.
In Speed, the only reason Sandra Bullock’s Annie is taking the bus is that she’s lost her license. Never mind that my dad used to take the bus to work in part because it was smarter than paying for parking in downtown Los Angeles; if you look at the other people on that bus, they’re all clearly lower income (except random Alan Ruck). Poor people take the bus, and movies mostly aren’t about poor people. And even most of the “poor” kids in the movies I saw were well off enough so that they were in multi-car households.
One of my goals, when we bought our house, was to be within walking distance of a bus stop. The main reason we’re not closer, I suspect, is that the public transit buses are taller than twelve feet and therefore can’t go along the main road near us, which has a railroad trestle. (We’re close enough so that I can, from my own bedroom, hear the people who ignore the warning.) Sure, I don’t take the bus myself, but it’s important to me to be able to. Certainly we’re going to make sure the kids know that it’s their most reliable way of getting where they want to go, when they’re old enough to go places without us. Eventually, I’ll stop being willing to drive them everywhere.
It seems as though school buses are less common in the movies than they used to be, too. I think that the problem at my kid’s school this year has a lot to do with parents’ being hesitant to send kids on the school bus during a pandemic—though I think it’s going to be safer than the Kiddie Pen they shove all the kids into during pick-up. But this is something that predates that particular issue; kids are dropped off. Parents walk their kids to school. (That’s our unnecessary paranoia about kidnapping, I think.) No one takes the bus. Maybe we should.