Saturday, May 2, 2015


So, when I was in 7th or 8th grade I broke my foot.  I was playing basketball for a club team and came down awkwardly.  I had a soft cast put on it, was given a pair of crutches, and took crutch-walking lessons.

I was not eligible for the bus under normal circumstances. We lived about 3/4 of a mile from the junior high school and you had to be a mile away to get the bus.  But, I discovered, if you have a broken foot you can get a ride to school in a station wagon.

It was called the station wagon by the regulars not to identify the type of car, but to suggest that it was the carrier for those impaired.  You had temporary folks like me in the station wagon, some semi permanent kids like Nick-who had done something awful to his leg and had been riding the station wagon for over a year, and permanent riders. The permanent riders were kids who were not getting better.  I remember one girl in particular who had a congenital problem that affected her walk. She, and all her sisters, had the same ailment. She showed the station wagon riders pictures of her clan once and everyone was sitting down because an upright posture revealed the handicap.

The station wagon experience is lodged somewhere deep in my head. It was dislodged just this past week on my drive to work.  I have discovered--through the help of a friend--a new route to work that avoids some congestion. Over twenty years on this block and it takes a cup of coffee with a colleague who just moved into the neighborhood to point out what habit had blocked out.  Now, I can hit the mass turnpike at least five minutes faster when I drive during rush hour.

It's a new beat for me and so I see different things. And what I have noticed is that the little kids who walk to the elementary school from the side of the tracks on my new beat are different from the kids near my home who walk to elementary school.  As I have written previously, most of the kids from my neck of the woods are accompanied by parents or big sibs.  My new route to the mass pike takes me through streets of tougher folk.  Not many seem to have company.

So, I started to think about these kids like the way I felt when I was in the station wagon. Likely just my imagination, but I wondered if these kids felt like second class citizens when they joined up with those who had a hand to hold it.  When I was a kid--when not hauling around a foot in a cast--I never had my folks walk with me to school. But it was a different era then. I knew of some kids whose parents drove them to school, but most of my cronies walked and felt fine about it.  Now, however, I think the norm might be to have a grown up guiding the way.

When I was in the station wagon we felt--particularly the regulars--like the bottom of the social ladder. In our own minds--if not in the minds of classmates--we were the freaks.  There were the swift kids, the average kids, the losers, and then those of us who emptied out of the station wagon.  For me it was just temporary, but I thought about Nick and the girl whose name I can't recall and some others who were barely communicative when we rode to school. And I wondered if the kids on my new beat somehow felt a rung below the others--and how much that could affect their sense of direction.  Perhaps their sense of self might be enhanced as they would know they could do things on their own.  But what floated to the top of my consciousness this one day last week as I cruised in my new quicker way to white collar toil, was the sense of self the station wagon fueled and how these kids lumbering to school solo might, without knowing it, be similarly affected.

No comments:

Post a Comment