I wrote this for our English conversation salon at Tamana Library.
America is really big. It is 26 times bigger than Japan. Alaska, Texas, California, and Montana are all bigger than Japan. My state, Indiana, is one of the smallest states in the U.S., but it is still bigger than Kyushu. However, the U.S. has only 2.5 times as many people as Japan. So the population density is ten times less. In other words, there is a lot of empty space in America. San Francisco, where Eugene lived, is more like Japan, but Indiana, where I lived, is very spacious. Buildings are really far apart. To go shopping, buy groceries, go to school, or see high school friends, I had to take a car.
My school was 10 kilometers from my house, so for 11 years, I took the bus there and back. Lots and lots of American kids do. Everyone in the country knows what a school bus looks like. You might have seen one on “The Simpsons.” It’s big, long, yellow, and noisy. There are long rows of bulky, cushioned seats. Special education kids have a bus, too: it’s much shorter because there are less of them. The bus drives through a bunch of neighborhoods, and it only comes once. If you sleep in too late and miss the bus, you’re in big trouble! Then you have to ask your parents to take you to school, and then they’ll get mad because they have to go to work, and both you and your parents will be late.
Usually, the older kids sit closer to the back of the bus, and the younger kids sit closer to the front. It’s better to sit in the back because you’re farther away from the driver. Kids are very protective of their seats. If you sit in the same seat every day, it’s “yours” and no one else can sit there. So if you are a new student, the first day on the bus is really difficult. If the bus is full, you have to hope someone is nice enough to let you, a stranger, sit with him. There is a scene like this in the movie “Forrest Gump.”
Some buses also have problems with bullying (ijime) because the bus driver is too busy keeping everyone safe to watch what’s going on behind him. The big kids can bully the little kids, or the boys can bully the girls. When I was in junior high, the 14-year old boys bullied the 13-year old girls on my bus. The boys were perverted (hentai) and they touched the girls every day, but everyone was too afraid of the boys to tell the driver, including me. I regret it.
Do you know the words “introvert” and an “extrovert”? Simply put, an introvert is someone who likes to do things by himself. An introvert on a bus will play video games, read books, listen to music, or do homework. An extrovert is someone who likes to do things with other people. Extroverts will talk, make jokes, do pranks, or play games with each other.
My bus drivers were interesting, too. They were usually middle-aged men. Because a school bus only runs in the morning and afternoon, sometimes they have other jobs, too. They’d give us candy on Halloween and Christmas, send Christmas cards, and sometimes play the radio. One of my bus drivers was also a barber. One had children who went to my school.
When I was 16 years old, I got a driver’s license. After that, because I was on the track team, I would drive my own car to and from school every day. Sometimes I would go to church before school. Sometimes I would give my sister and brother rides, too. But riding the bus for 11 years was a good experience. I talked to a lot of different kinds of kids. It helped me to become more social.