by Carole Cloudwalker
Because I was a shy child, I would hide behind my mother’s skirts whenever anyone I did not know tried to speak to me.
That strategy did land me an early boyfriend in Austin, Texas, one Skippy Earlinson, but it otherwise failed to win me many friends.
Skippy came up to me when we had just moved into the modest little house my grandfather had built for us.
“Hi, I’m Skippy,” he said to me, smiling broadly. “What’s your name?”
Because my mother was not nearby to hide behind, even though I was safe on our screened porch and Skippy was standing in his driveway next door, I did the next best thing to hiding behind my mother.
“None of your business,” I snapped at him with the five-year-old’s disdain that only a little girl could have for a little boy. Ah, it was love at first snap. We were inseparable from then on.
Not so with anyone else who tried to talk to me.
I am no longer shy, but I do hide on some occasions.
Mostly that’s when I am driving down the North Fork, going to work, and I want to go slowly to avoid hitting a deer.
It’s difficult to hide, though, when you are the slowest car on the road. Everyone wants to pass you, and pronto.
So I devised a strategy: I try, hard, to hide behind the school bus.
Yes, it’s true. I figure that either the huge size, the bright saffron color or the noises and flashing lights of the bus will frighten any sensible deer away from the roadside. Positioned behind such a behemoth, it should be safe to pass a deer herd unscathed, also leaving them unscathed.
The other thing I figure is that if the deer aren’t warned off, at least the bus will hit them first, flattening them like yesterday’s pancakes, saving me the agony of doing that myself.
Agony and expense. Do you know how much a new radiator costs? Or body work? And most cars have grilles made of plastic. I ask you, how is that going to stop a deer from entering the vehicle through some part mounted under the hood?
In any case, there turns out to be a big flaw in my plan to be a successful Bus Chicken.
It turns out the bus driver is an accommodating chap who fervently desires not to hold up traffic. He apparently figures that everyone on the road wants to get past him to avoid making all his stops.
He just didn’t factor Bus Chickens into the mix.
So I get behind the bus, breathe a sigh of relief, and tootle along at my less-than-modest pace. I try to leave early enough to get to work without having to speed.
But as soon as I pull in behind him and the bus driver reaches his next stop, he flashes his lights and sticks out the little red “STOP” sign, boards the kiddies, then pulls over into the breakdown lane so people can pass him.
I loiter behind the bus. He waits. I can envision him tapping his fingers impatiently on the steering wheel.
I put on my right-hand turn signal to try to communicate to him that I am perfectly happy to follow the bus.
The driver does not believe me. I can feel his impatience, but still I loiter. The rules of Bus Chicken just changed.
Finally I lose, because I know he wants me to pass. So I do, putting myself right back up there with the suicidal Antlered Radiator Killers.
One time I passed the bus under these circumstances, but proceeded to drive so slowly in front of it that the driver passed me a few minutes later.
At his next stop, with only me behind him, he pulled over to let me pass again, figuring, I suppose, that I had learned my lesson, and would go a little bit faster this time around.
That driver makes it pretty hard to be a Bus Chicken.
Originally Published in The Cody Enterprise. February 11, 2010.