TIME TO BE KIND: School bus turned into 4-wheeled cage of terror

By Ryan Schlehuber "Scoop" • Last Updated 10:55 am on Monday, December 16, 2013

… First Person | Ryan Schlehuber

Whenever anyone says “bullying,” there’s one very distinct childhood memory that quickly comes to mind— being bullied on the school bus.

Being picked on anytime is no picnic, but being bullied on a school bus? It’s the worst.

I recall being bullied only a few times in my life, but this one incident on a school bus sticks out the most. It wasn’t as violent like incidents you might’ve heard or seen today, but it was the fact I was cornered with no way out that made it so vividly memorable.

I was about 7 or 8 years old. I rode the bus just like all the other kids in my neighborhood did. One day, I was bringing my new Stomper Truck (small battery-operated, four-wheel drive vehicles that fit in the palm of your hand) to school to show my friends. As usual, I sat near the back of the bus. I took my Stomper out, playing with it to kill some time during the ride to school.

I was looking forward to going to school that day…until Paul sat next to me.

At first, he was nice. He asked me what I had and I showed him. He seemed just as in awe over it as I was. I was a pretty scrawny kid then. Paul was hitting puberty already (so it seemed anyway), as he was much taller and more beefy. He was a heavyweight; I was, well, is there such a thing as puny-weight in boxing?

Anyway, he asked to hold on to it, in which I was delighted that a more popular kid was intrigued with my new toy. At that moment, he turned to me, slugged me in the arm and laughed at me, proudly announcing to everyone within earshot that he is the new owner of what used to be my new Stomper Truck.

Some people would check this off as kids being kids, but for an 8-year-old kid stuck on what then was a way too long bus ride, it was a terrifying experience in a four-wheeled cage with no escape, especially because he persisted to pick on me for the rest of the bus ride. The feeling of helplessness, embarrassment and fear, at that time, was unbearable.

Unlike today, there were no cameras or bus aides. My only beacon of hope was the bus driver, who, at that moment, seemed miles away, and I was too scared to call for help. As we finally arrived at school, I did the walk of shame down the bus aisle, Stomper-less and emotionally distraught. I couldn’t say anything to the bus driver for fear of being a tattle-tale, which would, I feared then, bring on more negative attention from bullies and their sidekicks.

It wasn’t until I arrived home and told my mother that things were righted. Paul returned my Stomper and was forced by our teacher to apologize. The entire incident actually made me dread riding the bus for a while.

Looking back on it now, I regret not speaking up, not standing up to Paul. I feel now that it would’ve made a difference. But it’s hard knowing what the right thing to do is in that situation when you’re only 8 years old. Thankfully, we are now teaching kids to not bully and how to handle bullying situations. I wish I had that back then. If I had, this memory wouldn’t be such a flag bearer in my life.

By the way, I later realized that Paul wasn’t as fortunate to receive the gifts that I did and I now realize he may have just lashed out in frustration from jealousy, something I know I’ve felt before with others.

Bullies aren’t always bullies, by the way. Paul is a great guy. I see him every so often and we always say hello and enjoy a brief chat. Heck, we’re even Facebook friends. He’s raising a son on his own now and I’m fully confident he will teach his son the proper ways to treat others, as he, too, knows the effects of bullying.

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