It was two days before my thirteenth birthday. A friend and I had decided to spend the day at the mall. Since we lived in a smaller city, the first and last bus that we had to catch had very limited service – and we were not at that point used to taking the bus alone very often.
We made it to the mall, and I don’t remember much of that trip. It went much like any other, I suppose. I rarely had any money, so likely I just looked around. If we ate in the food court, I would have gotten fries and gravy from Harvey’s. I always got fries and gravy from Harvey’s. I would have gotten a drink, too, as I could never eat without drinking – it was necessary for me to keep the food down, and water never worked for that reason.
I do, however, remember the trip home. We had to catch one bus, and then transfer to another – a very anxiety causing activity in itself. But not only did we have to transfer to another bus, it was a specific transfer. That bus didn’t always go near to my home, and we had to get on the one that did.
It was cold that day. Very cold for September, and there was even hail at times. We weren’t dressed quite right for the weather – but then, we didn’t expect to be out all that long, and the bus shelters were, well… sheltered.
Soon after we arrived at that second bus stop, our bus came by – only it wasn’t going far enough, so we waited maybe 20 minutes for the next one. That one, also, wasn’t going near my home, so we waited again. By the third bus, we started asking the driver when “our bus” was going by. “It will be the next one,” he said.
The driver after that said the same, as did the one after that. We sat in that bus shelter for hours, not knowing what to do. I had an idea that my uncle lived close by, but I didn’t know which house was his, or exactly in what neighbourhood, so we didn’t attempt to find him.
This was before cell phones, and knowing me, I wouldn’t have had one even if they did exist. I don’t like phones.
It was a very uncomfortable wait, and became quite frightening as the night began to fall.
The first drivers that we had seen began coming past us again, on their rounds. Finally, after what must have been three to four hours sitting at that bus stop, a driver (hearing where we were going – as if we hadn’t been asking for that stop all along) told us that we were on the wrong side of the street.
My sense of direction was not good at that time… really, it still isn’t. It was enough to try and get the correct bus. Could I then be expected, too, to know what side of the street to catch it on?
For all of that time, we were standing directly in front of the fire station – but never thought of going in. After all, the drivers kept telling us the next bus would take us home. We were two streets away from my uncle’s house – but as I said, I wasn’t completely sure which house was his.
So we waited, until we were told to go to the other side of the street. By then, the bus that went closest to my home had stopped running – as had the bus that ran to the next stop up (about a half hour walk) – so we caught the bus that went as close as we could (which was about a 45-60 minute walk from my house.)
It was cold, and we – two young girls walking in the dark – were very frightened. I would have thought that would have been enough of a punishment – after all, it was a mistake. We certainly didn’t wait there, or go through all of that, on purpose!
When we got to my house, we found that our parents had called the police, and had even gone through the theatre in that mall with a flashlight looking for us. My friend’s parents came and got her, while I got yelled at, and grounded. So unfair!
But anyway, I was home, and I was warm. Happy 13th birthday to me.