Minh’s Notes

Human-readable chicken scratch

Minh Nguyễn
January 29th, 2009
Elementary School


Almost a snow day

Sixth grade was not a good year for me on the school bus. Every year, Loveland City Schools shuffled its bus routes around, with the intent of keeping us students on our feet. That year, my stop wound up first on the route. The long ride each morning – usually half an hour to school – exacerbated my motion sickness, keeping me under the menacing eye of the bus driver.

One day, a classic winter storm passes through Cincinnati. You know: snow, sleet, slush, ice, slice. I can’t remember quite how much snow accumulated that day, but it can’t’ve been more than five inches. Regardless, the weather forecasters went hysterical about the sheer severity of the storm. Loveland, on the other hand, kept their cool. At the time, the district was hard core about staying open despite inclement weather. (I believe these days we call it “flinty Chicago toughness”.) Nothing like those Northern Kentucky schools that’d shut down whenever it felt chilly outside.

Still hoping for a chance snow day, I monitor all the TV stations’ scrolling tickers that morning. There’s an art to channel surfing on snow days: you switch to each channel as its ticker nears “L”. Little Miami, Live Oaks, Lockland – wait for it – Lynchburg. Fooey.

My bus meanders along its usual route, but at normal walking speed. Due to the thick layer of ice on the roads, the driver never makes stops; instead, she coasts a bit, swings open the doors, and waves us in. One by one, we jump aboard the oversized toboggan. While the driver carefully manages the slick hills, time is ticking on my motion sickness. We’re already plenty late for school. A few more minutes, or a couple more speed bumps, and I’ll have to pull out the Kroger bag the driver required me to carry, just in case.

Just as we slide past the final stop and start across town to school, the dispatcher comes across the radio, unusually loud and clear:

Base to all drivers, pull over. Repeat: pull over. We are determining whether to cancel school for today.

The freezing, exhausted passengers on the bus erupt in celebration, followed by arguments about who gets dropped off first once school is called off. Surely following the route in reverse would be unjust: some of us had been riding almost an hour already!

During the next ten minutes, we search for ways to stay warm as the district deliberates (in their cozy office, no doubt). Finally, a relieved-sounding dispatcher gives the all-clear over the radio. There will be school after all. Defeated silence. The eighth-graders at the back of the bus resume their daily routine of furiously scribbling down homework answers just before arriving at school. The kids across the aisle kick themselves for not flushing at 7:00 the night before. And I just want some fresh air.

Although St. Columban School is located within the Loveland school district boundaries, students come from several surrounding districts as well. That morning, the school appeared conspicuously empty. Of course, with Little Miami, Milford, and Goshen all closed, everyone but us Lovelanders had an excuse to stay home.

Readers from the West Coast will probably want to know what a Kroger bag is. They’re your ordinary plastic grocery bags, but tan-colored, so they make for good barf bags and great dresses (apparently).