You know that whole, “Do I get my kid a cell phone” discussion I started here a bit ago? Because I was letting my kids ride public transportation without a parent? It reared its ugly head again.
Because I put my son on the wrong bus.
Let that sink in a bit. The kid just turned eight. He weighs 59 lbs soaking wet. The wrong damn bus. Because of his mother. Good lord.
Estelah had a dentist appointment, so when their friend’s mom asked if they could come play, I said no and explained. No big deal, said the mom. Pop Dylan on a bus and let him come, avoid the dentist. That, I thought, was a splendid idea. Dylan agreed.
I spent a half an hour packing his bag and reminding him of all the rules: sit near the driver. If there’s a seatbelt, use it. If there’s not, pretend seat belts were never invented and don’t stress about it. Pleases and thank yous. PRIVATE PARTS ARE PRIVATE. Etcetera etcetera.
And then I put him on the wrong bus, shrugged when it left five minutes earlier than it was supposed to, and went to the dentist with Estelah.
About twenty minutes later, I get a phone call from my son, from some stranger’s cell phone. “Mom? You put me on the wrong bus.”
And suddenly, I realized that, yeah, I probably did. In fact, I never really checked to make sure it was the right bus. Folks have tried to make me feel better, after the fact, by saying things like, “The buses are right next to each other. Sometimes they even pull into the wrong lane and you just have to make sure you look carefully.” Yeah, that’s true. But even truer is the fact that I didn’t even fucking look. I guess I was waiting for the bus to come, so when it came, I just put him on it without looking.
I am an idiot.
So anyway, the child was not too happy about this development, understandably. By the time he called me, he had realized he was on the wrong bus and got off at a random bus stop. Thankfully, there was a guy there who spoke English and had a phone. I asked to speak to said guy. The guy was able to tell me that the bus stop served both bus lines and that the correct bus would be by in a minute. Ah! Good news! So I spoke to D again and told him to hang tight, no big deal, he’d solved the problem and he’d be at the beach in a few minutes.
Fifteen minutes later, I called the number back and the guy said that D had gotten on the next bus. A minute later, D called from his friend’s phone and was, indeed, at the beach with his friend.
Immediately after this, I was all, “I am getting that child fifteen cell phones. This is ridiculous.” I was imagining all of the terrible things that could’ve happened. What if the guy didn’t speak English? What if his cell didn’t have reception? (Totally likely where they were.) What if D freaked out and ran into the woods and hid and was eventually raised the rest of the way by the wild boar and monkeys that live out there?
And then, my next illogical thought was, “Thank the good lord I’ve been doing all this volunteer work. I’d feel really guilty about expecting all of Hong Kong to help me raise my kid if I weren’t also preparing hot meals for the homeless.”
But since that scary moment has passed, I realize that my kid is not an idiot. He may only be 8, but he’s a pretty smart eight. What would’ve happened, most likely, if the guy with the phone hadn’t been there, is that my kid would’ve sat there long enough to realize that the right bus was right in front of him. Or else he’d have crossed the street and gotten on a bus going back home. It would’ve been terrifying for him, and once he survived it, it would’ve been the biggest accomplishment of his life.
It is extremely helpful that an English-speaking, cell-phone-carrying man was kind to my son. I want to send that man a new car or something for his kindness. But the reality is, most people are kind. Pedophiles are very rare. Jerks are common, but not too common when it comes to 59 lb children. Maybe it wasn’t a special alignment of the stars that kept my boy safe. Maybe it was just because the world tilts more towards the safe than the dire.
He went for his first sleepover last night. As I was fussing over him at the door, “Pleases and thank yous. PRIVATE PARTS ARE PRIVATE. Brush your teeth. I love you. Sleep tight, my special little guy. I love you. PRIVATE PARTS ARE PRIVATE” he turned and said to me, “Mom? I got lost in the country park and was fine. I’m pretty sure I can sleep over at my best friend’s house and be okay.”