I never really liked school, and they weren’t the best days of my life.

So there, I’ve said it.

I was an occasional bunker, but not so’s you’d notice.

On our school bus, which went to the school which gave me another chance after I’d been expelled from my previous school, there were a bunch of kids of different grades, and even different schools.

So this bus wound its way through the closely gathered little rural villages of our portion of the old Transvaal.

Along the meander, it would pick up little groups of kids waiting at various bus stops, and drop them off at different schools in the bigger town, which was of a size that it could actually have schools.

A nice lazy river ran through our village, and one morning I got to thinking that it would be nice to bunk and lay down in a field by the river, and have a picnic or somesuch, and watch the river go by, and generally do very little.

Then I got to thinking how nice it would be to share this experience with other kids my age.

I broached the subject with a few of my closer friends, testing the water, so to speak.

Well, its not that difficult to persuade a few kids to take a day off school and sit by a river.

But my ambitions, and so it would turn out, those of the team now on board with the idea, were to extend into major logistics.

It was our wish to share the love. That the whole bus should partake of this once in a lifetime opportunity. And so the plan was hatched, and discussed, in hushed tones.

It would involve kids from Krugerlaan school. It would involve kids from General Smuts High. It would involve kids from the local trade school, and the local technical school.

Boys and girls, small gradeys, and senior.

We would pack our school bags as usual, and an extra ‘ sports bag’ which contained our civies and party apparel, and snacks and victuals for the picnic fare.

The party clothes we would change into after leaving home, and would then put our school clothes in the ‘sports bag’.

That part of the plan was easy. It was getting all the kids to the same spot that was the challenge. The bus picked them up along the route.

And the river venue we had planned was about halfway along the route.

Luckily, some of the older guys arranged a car to bring them to the meeting point, just near the old Anglican church on the banks of the river.

The kids before the meeting point chose to ride the bus and then get off near the meeting point, on the pretext of ‘getting a lift’. Other actually walked long distances from home to meet. This was not as bad as it seemed, as some of us walked a kilometre or two to the bus stop every day, anyway.

Of course, there were some goodie two-shoes. It had to be all or nothing, so we threatened, cajoled, and finally threatened to take away their goody two shoes, that is their ridiculously well-behaved rep. Everyone was on board.

The day came. And everyone pitched. I was so proud of all our little truants, senior and junior.

I’d love to know what the bus driver thought as she drove the empty bus all the way to school.And back.

It proved to be a team-building day. We went to a secret place along the river, where you had to walk across a big, fallen tree to get to the picnic field, away from grown ups and truant spotters.

What a selection of food. And fun, and swimming, and laughter. The day went by too quickly, and in the late afternoon, it was time to change back into uniforms, and wend our way home after ‘sports’.

It was a day I’ll never forget, and those who participated ( you know who you are..!) will probably recall with a smile and a few warm memories.

The next morning, at assembly, we had almost forgotten about the impact it might have had at school.

But the headmaster hadn’t.

His opening speech started something like this ‘ Yesterday morning, an entire busload of children from this school deliberately missed school.

Now there are too many of you to punish, and you know who you are, and we know who you are. ‘ At this point he chose to look directly at me. Damn, he had good timing.

“If this ever happens again …etc etc,,,’

I have to give him full credit. He took it in his stride, and took it like an adult, not like some of the pedants I’ve encountered. This kind of made us feel bad. But not that bad.

And it gave us new respect for him.

So? Check out the business outcome. We had managed a logistical nightmare, under extreme risk of failure, built a loyal team, and achieved our end objective with very little downside.

And the boss of the school had bonded us closer to him by not behaving like a small minded prick, but had let us off with a warning. It was a win win, and we never did let him down for the rest of that year.

Sometimes you can learn a lot more by taking a day off school.


PS: The pic is actually of a bus on its way to school in Monument Valley, Utah, taken (by Thelma Roos) the last time we were in the USA.

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