Bus to Blamesville: A Roundtrip

As I’ve mentioned previously, even the most mundane things can trigger all sorts of feelings.  I was on a bus recently. I’ve always been afraid of either missing my stop or pushing the signal too early for my stop. When I was about 4, my mother let me push the signal. You know how kids like to push elevator buttons, ring bells, that sort of thing? But I pushed it too early for our stop. My mother insisted on getting off at that stop and pushed my brother’s stroller home, telling me she was tired and blaming me for having to walk so far. The few times as an adult when I wasn’t familiar with a route and pushed the bell too early, I got off and walked. I didn’t even occur to me to say, “sorry, I meant the next stop.”

On the recent trip, someone rang the bell too soon.  He said “sorry, I meant the next stop.”    Of course, I’d seen other people do it before this particular bus trip, but it finally hit me! It’s a normal, human mistake to occasionally ring the bus signal too early.   Normal people say, “sorry, I meant the next stop” or something along those lines.   As the bus driver said, “no problem” and drove to the next stop, I realized I’d never seen a driver get angry with a passenger for ringing the signal too early. Except in high school when some kids were doing it to be obnoxious. The most extreme reaction other than that I’d ever seen was a driver sigh or roll his eyes. And even then, only if traffic was bad and/or he was trying to make a connection at a transfer point.

Shortly after that, I noticed another too early bus signal. She actually asked, “Isn’t this [street name]?” She actually doubted the bus driver and where we were before she doubted herself! When she realized she was in error, she apologized to the driver and he basically said “no worries.”

Now, I’d remembered this before. Mostly the few times I pushed the signal too early or if I was afraid of doing so. But I’d always remembered it as me being a 4 year old F**k up who couldn’t push the bell at the right time and made the family have to schlep extra blocks. And I’m not kidding/exaggerating when I say that. I thought I did something wrong or bad by pushing that bell too early and made things harder on my mother/brother. Although he was sitting in a stroller, so I’m not sure how I made things harder for him.

The more recent recall of it was different. For the first time, I realized her reaction was out of proportion and felt anger at her. WTF is wrong with just saying, “sorry, we meant the next stop”? Or even just asking me to say so? And I felt sorry for the 4 year old who wasn’t allowed to make a mistake and wasn’t shown how mistakes are corrected. Though to be fair, my mother’s childhood was so messed up, she probably wasn’t shown it’s ok how to make mistakes and how to address them. If it were that one incident, I don’t think it would be that much of a big deal, but there’s a whole series of them. No wonder I’m so anxious about doing the wrong thing. I couldn’t even ring the bus signal at 4 without being blamed because I screwed it up.   It felt good to be angry about it instead of beating myself up for messing up something when I was 4.

All’s I know is next time I’m on an unfamiliar route, if I ring the signal too early, I’m going to apologize and see if the driver will let me off at the next stop!

11 thoughts on “Bus to Blamesville: A Roundtrip

  1. I know how you feel. I’ve been finding myself more & more comforting the little girl that I was from long ago that had been made to feel bad about so many things. I really feel sorry for her & the adult I became because of it . We’re growing & learning to ourselves a break now. Good Job!

    1. I think that’s the important part is to find a way to speak to those little girls (or boys for our male readers) and let them know it’s ok to make a mistake and it isn’t ok you were treated like that for a reasonable mistake. I even find myself thinking of the refrain from Adele’s One & Only that goes “nobody’s perfect”. For awhile, I thought she was saying, “trust me, I’ve learned it” instead of “trust me I’ve earned it” I kind of like my version better! 🙂 Seeing how the bus driver handled a grown adult who made that mistake vs. my mother with a 4 year old was a real eye opener for me.

  2. What I’ve finally realized about Scapegoating, narcissism, blame and rejection (based on little to no information — which drives me crazy!) is really just immaturity and emotional laziness. You can’t force someone or a whole family to be emotionally mature. Tough exhausting lesson to learn.

    1. I wasted a lot of time and energy thinking, “if I can just stay reasonable, eventually they can see the reason too.” Now, I realize they have their own reality. I’ve often likened it to being the mental health equivalent of Marilyn in the tv show The Munsters. I’m estranged from my mom/brother/sister-in-law, but sometimes the PDed craziness seeps in from some other relatives who are PDed and/or enablers or apologists for the PDed. I find it helps to mentally hum the Munsters theme song rather than try to fight the logic. Too much cognitive dissonance with the gas lighting.

  3. I know this was written a few years back. But reading this bus stop memory of yours brings me back to my own childhood pain in many ways. I was just recalling one incident, out of many, in my childhood where I made a normal, natural human mistake and my mother ranted and carried on for hours like I’d set off a bomb and leveled a city. I also think it’s particularly interesting that my little brother (the golden child) was so comparatively regressed by this same mother, who allowed him to remain a baby, practically forever.
    We were only 2 years apart; yet I was expected to give up all things babyish right before he was born. My mother ripped away my sippy cups at age 2, which I was used to drinking apple juice out of right before bedtime. She told me I was a “big girl now”, so “no more sippy cups” for me. I agreed, since I had no other choice, but then later that night I had forgotten this new quit-cold-turkey rule, and I started request my usual apple juice before bed, but then stopped short because of her stone cold glare at me. I quickly went quiet then; setting the stage for an angry explosion, which burst forth from her, about how “selfish” I was and how “she told me already!” and how I’m a “big girl who should stop being so selfish!” before she slammed my door and left me shivering and crying in the dark, wondering how my temporary forgetfulness had been misconstrued into selfishness. My answer came a few months later, when my baby, baby, baby, baby, baby brother was born. This baby drank from baby bottles up to the age of 6 years old, when my mother finally gently weened him off them because he was in the habit of bringing them to school with him. This baby sucked his thumb up until age 11, when my mom gently nudged him out of the habit because his orthodontist pointed out the continued thumb sucking was making his teeth all crooked. (She had smacked my hand very viciously out of my mouth when I was 6 years old, when I fell into sucking my fingers while in bed on a family train trip).
    So anyway; there are numerous memories like that, but on to today’s “mistake” memory:
    A family photographer had offered to take photos of myself at age 7, and my baby, baby, baby brother for free, because he was trying to build up his work portfolio. My mother had dressed me up in a nice dress my grandmother had bought for me (everything nice for me always came from grandma as a bday or xmas gift). Anyway, she curled my hair in the front and then lightly sprayed my bangs to keep them in place.
    However, as she then turned to prep my brother, I noticed in the mirror that my bangs were starting to droop again. She had not sprayed them enough to keep them in place. So I put my face right in front of the sticky hairspray bottle, and pushed down on the spray button. What did a get? A huge shot of sticky hair spray right in my eye! And boy; that was painful! But what followed that pain, as I clasped my eye and cried out, was a very hard smack to my behind from my mother, followed by at least an hour long rage over how I just “ruined everything!” by spraying my own eye.
    I tried to explain, of course, but mostly I was just crying and trying to wash my painful eye out with water as she continued to scream at me about how I had just “ruined everything for everyone!” To this day, I don’t know if she thought I had deliberately sprayed that painful, sticky hair spray into my eye just to spite her, or what? I was trying to be helpful; trying to make my hair even more perfect for these photos she wanted so much. But she carried on and on and on, as if I had ruined the photos by punching out my brother instead (something that always required massive self restraint on my end never to do, btw). Instead of simply explaining the mistake, and rescheduling our appointment for another day, which I’m sure the photographer would have agreed to since he was the one who wanted to take these photos for his portfolio, my mom instead pushed me to smile and bear the pain through the photos. So to this day I have a reminder of this horrible day; professional photos of myself in obvious pain, squinting with a blood red eye, but trying so hard to smile despite it, while my eye was just killing me. I also look as scared as I felt, despite the stiff smile in attempts to hide that fear and sadness, because I know my mom is not through ranting over this, and sure enough; she wasn’t. She continued on for the rest of the day, since I killed someone, don’tcha know. To this day, she points to this old photo and talks about how “nice” my happy, smiling, golden child brother looks in the photo compared to me, despite my (failed attempt?) to ruin it for the whole family.

  4. Another thing your mom could have considered was that she was responsible for having decided to let you ring the bell. But of course, if she were a person who took responsibility, you would not have been scapegoated!

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