Thursday, August 11, 2005

What I Learned on the School Bus

Yesterday on my way back from the yarn store, I saw signs up at the public schools welcoming everyone back. It's weird to me that school around here starts so early. I grew up in New York State, where the school year is constructed so that the last two weeks of school ("Regents Week") must take place after Shavuot. This means that school starts after Labor Day.

Soon one can expect morning and afternoon traffic to be clogged by minivans and SUVs of suburban parents who are afraid to let their children ride the school bus with other suburban kids. When I was in school, you either rode the bus or else you walked. Unless you were a senior with a parking permit and your parents bought you a Mercedes for your 16th birthday. Getting a ride from your parents was definitely uncool.
    Things I Learned on the School Bus

  1. Elementary School: I must have been in 3rd or 4th grade. School let out, and I got on the bus. I sat by myself and was minding my own business. A big kid -- a 5th grader -- comes up to me and challenges: "Which is bigger? One-ninth or one-tenth?" Caught off guard, I incorrectly answer, "one-tenth" (since ten is bigger than nine). He mocks me for being so stupid. "Would you rather have a piece of a cake cut into nine pieces or ten pieces?" he asks.

  2. Middle School: Jonah had learned something exciting from his father, and he was sharing it with us one morning on the bus. He explained what it meant to define an algorithm recursively.

  3. High School: I walked to school in high school (from my front door to my 1st period class could be walked in 7 minutes), so this must have been on a field trip. Again, it was Jonah dispensing school bus wisdom. This time it was a challenge: How do you swap the values of two variables without defining a third variable? To be fair, I didn't really learn this on the bus because he refused to tell us the answer! (One of my other friends later explained it.)