by Matt Inman of The Oatmeal
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The Law of the Jungle
The public school I attended had various rules: no yelling, no talking back to the teacher, no chewing gum in class, no defecating on the azaleas out front, and so on. These rules were enforced by faculty members and were generally obeyed. On the bus, however, there were no rules. I mean, they had rules, but there was no way of enforcing them. The bus driver had to watch the road and I'm fairly certain the camera they installed was a fake just to keep us from going all Lord of the Flies on each other and declaring someone's Trapper Keeper a conch meanwhile bludgeoning the fat kid to death with a large rock.
Suffice it to say, the bus was ruled by the law of the jungle: only the strongest and fastest survived. My generation never stormed the beaches of Normandy or got drafted to fight communism, but on that Twinkie-shaped nightmare we waged our own private Vietnam.
I grew up in a very small town in Northern Idaho called Hayden Lake. Hayden Lake was home to the last Neo-Nazi compound in the United States. It was an area of a few square acres surrounded by a guard tower and a large sign at the entrance which depicted a blazing red swastika. Most of the people that lived in the compound were elderly, but they occasionally managed to inspire a few younger skinheads in town to take up their moronic ideology and go around beating up anyone who didn't fit within a certain ethnic profile. My bus route ran directly pass the Nazi compound and we always had to stop to pick up a handful of little Hitlers.
Here's a few pictures of the compound:
Nazi Flag; The bus stop where we picked up the little Hitlers
CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST CHRISTIAN ARYAN NATIONS. WHITE KINDRED ONLY!
Inbred dumbshits on parade in the nearby town of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
The Nazi compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho
Surprisingly, I actually didn't mind the Nazis who rode the bus. They generally left me alone and I even slightly befriended one of them for awhile. I say slightly because I only really talked to him because he let me play his Gameboy every now and then. I was willing to the let the whole Axis powers thing slide in exchange for some Gameboy time.
The Nazi with a Gameboy
It wasn't until my oldest brother got in a fight with a few skinheads that the dynamic changed. He was living in the nearby town of Coeur d' Alene at the time and either buying or selling drugs from the local skinheads. Something went wrong during the deal and a couple of them ended up jumping him. He defended himself with a boxcutter knife and managed to stab one of them in the gut before they pinned him down and took turns kicking his face in with steel-toed boots. Both my brother and the guy he stabbed survived the ordeal but ended up being hospitalized. My brother's face was smashed to pieces and he had his jaw wired shut for several months.
After that incident, it was difficult to relax when any of the Nazis were around. They weren't the same people who beat up my brother and they probably didn't even know or care who I was. Regardless, playing Gameboy with a 10 year old Der Führer after that just wasn't the same.
A few miles down the road from the Nazi bus stop we stopped at a house full of foster kids. The kids we picked up would change every few months as new foster kids rotated in and out. For a short time, we picked up a large Mexican boy who looked to be about 22 years old despite being in junior high school. When he boarded the bus, one of the Nazi kids made a pistol shape with his finger and pointed it at the mexican boy, mouthing the words "pop pop" -- the implication being that he wanted to shoot him. I watched the the Mexican ignore the Nazi and walk to the middle of the bus where I was sitting. He sat down next to me and I wanted to say something along the lines of "Gosh, what a jerk! Don't let him get you down, he's just an ignorant little Adolf Shitler." I turned to the Mexican boy and as I was about to speak he faced me and said "What are you looking at, faggot?" and bashed his elbow into my face, splitting my nose open. I was a nervous little overweight kid, so for the remainder of the bus trip I sat there cupping the blood from my nose and weeping.
The lesson here being that Mexicans are assholes. And so are white people.
Sucks to your ass-mar, Piggy
On my bus a hierarchy existed which determined how horribly you were treated by your fellow bus-mates. Typically it went by age: youngest sat in the front and oldest in back, but if some kid proved himself as being a bigger asshole than the kids behind him would get upgraded to a few seats back where he could more easily spit on and throw trash at the kids in front of him.
The hierarchy of a public school bus
[Back: Generally left alone; Middle: Generally fucked with all the time; Front: This area makes a couple tours in Vietnam seem like a nice sunny vacation; Very Front: Very front seat offered some relief because this is the one seat where the bus driver could actually police what's going on. Also you could hide amongst the kindergarteners if you sat here.]
Our bus driver was a large woman in her late 40s who always wore bright pink lipstick and a giant black coat with animal fur on the shoulders. Lipstick aside, the coat closely resembled something a Nordic Viking would wear. This, coupled with the fact that she seemed like the kind of person who would tear the head off a mountain goat and use its blood to keep warm in a blizzard, was how she came to be called "The Viking." The unruly kids hated The Viking, but I came to love her because when she was in charge there was some semblance of order. The Viking's tactic for dealing with a bus full of little assholes was to be a bigger, scarier asshole; it's like the school district decided the best way to fight a bunch of rabid, down syndrome badgers was to deploy a Kodiak bear.
How most bus drivers dealt with the kids
[Bus Driver] Okay everybody, please settle down a bit! You're getting real loud, I need to focus okay? Please I'd really appreciate it!
How the kids responded
HA HA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH HAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH HAHA HAHAHA HAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHA
How The Viking Dealt With the Kids
[Viking] HEY YOU LITTLE FUCKER -- YEAH YOU IN THE DARKWING DUCK SHIRT. THAT SHOW SUCKS GIANT ASSHOLES AND SO DO YOU. NOW SIT DOWN AND SHUT THE FUCK UP OR I'LL TIE YOU TO THE RADIATOR AND DO SEVENTY MILES AN HOUR IN FIRST GEAR.
How The Kids Responded
*sob*. viking scares meeee. I want my mommy
I'M SO SORRY *sniffle sniffle*
buh huh huhhhh
Occasionally The Viking would disappear for a few months and we'd have a substitute driver. I assumed it was because she was back in County again for headbutting her parole officer or something like that. I always felt bad for our substitutes because if there's one job in the world that's worse than being a substitute teacher, it's being a substitute bus driver. The kids on the bus would do everything within their power to break her spirit: calling her names, throwing food at her, and one time they even opened the door on the back of the bus while she was merging onto the highway just to see what she'd do. One of our substitutes eventually broke down and started crying, pulling the bus over so she could bawl for a few minutes and compose herself. Being a bus driver is like being hired to face a wall with a room full of immature morons taunting you from behind meanwhile you can't do anything because if you do the room will fly off a cliff and kill everyone.
Snow and Mutiny
Idaho is one of those places that unless there's 25 feet of snow and people are dying by the hundreds they won't close the schools due to bad weather. One year we had a mixture of rain and snow that froze overnight and the school district refused to cancel school, and subsequently five different buses flew off the road and crashed in ditches during their morning route. My bus didn't crash, but it did get stuck trying to drive up an icy hill which caused the back end to spin out and slide backward into a small embankment. The kids reacted by opening the rear door and shoveling snow into the back of the bus, filling the back couple of rows with heavy slush. This served two purposes: enabling us to have a snowball fight as well as increasing the weight on the back tires which would disable the driver from getting us to school. This was fairly par for the course for our bus: if one minor detail changed in our routine we'd all explode like zitty, caffeinated water balloons.
Explosions and Fire
About mid-way through its route our bus passed along an explosives factory which produced dynamite for removing tree stumps and other small demolition projects. When this factory caught fire, they had to evacuate an area a few square miles around our route because the resulting explosion was supposed to be on par with a poor man's nuclear bomb -- one or two kilotons. When normal people are informed that there's a very real possibility that everything they've ever known and loved will be burned alive, their typical reaction is fear or sorrow. When they announced it to the kids on our bus, however, everyone began cheering and throwing their backpacks into the air. It seemed appropriate that these soulless little shitheads would erupt in celebration upon learning that our little Idahoan middle-earth was going to be engulfed in an all consuming fireball.
It's the end of times ... SO BRIGHT ... SO BEAUTIFUL
The end of days for Hayden Lake, Idaho
The fire was put out, however, and no one died. Years later, however, my brother and I took an interest in building explosives ourselves and we began building bombs using supplies purchased from a local sporting goods store. You had to be 18 to buy a gun, but you could buy smokeless black powder and waterproof cannon fuses without getting carded. We'd spend our summers creating new and exciting pipe bombs and detonating them in the woods. We weren't hurting anybody, we just liked creating craters where old trees used to be and producing massive fireballs and brain-trauma-inducing concussive shockwaves. Shrapnel was a problem too, but most of the time we'd just stand near a tree or crouch down a little to avoid the bits of metal that whizzed by our heads.
[Man] When it detonates you're gonna want to squat down a bit that way the shrapnel doesn't hit you. Don't squat down too far though or you won't be able to see the awesome explosion. Just squat a little -- yeah, just like that. PERFECT! **
** Author's note: These were the actual instructions we gave our friend for avoiding shrapnel wounds.
Shrapnel safety 101 with the Inman brothers
We eventually decided to teach one of our friends how to build bombs so he could also take part in our fun blow-shit-up-to-smithereens adventures. He'd come over and we'd all build bombs together and then go find an old shed or dead animal to splatter into unrecognizable bits. One particularly popular type of bomb we'd make is what we called a "crater maker," which involved filling an empty CO2 cartridge with black powder and sealing it with a fuse. One Christmas this friend of ours decided it would be a good idea to give these to his friends as gifts so they could take them home and have fun blowing things up like we did. He wrapped them in adorably festive Christmas wrapping paper and applied an equally adorable Christmas bow. He then handed them out to all his buddies as they boarded the school bus. He specifically instructed them NOT to open them until they got home from school, and I clearly remember one kid shaking the box next to his head and saying "What's inside? I can hear it rattling."
[Boy] Oh boy. I wonder what it is!
SHAKE SHAKE RATTLE RATTLE
[Boy 2] You'll just have to wait until Christmas! :):)
Explosives for Christmas
[Michael Moore] What do you grow here?
[James Nichols] Right now, there's tofu beans. Soybeans.
[Michael Moore] You're a tofu farmer.
[James Nichols] Yeah. Yeah, food farmer. I'm a food farmer. I grow food ...
for people to eat. No herbicides, no pesticides on that stuff.
[Michael Moore] Right. All natural.
[James Nichols] Right.
[Michael Moore] Yeah. Better.
[James Nichols] Certified organic.
[Michael Moore] Uh-huh. Healthier.
[James Nichols] Yeah.
[Michael Moore] Basically, yeah.
This is James Nichols, the brother of Terry Nichols.
James graduated from high school the same year I did ...
in the district next to mine.
On this farm in Decker, Michigan ...
McVeigh and the Nichols brothers made practice bombs, before Oklahoma City.
Terry and James were both arrested in connection to the bombing.
[Newscaster] U.S. attorneys formally linked the Nichols brothers of Michigan ...
with Oklahoma bomb suspect Timothy McVeigh.
Officials charged James, who was at the hearing, and Terry, who was not ...
with conspiring to make and possess small bombs.
[Michael Moore] Terry Nichols was convicted and received a life sentence.
Timothy McVeigh was executed.
But the feds didn't have the goods on James, so the charges were dropped.
[James Nichols] I'm just glad to be out and free, so I can get on with my life.
[Michael Moore] Did Timothy McVeigh ever stay here?
[James Nichols] Yes. Yes.
He stayed here several times. For the longest period, about three months or so. I don't know With the --
But he was a nice guy.
[Michael Moore] Decent guy.
[James Nichols] Oh, yeah.
[Michael Moore] So they didn't find anything on this farm?
[James Nichols] As to what, bomb-making material?
[Michael Moore] Any kind of explosives.
[James Nichols] Uh, yeah, I had blasting caps, dynamite blasting caps ...
dynamite fuse, black powder, you know, for muzzleloaders ...
And sure, diesel fuel, fertilizer ... but that is normal farm stuff.
That is in no way connected in any way whatsoever ...
to the Oklahoma City bombing, or bomb making.
Them people, law enforcement, if you want to call them that ...
were here, and they were shaking in their shoes.
They were physically shaking.
Scared to death.
[Michael Moore] Of?
[James Nichols] Because they thought this was going to be another Waco.
Because certain people...
namely my ex-wife and other people ...
said I'm a radical. I'm a wild man.
I got a gun under every arm, down every leg ...
in every shoe, every corner of the house.
You say anything to me, I'll shoot you.
If the people find out how they've been ripped off ...
and enslaved in this country by the government ...
by the powers-to-be...
they will revolt with anger ...
with merciless anger. There will be blood running in the streets.
When a government turns tyrannical, it is your duty to overthrow it.
[Michael Moore] Well, why not use Gandhi's way?
He didn't have any guns, and he beat the British empire.
[James Nichols] I'm not familiar with that.
[Brent] Oscoda has a bad habit of raising psychos.
A bad habit of it.
[Michael Moore] This is Brent, and this is his buddy DJ.
They live in Oscoda, Michigan, across the bay from the Nichols' farm.
Eric Harris, who would later go on to commit the massacre ...
at Columbine High School in Colorado, spent part of his childhood here.
[UNITED STATES AIR FORCE STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND, WURTSMITH AF BASE
8TH AF; 40 AD; 379 BW]
Eric lived on the Air Force base in Oscoda ...
where his dad flew planes during the Gulf War.
Twenty percent of all the bombs dropped in that war ...
were from planes that took off from Oscoda.
I asked Brent if he remembered anything about Eric.
[Brent] I never knew him, but I knew of him. He left here before I got here.
I've only lived here about seven years, off and on.
[Michael Moore] He was about the same age as you, so you must have people in your class --
[Brent] Yeah. Like a friend of mine, he knows him. He was in class with him. He's lived up here all of his life.
[DJ] I went to school with him, and it shocked me to hear it on the news ...
you know that especially a kid from here would be doing that.
[Brent] I didn't last too long in this high school, up here. I got kicked out. I got expelled.
[Michael Moore] Why was that?
[Brent] I had a run-in with a kid one time...
and I pulled a weapon on him, I pulled a gun on him.
[Michael Moore] A gun?
[Michael Moore] What kind of gun?
[Brent] 9 mm. I could have made a mess out of that situation.
[Michael Moore] Could've been worse.
[Brent] It could have been a lot worse.
[Michael Moore] You could have been Eric Harris.
[Brent] I could have been.
[Michael Moore] So they kicked you out of school?
[Brent] Yeah, they kicked me out for 380 days ...
or 165 days, whatever a full school year is.
[DJ] A matter of fact, for the longest time that's what my plan was, was to move out to Colorado.
[Michael Moore] Colorado?
[DJ] Because I've got family out there.
And as a matter of fact, one of my uncles is a janitor for Columbine School.
[Michael Moore] Really?
[Michael Moore] Well, after Columbine, what was it like here in Oscoda?
[DJ] My name was second-highest on the bomb list ...
because of the reputation you get in this town.
[Michael Moore] Why? Why was your name ... You mean they did a list of --
[DJ] Of suspects.
[Michael Moore] Of students who potentially --
[Michael Moore] would call in a bomb threat after Columbine?
[Michael Moore] And you were number two on the list?
[DJ] I was pretty much like second or third on the list, yeah.
[Michael Moore] Why is that?
[DJ] Because the whole fact is, like I said, this town really gets people down.
[Michael Moore] Yeah, but why did they single you out?
[DJ] Because I was a troubled kid and --
[Michael Moore] Were you in trouble in school?
[DJ] Oh, yeah.
[Michael Moore] But why did they put you at number two on their list after Columbine ...
of the students that could be a threat?
[DJ] [Shrugs his shoulders]
[Michael Moore] There must -- come on, there must be a reason.
[DJ] Well, okay. The thing is, I have a thing, it's called the "Anarchist Cookbook."
It shows you how to make bombs and stuff like that in it.
If there's anything that went wrong, they are gonna come to me first.
And I don't need that.
[Michael Moore] Just 'cause you owned a copy of the book?
[DJ] Just because I own a copy --
[Michael Moore] You never made a bomb yourself?
I've made 'em.
It was nothing big. It wasn't even as big as a pipe bomb.
It was just... maybe like a little tennis-ball bomb, or something like that.
Out of the "Anarchist Cookbook," the latest thing I built...
I think, would have to be, I think I made it, like, about a good five-gallon drum of napalm.
You know, homemade napalm.
[Michael Moore] Kids knew that you were doing this?
[Michael Moore] So you were number two, then, on the list.
[Michael Moore] Who was number one?
[DJ] I don't know. They never told me that name, which kind of made me mad.
[Michael Moore] Because you didn't make it to number one?
[DJ] Because I didn't make it to number one. I know it's kind of silly ...
I guess it had been kind of like an ego thing there
knowing that I was number one at something in Oscoda ...
even if, you know, it was the bomb-threat list.
-- Bowling for Columbine, directed by Michael Moore
Nowadays when I see a school bus I don't think of homework, pencils, academia, or the children of today being responsible for the future of tomorrow. I think of fascism, rage, and the moral compass we all have which can bend completely backwards when packed into a sweaty, motorized box full of Nazis and overly-caffeinated, puberty-stricken howler monkeys.
A CARD GAME
FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE INTO KITTENS AND EXPLOSIONS AND LASER BEAMS AND SOMETIMES GOATS
CREATED BY: ELAN LEE + THE OATMEAL + SHANE SMALL