Field trip to Lake Merritt

Lake Merritt by Justine tenZeldam.5A bus full of 7-year olds? A City bus?! That sort of thing can strike fear in the hearts of men, everywhere. As they boarded the bus – 23 of them – eyebrows raised up and down the aisles. It was one of those new buses, double long for the hoards of school kids of all ages that use them daily to get to school, soccer practice, band or “wherever” then home. But, it’s unusual to see them that young and in that number on the bus. Surely it would be chaos!

The new buses have a couple of seats where you can be “alone”. The irony is that you must face someone else across from you, in the same position. It just feels awkward for some reason. Of course, it could be the ultimate “meet cute” but I digress.

So, where did they all those kids come from? Never did find that out, but they were on their way to Lake Merritt and well, you could feel their excitement. Well, most of us could. Many smiled, others raised eyebrows and shook heads as to say, “oh crap here we go!”.

If you’ve ever been on a school bus of children, or better yet, driven a school bus then you know what it’s like. The din can be overwhelming. It takes a strong personality, with a gentle heart, to keep that many kids in line. Once you’re over 3 or 4 kids, it might as well be a thousand, right? Would our AC Transit bus driver be able to handle the hoard?!

The old man across from me looked doubtful. Or, was he just terrified? He sat there in silence the whole way. Stonefaced and sullen avoiding eye contact with any of us. I on the other hand could not help but question the handful of adults along with the kids, many of whom had to stand and hold on for the trip down Foothill Blvd., past San Antonio Park and all the other stops and starts.

“Where are you headed?”, I asked the lady with the clipboard. Then, I realized many of the kids had clipboards too. “To the Lake!” she replied.Obviously, they were about to study the natural habitat*.

Then, we were distracted by the delightful exclamation of one boy who said, “this is my first time on on the bus!”. The teacher seemed surprise as that’s how so many of us have to get around ’round here. “Yes,” he said. “I’ve been on the one that goes under the water but never this!”. Obviously, his family takes BART but not the bus, a common mindset. Buses are for freaks and paupers right? 😉

At any rate, the bus stop came rather quickly, and the well-behaved group disembarked without incident. Their teacher, young and fresh and apparently good at small crowd control, ordered them to “get with their buddies” and they were off.

The bus was suddenly quiet again and the ride punctuated only by potholes and beeping continued on. I looked across at the old man who was either so afraid or so offended by children he didn’t bat an eye, say a word, or smile. Poor guy. Maybe he was devoid of emotion and it wasn’t the kids at all. Hopefully he found his smile later that day. I know I found mine in all those little chirping voices and bright shining faces!

*Activities include:


For more on current state of Lake see:


For photos by yours truly see: Justine’s Lake Merritt Gallery


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