I’m proud of my work as an auto mechanic, and nothing gets me more excited than souping up a ride for somebody. Normally, the satisfaction of a job well done is enough validation for me, but this has been eating at me for a long time, and I have to say something: I did all of the modifications on the Magic School Bus, and I’m tired of Ms. Frizzle getting the credit for it.
Now, I’m not denying Ms. Frizzle is a good teacher. She’s charismatic as hell, and I love how she matches her dresses to whatever subject she’s teaching. Super creative. But the extent to which parents fight tooth and nail to have their kids placed in her class — I can’t help but think that’s at least a little bit because of the shape-shifting, sentient school bus that I made for her.
Not only is she popular, but Ms. Frizzle has been able to leverage her teaching success into some pretty lucrative moneymaking ventures, too: her book deal, her generous honoraria for speaking engagements, the animated children’s TV show they’ve made based on her life… I know public school teachers are woefully underpaid, and I’m glad the scales have tipped a little in this one instance. But there are plenty of great teachers who aren’t getting these sorts of opportunities. It doesn’t take a genius to spot the thing that sets Ms. Frizzle apart, and it’s not her lesson plans or her classroom management strategies. It’s my bus, which defies the laws of physics to facilitate time- and space-bending educational experiences. So why aren’t I the beloved local celebrity with the sandwich named after her at Gino’s?
Look, I’m not saying all this just to be petty. I’m a small business owner, and I have a family to support. I don’t think it was so outlandish of me to imagine that once Ms. Frizzle showed up to school with that bus — and especially once she started getting all that press coverage for her innovative field trip-based curriculum — requests for more magic buses would start coming in and I could build up my shop’s reputation. But I haven’t been contacted by a single teacher or administrator! Not even a curious car enthusiast. Ms. Frizzle clearly isn’t mentioning my name, either preferring to tell people that she made the bus herself or just found it somewhere, probably for the sake of her own mystical personal narrative. (Ms. Frizzle is all about branding. What kind of a person has a catchphrase?) In any case, I can’t help but feel hurt.
By the way, I haven’t even mentioned the effort it took to get the magic to put in the bus. Magic isn’t something you can buy from a normal auto parts supplier. For the Consciousness Gems alone, I had to complete all seven Labors of Kalahanga. Halfway up the Mountain of Idle Dreams, I almost decided to turn back. It was dark. It was cold. My Sword of Virtue had been stolen by a gang of raven bandits. Half-raven, half-bandit, these wily tricksters roam the mountain to protect the sacred wisdom at its summit. They sang me cryptic warnings about the treacherous path ahead and showed me a vial of blood, which they said was mine — that I had spilled it in the future after failing to heed their counsel. But I persevered because I believe in customer satisfaction. Ms. Frizzle didn’t seem to appreciate any of that when she came to pick up the bus. She just grabbed the keys, jumped in the driver’s seat, turned the bus into a mosquito, and buzzed away. I think she even bit me before she left, although to be fair, it might have been a regular mosquito.
And, please, let’s stop framing this as an inspirational story about a teacher going above and beyond for her students. Frankly, it’s insane that Ms. Frizzle paid for this out of her own pocket. I don’t want to get into the specific numbers, but suffice it to say, I was pretty surprised that someone right out of graduate school was throwing around cash like that. (It’s not lost on me that she teaches in the wealthiest neighborhood in the district, either.)
Call me old-fashioned, but I feel like it should be enough for a teacher just to show up and teach. She shouldn’t also have to commission a magical vehicle that can fly, swim, and go to outer space. But if she does? She should at least set a good example for her students and cite her sources.