The danger of making assumptions is that it sometimes makes things go horribly wrong.

I had put off calling him for about twenty minutes, but I had an odd feeling in my stomach somewhere. I hoped he was late just because he’d been messing around with the other wee boys after rugby training, but something felt … off. I rang him. “Where are you?” “I dunno” was the nonchalant reply. I could actually hear the shrug in his voice. “Well, are you nearly home?” I asked, trying not to let my voice reveal my apprehension. “Och no. I’ve no idea where I am. I’ve been on the bus for ages” he told me cheerfully.

Trying to find him

Trying not scream “whaaaatheabsoluteutterfuuuuuck” into his ear, I asked carefully “what can you see”Houses …shops … A pub …”

“A PUB? WHAT PUB?” I screamed into his ear. Simultaneously berating and congratulating myself for being able to mentally navigate Edinburgh most excellently by pub names and locations.

My blood didn’t run cold but rather boiled up so furiously I thought my eyes would burst.

My heart rate jumped into the stratosphere and I couldn’t breathe properly.

He’s 11. Only 11. Only just 11.

And last week, Tuesday to be exactly, he got on a city bus ALL BY HIMSELF for the very first time.

And it’s taken me a week to calm down to be able to write about it.

What could possibly go wrong?

I had primed him so well. He had to walk a short distance from his rugby training to a bus stop on the main road. It’s one of the main arterial roads that radiates from Edinburgh’s centre out to the edges of the city where we live – a straight road that’s very familiar to him. About six bus stops from rugby to home. Less than ten minutes. I showed him the bus stop when we drove down to rugby training. The exact bus stop. Told him ONLY to get a number X or a number Y bus. Gave him the right money, told him to put it in the slot and ask the driver for a child ticket. Told him to take the ticket, watch out for the stop where he needed to get off (which he knows very well), ring the bell, say thank you to the driver when he got off the bus. And I told him not to dawdle on the ten minute walk from there to the house.

A wrong assumption

But I missed out something so blindingly obvious, something adults don’t even think of, it’s so obvious to us. I didn’t tell him buses go both ways. The number X not only goes from the town centre out to the edges where we live, but it also comes back in from the edges, into the centre and out the other side. So, standing at the appointed bus stop, he sees the number X coming towards him on the other side of the road heading INTO town and assumes that I told him the wrong stop, as look! There’s a number X bus! Okay so it’s on the other side of the road but hey, Mammy must have got the stop wrong.

Magical mystery tour or highway to hell?

On he hops, oblivious to the fact he’s heading into town and not out of it. Going in completely the wrong direction. Going further and further away from me. In a city. All on his own.


And the end of that bus route? A complete and utter sink-hole, one of the roughest parts of Edinburgh, right on the opposite edge of town. Thanking every single god that I don’t believe in that we’d given him a wee cheapy emergency mobile phone, my husband E shot off in the car round the city bypass to get to somewhere near the end of the bus route. Hopefully to be there waiting for the Big Lad to get off the bus.

Thank you Google

In the meantime I got on Google Streetview and got him to describe his surroundings. He saw a big sign saying “Odeon” on the wall of a building … I knew where that was, told him to get off the bus, and go straight in and wait in the foyer of the Odeon. Better wait in there and be safe rather than wait at the end-of-route bus stop on the street in the arse end of Edinburgh. He got off the bus, still talking to me on the phone. But the bus had gone past the Odeon, and now he couldn’t find it. He couldn’t see the big sign anymore. He was now walking around this horrible part of town looking for the Odeon and was starting to get a little concerned. He was slightly concerned; I tried to hide the fact from him that I was hyperventilating and trying not to throw up. “I’m on a bridge now” he told me. That didn’t make me feel much better. “There’s a sign saying ‘Union Canal’.” Oh god, what if some wee neds came along and nicked his phone and his bag and pushed him in?! I found the exact spot on Google Streetview, saw it was right next to an industrial estate in this grotty area and imagined all sorts of vile scenarios. Abduction. Mugging. Assault. Murder … “Stay on that bridge and do not move one single muscle or speak to anyone till E picks you up. Don’t make eye contact with anyone! In fact, just become invisible!” I told him.

I’ve aged ten years

He came in the front door half an hour later quite chuffed with himself after his wee adventure. He didn’t even notice my hair had turned white and my face was a street map of wrinkles. Thank goodness it wasn’t winter! Thank goodness he had that phone on him! Thank goodness it wasn’t dark!

The moral of the story?

Never assume the way others see things is the way everyone else sees them. I had no idea the Big Lad wouldn’t have known buses run in both directions because to me it was as obvious as looking both ways when you cross the road. He laughed when he got in, asking me if I’d been worried. “Don’t be daft, I trust you to look after yourself” I lied. Resolving never to let him on a bus again on his own till he’s left high school. Have you ever been caught out by a really basic assumption like this about what other people know or don’t know? Please tell me it’s not just me ..!

There are better ways, right?
Interesting links from the weekend