Wednesday, May 1, 2013

the accidental racist

Hi, I'm Daci, and the coffee cup above is pretty much the story of my life. 

When I have grandchildren, I'll gather them around my rocking chair and fill hours upon hours with stories of how no one, ever, could get my name right.

This is one of my favorite stories:

It was sixth period, my junior year of high school, when I decided I wanted a friend to ride the bus home with me. But there was a problem: we needed a parental note. 

We were 16, people. We wrote the note ourselves.

I handed the note to my bus driver, who -- important to the purpose of this story -- was African American. She saw right through my little scheme.

"That's not a real note, Dicey. Your friend is not getting on my bus." 


There were two common themes around my experience with school bus drivers:

1) They all despised me for some reason.
2) They all called me Dicey for some reason.

Of all the ways to butcher my name, every single bus driver chose the same, strange way.

I thought about convincing my bus driver that my father did, in fact, dot his I’s with a circle (oops, forging oversight). Instead, I turned on my heel and stomped out, mumbling, “I guess my dad will have to come pick us up."

The next morning, as we approached school, the driver looked in her giant rearview mirror and caught my eye. “Dicey, stay on the bus when we get there. We're going to talk to the principal.”

The note, I thought, terrified. I had forged an adult’s signature. Could I go to detention for that? Detention seemed like a scary place. Or what about jail? Forgery was a crime people went to jail for, right? Or was that perjury?

I was too busy worrying about perjury to listen to the bus driver recount the story of the note. Until, that is, she got to the last part.

“…And then she got off the bus saying, ‘If my friend were black, you would have let her get on the bus.''” 

I almost laughed. “Who said that?” I wanted to ask, “What a silly thing to say!”  

Then I realized that a combination of braces and mumbling and general teenage angst makes "I guess my dad will have to come pick us up" sound a lot more racist than it actually is.

My principal looked shocked.  “Daci said that?” she asked.

“Dicey said that,” confirmed the bus driver.

I was forced to apologize.

“I’m sorry you misunderstood me?” I said, but, as I still had my braces, my quiet voice, and that general teenage angst, it probably sounded more like, “I HATE BLACK PEOPLE.” 

My bus driver had to leave for some reason -- either a meeting of the Bus Drivers Against Dicey Meeting or a bus drivers’ mixer so that they would know to wave as their buses passed each other* – and my apology was, surprisingly, accepted.

But I know my bus driver never forgot about Racist Dicey.

  * Did anyone else’s bus drivers do this? They never missed the opportunity to wave at passing bus drivers. I always wondered if they got in trouble if they forgot.

I'm blogging every day in May (well, we'll see how it goes) -- and you should too. Jenni's got prompts and everything (which I PROMPTly ignored today).


  1. Oh no! Haha you poor thing! I definitely have a name like that too. I get Car-uh, Tara, Sarah, Karen, you name it, I've been called it. ;) At least you NEVER have to see that lady again!

  2. bahahaha!! I totally get "dicey".. if you pronounce your name Day-See (phonetically), and then say it with a southern accent, it totally sounds like dicey.

    and on an unrelated note: I think the rule is whenever you're in an unusual mode of transportation you're obliged to wave at like-modes. for instance: school bus drivers, city bus drivers (at least in Duluth, MN... ALL the time)..and M told me last weekend he and another kayaker (the only other one on the lake) waved and bonded.. because..well.. they were in kayaks together.

  3. This is hilarious... made me laugh out loud!

  4. I second Kelly's comment - except I want to add runner's. It's like they have a secret code or something...everyone waves, you get a high five if you reach the top of a steep road..ect.

    I also feel for you on the name thing...My daughter's name is Alexa. Simple enough, right?? No! She get's called everything but Alexa. It's either Alexis, Lexi, Alexia. It's frustrating to have to remind people all the time that it's ALEXA! Our last name is also tricky - It's Spanish so you have to the the "r" in the middle. So, it's interesting to hear how people pronounce it (wrong).

  5. Ok, this story was directly below your blog post in my reader. I just HAD to share. What are the chances? :)

  6. This is so damn funny.

    I'm loving that you're already ignoring friggin' jenni. (I love her) I'm stalking you, and I'm going to continue to stalk you, mostly because you're funny, listen, I've only read one post, but I'm gonna keep going.

  7. If I had a nickel for everytime someone screwed up my name...Id probably only have 15 bucks but thats a lot of nickels.

  8. As a kid, my name was not popular. When people saw my name on paper, I was always called Bryan, and I'm a girl! All throughout elementary and middle school, every first day of school was torture as the teachers INEVITABLY slaughtered my name... It was the worst. I would get Briana, Brianne, Brian, and NEVER my real name. Haha. To this day, I know to speak clearly when introducing myself or I WILL be called Britney. It's BRYN, people! Just Bryn! Those of us with uncommon names need to stick together!

  9. Hilllarious. And that pic looks very reminiscent of certain high school dance photos I have around!

  10. That is some memory. If possibly, I try to ask someone how to pronounce his or her name first before addressing the person at all. Fortunately, I haven't had to deal with people mispronouncing my name because it's common; I DO, however, come across people who always seem to misspell my name, adding an H where there isn't one (Nichole -- UGH!)...even after I correct them!

    I don't recall ever having a silly bus driver like that tho. I guess I'm one of the lucky students. In my experience, teachers (a few, I must make clear, since I did have some really good ones to) were the worst of all. My bus driver was the coolest lady ever. She gave us lollipops and other little surprises every now and then. She was usually a pleasant lady to talk to but she didn't go for any funny business.

  11. OMG that's hilarious! You terrible racist you. Haha.

  12. haha so funny! such a fun and unique way to tell the story of your life. love it! :)

  13. Loved your first post. How do u pronounce ur name? I probably won't get it rite. Accidental racist? Your bus driver sucked big time. How dare she?

    1. Jeez I didn't even notice that wass in fact the title of ur post!

  14. oh my GOD there is no way for that situation to be less awkward/awful. I guess we should all be grateful you no longer have braces? eeeeeeee