Every day, I see a bright yellow school bus. It's made of squeezable foam and is about to drive off my i-Mac.
So I was surprised that when I saw a real school bus bouncing through my neighborhood on Friday, I was struck breathless for a moment. It's not that I hadn't realized school was starting up. In fact, I changed my route to work because the public bus I usually take is now overrun with school kids who've been liberated from the blocks of cheese on wheels.
Glimpsing that bright-yellow symbol put me into back-to-school mode, taking stock of what fresh start I could make, even though I no longer buy books and head off to classes each fall.
There are roughly 211 million of us not-in-school Americans, and lately I've been polling friends to see if others find that this time of year conjures up emotions and impulses from the days when school defined their calendar.
Some are so immersed in business that it is simply time to wrap up Q3 and move on to the last quarter. Others' feelings seem to be more linked to what is ending - the long days of summer, the less-crowded feel of the city before the college students flock back.
But one friend is turning this back-to-school scenario on its head. He's about to leave his job at a close-knit college. Even though it's an ending, he stuck around beyond the summer to see the new students get settled in, so it is still about beginnings. "It feels like leaving during 'life' rather than 'dormancy,' " he e-mailed.
It's that hanging on to a sense of youthful energy that I imagine most people have in common, regardless of the time of the year or the symbols that remind us of it.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society