The Semiotics of School Busses


In America the busses that take children to school are painted bright yellow. Of course they are. Pointing this out is hardly the stuff of Heraclitus. But who was the first man or woman to paint the damned school bus and why yellow? Why does this preoccupy me? The latter question is the easiest: I’ve been blind for for most of my life, and now that I can see a little I’m largely flabbergasted by the commonplace. This morning, out walking, spying children clamoring aboard their bus I shuddered at the dreadful color of the thing.

The American school bus is the color of grief. It is the tint of failure. The shade of compromise and of committees.  

One can say it’s the safest color. Americans would of course say this. But I guarantee that a bus can stand out with purple and scarlet roses–one need not read of Ken Kesey’s adventures to know this.

What I’m suggesting is that this yellow is the color of failure, of peaceable despond, of fitful illuminations without hope.

Do you find this color anywhere else?

I rest my case.



0 thoughts on “The Semiotics of School Busses

  1. I see yellow in dandelion heads and warning signs and taxi cabs. When I was a little girl I collected an entire fistful of the beautiful flower growing in our front lawn to take to my mother. Intense yellow is not connected by most people with failure or lack of hope. In India it’s the color of a wedding sari. It was my mother’s favorite color. It’s a pity you don’t appreciate this color. But it really is true that it’s safe and easily seen, the last color to disappear in fading dusk—red and violet would be long gone before yellow disappears.


  2. For myself, I have always found the color to be very similar to the paint on standard #2 pencils.
    I have utterly fallen in love with your phrase “flabbergasted by the commonplace.” I plan to blog about it (with due credit and linkage, of course.)


  3. The classic domesticated banana (fer crissake)– its perfect yellowness carefully crafted to achieve utter and complete cheerfulness.
    Nix on this new posting system. While you are off being honestly cruel, the rest of us can no longer rant amongst one another. That’s no fun. Children may have been needlessly shocked this week for your neglect of this blog. Perhaps an easier maintenance task for you would be to let the hideous spammers temporarily post, and then shoot them down every few days or so? How many are there in any given week? But thanks for not turning on the indecipherable distorted word code — I am no better at guessing those than the average Win7 OS.


  4. Yellow is the most visible colour in all kinds of conditions, especially in low light. It’s a pretty common colour for large trucks, utes and cattle trucks in particular, in Australia. And yet our school buses are not yellow.


  5. Marigolds? Sunflowers? Orange Juice? Hawkeye uniforms. I don’t know…They are a lot more appalling to be IN than to look at. Be grateful you don’t have to ride one EVER.


  6. What did you eat for breakfast today? Yellow is a perfectly lovely color. It is the color of warmth, sunshine, summer and dandelions (for gosh sakes). Dandelions, for one, are prodigiously successful. You’ve got bigger fish to fry, SK; don’t start ragging on the sunny, smiling neighborhood school bus.


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