The news cameras were waiting for her in the predawn darkness.
I see whats going on, Natosha Freeman said as she hoofed it toward them, gripping the homemade cardboard sign the cameras were there to see her wear.
But then, her court-ordered sentence, a reality show of an edict, was pretty much made for TV.
In April, Freemans temper got the best of her. The mother of six marched onto a school bus and hit her 11-year-old cousin and pulled her hair. Freeman said the girl had twice told her to kiss my (butt), you bald-headed (expletive). Last week, Freeman, 38, pleaded guilty to battery.
A judge gave her a choice. She could spend four weekends in jail or, for an hour and a half each morning for a week, she could stand at the school bus stop in south Macon where the incident happened -- with a message-bearing sign for all to see. She picked the latter.
When Freeman arrived at the bus stop before daybreak Monday, there were no children, just reporters.
Were gonna be going live at the top of the hour, a TV-news cameraman told her as 7 a.m. approached. Youre after the weather.
Freeman played along.
I feel like I need to put this on, she said, standing before the cameras with her sandwich-board-style sign in hand. Shed fashioned it from a FedEx box her boyfriend found.
I Made A Fool Out Myself On A Bibb County School Bus, the sign read, front and back, its wording -- save for a missing of -- verbatim from the judges decree.
A television reporter told Freeman to get ready. She and her sign were about to be on the news.
A Bibb County mom chooses embarrassment instead of imprisonment, the TV reporter began.
In truth, Freeman, who works for a cleaning service, wasnt embarrassed at all.
The way she sees it, the judge who ordered her to stand there has given every child the right to tell a grown-up to kiss your hiney.
Just then behind her, east of Broadway at the Five Points intersection along Marion Avenue, the school bus with her young cousin aboard motored past. But Freeman, stationed in front of Lynmore Grocery, paid it no mind.
Later she said her neighbors there in Lynmore Estates call her Miss Tosha. She became a grandmother last week. She sells candy apples and frozen Kool-Aid pops to the children.
Everybody knows me and they know what type of person I am, she said. They know that I take care of everybodys kids.
In 2005, she was jailed after a fight with a 34-year-old cousin over an electric bill. Police said Freeman gashed the female cousin with a busted beer bottle. The cousin didnt press charges and the case was dismissed.
Freeman says now, though, that her outbursts are not part of any pattern.
Somebody has to make you mad to get you where youre at, she said.
Over the weekend, she saw the young cousin she was accused of going after on the school bus. They were at a birthday party for Freemans 2-year-old nephew. People played kickball and danced for candy.
I still love her the same, Freeman said. Shes my cousin. ... I just think it should be against the law for anybody to tell you to kiss their butt.
Within minutes of her TV appearance, Freeman was bombarded with text messages.
One neighbor wrote of her news splash, What kind of (mess) is this?
Seems like too much, another message said.
As the morning wore on, only a couple of children came to the bus stop. Most had come and gone by 7 a.m., the judges appointed time for Freemans 90-minute public display of correction.
One of the reporters told her that her story would probably be beamed worldwide.
Is it really that serious? Freeman asked. Yall joking, right?
Later on, before a tabs-keeping probation officer came by to make sure that Freeman had in fact shown up, she seemed resigned to take her legal medicine. But still, she said, it was as if the message the court had sent her was to just let (kids) do what they want to do. Let them cuss us out, let them kill us, let them stab us.
We are adults, she said, and were trying to teach them as role models not to do stuff like this. ... I love kids.
At 7:45, a man in a Toyota pickup rolled by with his window down. Coffee in hand as he wheeled by, his lips moved as he read Freemans sign to himself.
Then a guy strolled by walking his dog, a pit bull mix. The guy stared at Freeman. He said hed never heard of such a punishment.
They usually just put me in jail, he said.
Just before 8, a television reporter informed Freeman that they were about to be on the air again.
Thats when a maroon SUV eased through the five-way intersection behind Freeman. The man driving was the father of the young cousin that Freeman had gone on the bus after.
There go her dad right there, Freeman said, glancing, her back to him.
Dont wave now, she said to him under her breath, Im mad now. You done made me mad.
Please, said the TV reporter, about to go live, dont be mad.