Author’s Note: I am a stay at home mother who happens to hold a part time job. That job is bus driving. I drive an elementary route and a junior high route. As you can probably imagine, some amazing and funny events have transpired over the last few years one of which I’ve written below. Names have been changed to protect…well, basically, to protect me and my job. I'll also be writing about miscellaneous thoughts regarding non-bus stuff. This is my world! Welcome to it!
Life on a Bus
I was faced with the terrible dilemma this week of Want vs. Should. Want won and what I Should have done was pitched in a corner to be dealt with later without much care or finesse. On Friday, the last day of school in our district, I arose a couple minutes early to make my list because I knew I’d be running full steam until afternoon and a good list can make or break a day. An early dismissal day, that meant I’d only have two hours off between bus runs with the reward of being home in the early afternoon and glorious summer stretching before me. Mornings tends to be my go forth and conquer time so I forged ahead into my morning bus run. Returning to the bus barn (a huge covered parking facility big enough to house about ½ of the buses used) I pulled into my much envied covered bay only to open the doors and find my friend, one of the mechanics, waiting for me. “Hey, Kathy, want to go for a ride?” he asked. Jeff rides a motorcycle to work on good weather days and he’s taken me for a ride a couple times. My reply went something like this.
“Cool beans, yeah, I want to ride!”
“Oh darn, I have to clean the bus. I have errands. I guess I can’t go…”
“When are you leaving?”
“Nah, I’ve got a list…”
“Can we make it a short ride?”
“No, I really don’t have time…”
“OK, I’ll ride.”
Jeff looked a bit confused, but he gamely acted like I was making sense. Yeah, I’m a pillar of self control. 15 minutes later I’d kinda spit and polished my bus (they have to be inspected the final day before turning in our keys for the summer) hoping my supervisor wouldn’t see much in the shaded parking spot. And we were off in the cool morning with the sun shining overhead on a 20 minute freedom ride. We rode through verdant farm country, swerved around a couple huge turtles meandering across the road, checked out a super expensive subdivision with lots big enough to keep horses, slowly chugged past a miniature horse farm, saw a rat as big as a boulder scurry across the road, watched birds, farmers on tractors, and checked out several old houses. An hour and 20 minutes later we returned to the bus barn. I was giddy with the release of tension, completely stress free. I had 40 minutes to drive to Wal-Mart, buy a new cooler and ice, drive to my house and load it up with the sodas and juices I’d bought for my bus kids, change clothes, set the VCR, set the trash at the curb, drive back to the bus barn, clock in, and lug the cooler and bags of cookies to my bus. Did. Not. Care.
I made it out of the lot only five minutes late and headed towards the junior high. So far, so good until turning the last corner caused a cooler accident. It flipped upside down and every soda and juice box fell out, including ice on the bottom step of the bus. I now know that the air pressure holding the doors closed works really well, because even with 36 cans of soda, 72 juice boxes, and 3 bags of ice pressing against the doors, they held fast. Parking my bus at the school I hurried up and practically threw the cans and as much ice as I could gather in my bare hands back into the cooler and counted myself lucky that only 2 cans exploded. Did. Not. Care.
My 8th graders were plotting a monster paper fight, but I negated that plan with some fierce warnings about write ups that would follow them into 9th grade, causing them to have detention their first week of high school and calls to mommies guaranteeing a couple groundings the first few days of summer. None of which would probably happen, but hey, I’m good with empty threats. I’m also good with compliments so I told them how wonderful they were and sent them into summer with a shook up soda and a bag of cookies.
Yay! I survived the junior high run, only my elementary kiddoes to take home. The 5th graders loaded intending to have a water bottle fight. Since they don’t have the sense to keep their plans amongst themselves, I avoided that celebratory nightmare with the same empty threats I used on the junior high kids. All went smoothly until almost the last stop when my gas pedal foot began to pull up like my toes were trying to touch my kneecap because I was having the charlie horse from hell. Vainly stretching the muscles in the top of my foot and along my shin, I lifted my heel from the floor of the bus and only kept my toes on the gas pedal. As the seat bounced, it caused my foot to bounce since my heel wasn’t anchored to the floor. Vroooom, pause, vroooom, pause, vroooom, pause we jerked down the street for two blocks. (Please don’t let a parent be driving behind me, I prayed.) Smiling through gritted teeth, I handed out the last juice and cookies, threw the bus into park, stood up to walk down the aisle of the bus working out the charlie horse, muttering loudly (maybe even shouting a little), “Don’t care. Don’t care. Motorcycle ride. Don’t care.” I thought I showed amazing restraint considering the comfortingly creative curse words running through my head.
It’s wonderful what an hour and 20 minutes of freedom can do for a person. Arriving home that afternoon I found myself amazingly bereft of stress. I relaxed on my bed and mentally wandered through my mind and body looking for leftover scraps of tension but found little. I am a biker chick at heart though my closet isn’t filled with leather, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been in a bar, and I don’t own a motorcycle. My husband knows he’s required to live a long life to protect me from myself because if he cashes in his chips, I’m cashing in the life insurance and buying a Harley which would probably scar our children for life.
“Ms. Katthyyyaa,” (I always know when someone’s ratting on someone else because my name becomes Ms. Katthyyaa. If they want to tell me something my name is Ms. Kathy-Guess-What), “the girl in front of me is biting my shoe and they’re new and my Dad’s gonna be mad!”
I looked in the mirror to see who was sitting in front of Josh. Anna sat primly, declaring her guilt with her attempted saintly expression, so I knew she’d somehow bitten Josh’s shoe while it was on his foot. The parent part of me wanted to ask how the shoe/mouth connection was made but the wiser bus driver in me understood that whys are futile on a bus with 60+ children on a Friday afternoon.
My wonderful new bus has an intercom system. Speaking calmly, stating the obvious, I seriously informed Anna, “Anna, you are not allowed to put your mouth on anyone’s shoes from now on.”
Anna nodded eagerly, agreeing, wanting my attention to focus elsewhere as quickly as possible. Sainthood for a 2nd grader only lasts about 60 seconds max.
Covering all bases (and because I love using the intercom) I instructed Josh, “Josh, you are not to put your new tennis shoes anywhere near Anna’s mouth from now on.”
Josh nodded eagerly, happy that his problem had been addressed and satisfied that Anna got in trouble. I did an internal head shake, laughing because if parents knew what their children did on a bus, they would be horrified.
Headphones and walkmans are strictly prohibited by the school district. Right. Walkmans with headphones are a bus driver’s best friends. It’s not that I say headphones are allowed on the bus, I just explain very carefully that as long as there isn’t a problem, I can choose not to see any headphones or walkmans. Selective vision and picking my battles keeps me sane. This year for the first time I chose not to see headphones and walkmans on my elementary run. Thinking that the 5th graders would feel very cool, I gave them my little choosing not to see speech. They definitely liked the idea and caught on quickly, but to my surprise even kindergarteners were soon listening to music to and from school.
The thing with the younger kids though is that they can’t help but sing along. Favorite song of the year went something like this, “I don’t want to be no Cinderella. Sittin’ in a dark, cold dusty cellar. Waitin’ for somebody, to come and set me free...” by the Cheetah Girls. K-2nd loved this song and sang it over and over. After that song faded, they came up with a new way to appreciate music. They would count down and start their CD players at the same time and sing at the top of their lungs, “Gimme the beat boys to free my soul, I wanna to get lost in the rock ‘n roll and drift awaaayy.” I don’t know which parent first copied this song onto a disk and convinced their 5 year old that it was wonderful, but I’d like to thank them. There’s hope for the younger generation if they can appreciate the classics.
Most intriguing comment overheard on the bus this year:
“I used to have a baby sister, but we sold her,” said the second grade girl sitting behind me to the first grader beside her.
There’s definitely a story there.
Want to read more of Kathy's Work?
Wheels and Weather
This Old World Just Keeps On Turnin
What Kids Do On The Bus
The Day the Naked Lady Answered the Door
Elvis in Texas
The Air Ukelele Band
Bad Word Therapy
On the Soap Box