Authorís 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 Iíve written below. Names have been changed to protectÖwell, basically, to protect me and my job.
By Kathryn Hardeman
I went walking in my neighborhood the other day and found two pennies. Not ordinary pennies, these were pennies from heaven. I canít remember the last time I walked and didnít find change. Each time a penny appears in front of me, I scoop it up and wonder where itís been and how it landed in that particular spot. Then I close my fist around it, usually covered in dirt and nicks, and savor its roughness. Itís feasible to think that with the multitudes of children in our neighborhood, lost money is inevitable, but I prefer my theory. They are Godís reminder that the smallest blessings can be found in unexpected places. They can be savored Ė or not. And when I add those small blessings together, I see how rich I am. But itís only a penny you might remind me. ďYeah,Ē Iíd reply, ďbut itís not a regular penny, itís a penny from Heaven.ď
A couple funny things passed in front of me this week at the soda store. I call it the soda store because thatís all I buy there as I sustain my Diet Coke addiction. A happy place for me, the people at the soda store have become my friends. Really. We e-mail and they even came to my rewedding this summer. In (I hope) a mutually satisfying relationship, they let me fill my 64 oz. cup without charge a lot of the time and I bake cookies on weekends and holidays for them to eat while they work. So anyway, I was making my usual caffeine-quickie morning run and I had to wait in the parking lot for a car just pulling out of a space. In itís younger days, about 30 years ago, the souped up Nova would have been powder blue with a white rag top, however, rust and age had taken big bites out of the loud, belching, on its last tire treads vehicle. Two worker type guys, maybe mid 20ís, were riding in the car and each of them was talking on a cell phone. ďBy golly,Ē I thought, ďthey may be stranded on the side of the road in a few blocks but at least they both have phones to call for help.Ē The anomaly between the car in its engine death throes and two guys taking care of business on their cell phones tickled me.
I parked in the spot next to the handicapped space and a painting van with another worker guy pulled in next to me, radio blaring. I couldnít help myself, I watched to see if he jumped out and limped because he sure didnít look handicapped and no little handicap sign hung from his rearview mirror. In Texas, handicap spaces are strictly enforced. Nope, no handicap anywhere to be seen, but he must have seen me watching because he made a big show of opening the door for me, smiling and saying good morning. ďYeah, Buddy,Ē I thought as I smiled back wondering if the county sheriffís deputy who also stops regularly was inside, ďyou are sooo busted.Ē He knew it and he knew I knew it. I was laughing as I watched him hurry up and pour his coffee and throw money on the counter before hurrying out to his van. Probably, I am way too easy to entertain, but this stuff amuses me all the time.
I am having an issue with numbers. This week in my school district, the elementary and junior high kids were issued photo IDís complete with number and bar code, which they are required to wear in school. No misplacing or losing of IDís is acceptable, no mistakes. High schoolers have had to keep their school ID with them for the past few years but for the first time ALL children will be required to wear them around their necks every day. Maybe this idea will work and maybe not, anything geared towards keeping my child safe in school tends to receive my support.
My issue has to do with (insert big sigh here) another number to keep track of. Have you ever paused to think how many numbers are attached to you individually and to your family? Social security numbers, driverís license number, license plates, bank accounts, pin numbers, charge accounts, utility accounts, insurance policies, telephone numbers (we have 5 telephone numbers attached to our family including cell phones), employee numbers, addressesÖthe number of numbers boggles my mind when I think about how many numbers Iíve memorized.
Barcodes are turning into an issue since they are the wave of now. On the one hand, I donít have to memorize them, but I have no control over a bar code. Itís not like I can look at one and see that itís wrong. Straight black lines of miniscule widths do not compute in my human brain. They need a computer or scanner to read them and both of those are power dependent. I guess than means weíll have bar codes AND numbers. (Insert another big sigh here.)
Things that make me go hmmm.
This is my fish.
This is my fish on drugs.
Just kidding. Iíd never drug a fish. In his little fish tank world, heís lived a healthy idyllic life except for the few times when Iíve tried to offer him fishy friends for companionship. In those instances, heís chased his prospective friends around the tank until they died of stress or lack of rest. I think heís a fish flirt. When my children are in the kitchen, he swims horizontally, but when Iím in the kitchen cooking, doing dishes, he does the vertical. It must be love or maybe heís hungry and heís trying to get my attention. I donít know, Iím not up on fish psychology. But never before have I seen a fish swim bottoms up on a regular basis.
My tax dollars at work.
In my area, a large highway project is in its beginning stages. For the past year or so bulldozers have been busily rolling up and down this mountain of dirt creating an ever higher pile of earth. An interested sightseer, when I drive by I check to see if a bulldozer has made it to the top of the hill. But I have to wonder how much the bulldozer guys are being paid, WHY such a huge pile of dirt is necessary, and where the heck is the grand canyon type hole they mustíve dug to displace the earth beside the highway? I wonder if the bulldozer guy rises in the morning, kisses his wife and says, ďSee ya, honey, Iím off to play king of the hill.Ē What is this guys job description? Maybe Mountain Builder. Is that what he enters on his tax return?
During the week my friend called me from her office, which looks out towards the high school to ask if I knew why fire trucks and ambulances had gathered at the school. I called the school and received a busy signal. My parental concern rising since my son spends his days at school performing 10th grade tasks, I called the bus barn. If anything major happens at a school, transportation is notified so they can mobilize the buses and take the children home. No news there, they had no idea that anything was going on. School line was still busy. I called my friend back to ask if the trucks were still there, was the fire alarm buzzing, and were students milling about on campus? Yep, on the trucks and alarm, no students visible. Next I called ABC news because they interrupt if people get caught in the mud and I thought a school fire ranked higher than mud. No, they didnít know why fire trucks were gathered at the high school and by the way how did I know there was a fire at the school? I told the cheeky, low rank news reporter how I knew something was happening but that I didnít know what and he practically hung up on me in his excitement. Pfft! So glad I could make his day, but I didnít have answers. Busy signal again at school. Called my friend again, still the alarms. Called the school one last time as I gathered my purse and keys to drive there and this time the telephone was answered. A harried person said, ďFire in a bathroom on the 9th grade campus (separate building). Now contained.Ē Click. Relief! Just a small bite of panic to go with my lunch.
Not a funny event until that evening when my son threw himself down on my bed and said with equal parts disgust and humor lacing his voice, ďMom! Every year at school they make us practice fire drills and follow all the fire drill rules, then when we really HAVE a fire, we arenít allowed to leave the building. How crazy is that?Ē Watching my children develop mentally and physically is one of lifeís most precious gifts. I totally love that my son has a sense of humor and knows how to apply it.
A couple funnies from the busÖ
A few days ago, one of my 1st graders climbed on the bus and said with a serious face, "Ms. Kathy...Sometimes I'm the cockroach and sometimes I'm the chicken." Then he shook his serious little head and went down the aisle. I cracked up on the inside because I didn't want to insult his pondering.
On my junior high route I have a unique 6th grader. She sits in front because she requires constant supervision but she also offers great entertainment. Talking a mile a minute from the moment she boards the bus, she links ideas and lines from television and movies so quickly, I know most of the other kids donít understand half of what she says. Sheís like a teenybopper Robin Williams. This week every time I reminded her to sit down correctly in the seat, keep her hands to herself, watch her language, etc. she did what I asked but blamed the behavior on her evil twin. This girl cracks me up but most of the time I canít let her know because itíll spur her onto higher planes of silliness and her self control isnít all that great.
Teachers probably think that 6th graders are learning tons of important book information. I see them exploring the different boundaries between elementary and junior high school and struggling to mature. For me, itís a process in patience as they revel in the freedom from constant monitoring in elementary school but struggle to find the uncrossable lines. For example, laughing and light teasing are acceptable. Teasing in such a way that makes another feel bad or uses bad language is unacceptable. Boundaries. Theyíre there but they have to be redefined. My funny little 6th grade girl is floundering as she tries to find her stride and in the process sheís pushing limits in all directions. I see a few detentions in her future. And I am wondering what will happen when Evil Twin Meets Bus Driver with PMS. Prayer may be necessary. Wish us luck.
This week I had to do the bus safety program for our school district, which involves a puppet show with a little puppet called Minnie the Bus. At one point, Minnie chokes on a pretend piece of candy while we talk about not eating on the bus. My partner, comforting Minnie, said, "Oh Minnie, spit that out." and she held up the Kleenex that she'd been holding in her hand. Being an obliging little puppet bus, I pretended to spit the offending piece of candy into the Kleenex. Things were moving along nicely until she used the Kleenex to wipe her face and all I could think about was that I just spit my candy in there. I started laughing, and then tried to hold it in to finish my lines, which naturally made the giggles worse. My partner began laughing because I was laughing even though she had no clue what had set me off. They were the funniest, worst moments I've ever had doing the show.
Later, I explained to her where the giggles came from and we both laughed some more. When we went to the next 1st grade class, as soon as I looked at her, I began to lose my composure. Finally, I had to stop looking at her face and I addressed her throat for the rest of the morning when we did the puppet shows.
Want to read more of Kathy's Work?
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