#FDDA bus driver

Fandango’s Dog Days of August #30

Today’s theme is “your best job ever.” What is/was your best job ever? What was so great about it? Do you still have it? Even if you’re still in school, you must have had some kind of job, like babysitting, flipping burgers at McDonald’s, delivering newspapers, cutting lawns or shoveling snow. Share a story, a poem, a photo, a drawing, some music, or whatever you wish to share about your best job ever.

I drove school bus for 31 years. It started by accident, I hadn’t really decided what I wanted, let alone drive a bus. I had simply gone to the bus garage to complain about this elderly man who drove 20 mph on a road with a 45 mph speed limit for over 13 miles. He never pulled over just stayed firmly in the middle of the road and only moved over into his lane completely when a car approached him. This was happening too many times for me since this was the road that directly went to my home. So on this afternoon, I followed him back. I asked him why he drove so slow in the middle of the road so no one could pass him. His response “take another road if you’re in a hurry. ” Needless to say that infuriated me.

I went inside to speak to the supervisor. I told him about the driver’s behavior. His response” if you think you can do this job better then be here Monday morning at 5:30 am.” That totally pissed me off more. But I replied, “You’re god damn right I can do it better.  I will be here.”

I thought about driving a school bus  over the weekend. It was more about proving that smug son of a bitch wrong  than wanting to become a bus driver.  And, It wasn’t like I was locked into this forever.

I wish you could have seen his face when I walked in the garage at 5:25am.  I  was sent with one of the drivers who showed me how the circle checks were done and then we left for the high school run. After we dropped the high school kids off he said, “you’re turn to drive.”

“What?”

“It’s no different than driving a car, only bigger. ”

Except, I stalled it at least 20 times throughout the course of the morning. But I did finally get the basics of driving a stick behind the wheel of a school bus. I went with the same driver every morning and afternoon until I got comfortable with the bus and the stick shift. In between I learned how to parallel park, and to back into parking spaces between buses. That was frigging scary at first. I must of had  a guardian angel because I didn’t hit the other buses but I did run over a few cones until I got it right.

He told the supervisor I was ready to take the driving exam. The supervisor scheduled the necessary test for the following week. He handed me a book on school bus laws and safety to learn. I practiced driving and memorized the handbook until the day of the exam.

Of course, it had to snow on top of everything. My mirror kept fogging up and I couldn’t see the rope that you have to back up to without touching on the skills test. So I failed that part but had a 100 on the written. The examiner suggested I reschedule the road test. I did and returned two days later. The sun was shining and I aced it.

Imagine that I learned how to drive a stick shift in a school bus, and now I had a school bus certification on my driver’s license at 18. I waved the temporary license at the supervisor with a big grin. I thought it was going to be easy but that wasn’t the case.

Unfortunately,  I was the same age as some of the kids on the bus. They took perverse pleasure in giving me a hard time. Because I wasn’t an adult to them. But it didn’t take long for them to realize I wasn’t a pushover nor was I leaving just cos they wanted to be dickheads.

I had an advantage because back in those days when kids got out of hand you could leave them beside the road which I did … a few times. In one incident, a boy refused to put his cigarette out.  I asked for the cigarette again. He grabbed my wrist and put it out in the palm of my hand. I opened the rear door, grabbed him by the shoulders and threw him out. His girlfriend started hitting me.  I simply said,”Jump yourself or I’ll throw you as well.” She jumped.  They weren’t used to a woman being strong let alone being 6 foot tall. After that  incident, things eased because they knew I could and would handle whatever.

Fortunately, we found a way to work together because when I finally retired from driving I had reached a milestone I never anticipated. It was kindergarten orientation day and I had brought a boy to school with his mom and grandmother. I recognized the mom immediately. I didn’t recognize the grandmother but once she said her name I knew.  Oh my… I had brought her to high school when I first started driving bus. I had been her daughter’s bus driver all through school and now I was going to be his bus driver. 3 generations because I had driven that same area for 31 years.  Prior to that occurrence I had driven a parent and then their child but never before a grandparent, a parent and a child until 2007.

I loved driving and I genuinely enjoy children. I was the one that said good morning to them, have a good day at school and in the afternoon I was the one who asked how was school and I’ll see you tomorrow. So many of these kids began their day with their parents already gone to work by the time they left for school. And many of them arrived home to a empty house as well. I knew how important our simple daily exchanges were.

People used to ask how many children I have and were shocked by my response, “4 by birth and 104 by adoption”. I’m still friends with  the majority of my kids from the bus on Facebook. I was very fortunate to drive bus in a time when community’s were more like families …unlike today with it’s  very different environment.

There were several funny incidences after I retired with my grandson, Johnny that were connected to my driving all those years. I had asked Johnny about school, and naturally being a boy who hated school; he complained about his teacher. So, I asked the teacher’s name. He rattled off her name. “I brought her to school.”  I found out later that he had asked his teacher when he returned to school  if I had been her bus driver. As if that couldn’t possibly be true. She told him it was true. She reached out on Facebook to let me know he had asked about our relationship.

I went to a wrestling match to watch him compete but I also had the opportunity to meet his friends and their parents. (Which I had also brought to school.} He glared at me before asking if there was anyone I didn’t drive to school. Yes, his coach. Where we lived people tended to stay in the area because at that time work was good unlike now.

When Johnny died, I called his teachers directly and his friend’s parents because I didn’t want my son or his mom having to make the difficult phone calls nor did I want them reading it in the newspaper. We’re one big family, that will never change.

My heart goes out to the bus drivers of today’s world because it will never have the same connection as it once did. Even when I retired, you couldn’t hug a child or give them a gift for doing well.  Things had changed  because now there were cameras mounted inside the bus to watch our every move because some one had violated the cardinal rule of never hurting a child so every bus driver was assumed guilty. I was happy to retire, because it wasn’t fun anymore… it was all political.

 

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