20 AprBus Driver Diaries — Things I Like
Note: If you are looking for older posts of Bus Driver Diaries please go to www.BusDriverDiaries.ToryCAnderson.com. That is where all future Bus Driver Diaries posts can be found.
Why would anyone want to be a school bus driver? I don’t think I have met anyone who planned on being a bus driver. Most bus drivers ended up in the job because they needed a part-time job when the opportunity to drive a bus came along. The pay is pretty good for a part-time job and the hours aren’t bad. But driving a school bus isn’t for everyone. Recently in just one week three “bad bus driver” stories hit the news. The bad behavior of the bus drivers in response to the bad behavior of the kids was appalling. The interesting thing is that when most of us bus drivers hear these stories we usually don’t rush to condemn the offending driver. We don’t try to excuse him either. Our response is tempered by the fact that we understand how the bus driver was feeling when he acted so badly. Perhaps we have had days where we stood close to the line that shouldn’t be crossed and seen clearly the other side.
Most days are not like that. On most days there is at least one thing about being a school bus driver that I like. For instance:
I like the kids. It’s true that some kids are easier to like than others, but generally I like them all. I like the energy I feel from their youth. I like their laughter. I like their smiles. I like to read their t-shirts. I like to listen to their banter. Each of these things can go bad at times, but usually it is a positive and invigorating experience.
I like the way the five-year-old who sits behind the driver’s seat will pat my head after I get my hair cut. My hair is cut in a flattop and she likes the way it feels.
I like the way one six-year-old showed me her loose tooth and asked me to pull it. I respectfully declined.
I like the way kids will move to the front seat on the passenger side just to talk to me. The seat is left open for troublemakers who need a time out. Every-once-in-a-while I will look over I will look over to see a child I haven’t called up sitting there. After a mile or two of silence they will call my name and start telling me a story from their life. They will continue to sit in that seat from anywhere between two days and a week. Then, when their need is over they will move back to their regular seat.
I like the way one precocious eight-year-old takes the time to show me her color coordinated socks, pants, shirt, and hair-bow. Sometimes there are even matching earrings.
I like the way some kids will sometimes stop and turn around when they get off the bus so they can wave to me. One boy often turns and says, “Thanks for the story.” He asks me to tell him one every day. The look on his face is so sincere. At another stop the kids cut across a parking lot after I drop them off. I catch back up with them when I turn the corner. Sometimes they run to race me. They yell and wave when I honk the air horn.
I like the way the middle school girl stopped and slowly and deliberately thanked me before she got off the bus. For some reason she had forgotten to get off at the middle school. I had delivered the rest of the kids to the elementary school then drove her back to the middle school.
I like the way the kids gently wake up a first grader who often falls asleep on the way to school. I have to hold his shoulder and steady him for a moment before he goes down the steps to make sure he’s fully awake.
I like it when some of the older students will take the time to respond to my greetings or questions with more color and energy than the usual grunt. One girl descended the steps then turned and spoke to me about her new hair cut (she thought it was too short). A boy took a moment to describe to me how, Joe, their mule, can unlatch the gate to his corral with his lips. I actually saw Joe do this once. These unexpected, brief communications are always a pleasant surprise.
I like the playful laughter I hear from the back of the bus on the way to one of the last stops. It’s coming from eight kids who are brothers and sisters and cousins. All the seats between me and them are empty. I can’t hear what they are saying, only the fun energy they are saying it with. Often there is something one group is trying to grab from another group. Every-once-in-a-while it takes a few words over the intercom to get them back in their seats. The life and fun they are creating leaks like liquid sunshine from the open windows of the bus.
At the very last stop four siblings get off and start up the gravel lane to their home. It’s a half-mile walk. They range in age from fourteen to five years old. The five-year-old is the little sister. The others are her three big brothers. They are a beautiful sight as they start off down the lane side-by-side.
There are plenty of things that can make being a school bus driver miserable. In-between all the “things I like” are the mundane, the annoying, and the downright irritating. But “the things I like” are such beautiful jewels that I am inclined to overlook the gravel and dirt in which they are found.