Saturday, March 16, 2013

Confessions of a school bus driver...

I'm four months into my new job as a professional school bus driver.  I rode the bus in high school for a couple of years.  But other than that, I knew nothing about what I was in store for.

My bus driver's name was George, by the way, and I definitely have a new appreciation for what that man did.  In fact, I probably owe him a letter of an apology..... or two.  I wasn't always the most model passenger.  However, I do remember one time when he took the ditch because he didn't want to wait for traffic...but I digress.

In order to obtain my 'driver's permit', I had to study and take four written tests.  After passing those, I was then ready to train behind the wheel.

My first time behind a 40 foot vehicle was a little daunting.  In fact, a simple turn around a corner can create panic for me..... and everyone else within a 15 foot radius!  But it didn't take long to learn and become comfortable on how to maneuver.

In fact, learning to drive is the easy part!  It's that pre trip inspection to obtain your CDL that will getcha!  Over 150 items to check for proper working order before even starting the engine.  The suspension and braking systems, engine compartment, plus all the interior and exterior items such as lights, emergency exits, seats, flooring, etc.  You may miss no more than 10 items to pass.

Then you have your skills test.  Backing between cones, docking and even parallel parking.  And finally a road test.  These have very little margin for error.

Test day came, and I felt pretty confident.  I didn't miss a single item on my pre-trip inspection and I passed the skills and driving tests with flying colors.  Commercial Driver's License in hand, I was ready to start driving.

But can I tell you.... no training in the world could prepare me for actually driving a school bus with students on board.  And it's probably not for the reasons you might think.

Top 10 things I've learned, training didn't prepare me for: 

#1.  Rest assured, that if you have/have had/or will have a child ride the school bus, they will confess your sins.  Example from Miss Chatty, my kindergartener: "My Dad drinks a lot.  Mom says he drinks too much. He drinks whiskey.  Oooohh, and he also smokes.  Smoking's bad for you especially when you're playing poker."  And in response, "Yeah, well my dad......"
You get the idea.

#2.  Any cylindrical item in the hands of a fifth or sixth grade boy, will become an inappropriate object.  And when the bus driver goes to confiscate said object, they will think it hilarious to hand it over, but not let go; causing you to turn about 50 shades of red.

#3.  You get a new name: Bus Driver.

#4.  I think it physically impossible for a first grade boy to stay in his seat.  Squirrely little things!

#5.  I employ the entire Ray's Trash service from my bus alone.  Each child must hide their weight in candy wrappers, paper and broken pencils somewhere on their person.

#6.  Some parents think that if their child misses the bus, it's perfectly acceptable to call transportation and pitch a fit until the bus returns to collect their child.... You know, in my day if you missed the bus, that was called a spankin.....

#7.  There are two mics on the bus for the driver to use for communication... one is heard only by your passengers.  And the other one is heard by all the schools, the transportation department, the garage, all other bus drivers and the superintendent's office.  Inevitably, someone will pick up the wrong one.

#8.  There will be a day when one of your students hands you an unwrapped something to eat out of their sweet, chubby, grubby little hands, stand, watch and wait until you take a bite.  Yes, I do keep hand sanitizer on my bus.  Yes, I've considered taking a chug.

#9.  If there's frost on your bus in the morning, you will find a human popsicle waiting at the bus stop in shorts and a t-shirt with no coat.

#10. Other drivers on the road, have no idea what to do if a school bus turns on their lights.  Some stop when I have my yellows on, but no stop sign.  Not necessary.  Some stop a mile before the bus.  Not necessary.  And some do not stop at all.

It takes me less then a minute to load/unload my kids.  And one of their lives is not worth your 15 seconds to get ahead.  Also, unless there is a physical barrier (median, grassy area) between you and a school bus approaching, two lanes or 10, you have to stop.  And never pass one from behind if their red lights and stop sign are out.

So...yeah.  I've learned quiet a bit since training.

Based on the above may look unappealing as a profession.  And honestly, not everyone can do this job.  Some quietly slip in and and then quietly slip out.  But there's also something else you can't learn in training:  how these kids will have a way of jumping right off of their little bus seats and into your heart.

The hugs.  The excited little voices running to tell you about their field trip or show you their latest treasure.  The laughs and jokes.   

Yes, the job I am paid for is getting the students to and from school safely.  But I'm also the cheerer-upper, the encourager, the manner-teacher and yes, sometimes even the referee... and I don't think I'd trade it for the world.


Amy said...

Awww...great post Becky!

soZealous said...

It sounds like you are enjoying the new role!

My Dad was a bus driver for a little while, but I don't think his view of it was as sentimental as yours:)

Anonymous said...

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Joyce said...

Becky, I've read a few posts, your story, but this post…well, we have a few things in common, and my name is also Bus Driver (6 yrs.).

I really like your writing, and can identify with you in several areas, most of which I have not written about yet but probably should.

Please be encouraged to continue, and thank you for encouraging me in the Lord. I love your blog title!

~Joyce aka Godsfiningfire on Twitter

Becky said...

Thank you so much Joyce for the kind words. I believe we all have a story to share. I encourage you to share yours as well. God bless!