The holidays are said to be a time of miracles. By golly, it looks like that’s true.
(This blog is based on actual events, though names, places and some personal details have been changed to protect the innocent as well as the guilty and avoid libel suits.)
About two weeks before Christmas, I was rumbling along a stretch of road where my intermediate schoolers usually come off the spool — yelling, rough-housing, darting from seat to seat, throwing stuff — when I gazed up at my rearview mirror and to what to my wondering eyes did appear but children … sitting.
Every last one of them.
I nearly wept in astonishment — never before had all of my precious cargo been seated at the same time — and not only that, they were all talking in their “classroom voices.”
This miraculous scene lasted a full 15 minutes. By the time we reached their school, things were a bit livelier but still far from the usual earsplitting chaos.
Of course it helped that several prime pot-stirrers, notably Brutus and Rollo, were not on board, but agitator extraordinaire Beetlebomb was inspired to yell, “Mr. John! See how good we’re being?”
When I recounted this truly historic day to one of my colleagues at the bus compound, she said, “They’re probably trying to look good for Santa.”
Their strangely angelic behavior continued the next day for the entire morning ride, and I couldn’t help wondering if something was terribly wrong with the children. Nevertheless, I broke my cardinal rule about never acknowledging positives (it jinxes them) and I commended the minions as we sat outside their school waiting for the signal to release them.
“People, this was one of our best trips ever,” I declared over the PA. “You guys were great!”
Rowdy fourth-graders Robespierre and Jehosaphat were so touched by my sentiments that they came forth to pat me on the shoulder and say, “Good job, Mr. John!”
Naturally, Beetlebomb, Robespierre and Jehosaphat had the joint jumping on the way home, but it was a truly spiritual moment during a time when the sugary rush of the holidays leaves my bus sounding and looking like Times Square during a New Year’s Eve celebration. Noise, candy wrappers, and festive trash cover everything like fresh fallen snow.
Blessedly, at this time of year the kids also render unto Caesar for all of his suffering. The bounty of goodies and Dunkin Donuts gift cards that are bestowed upon me certainly go a long way toward un-curdling my usually crusty demeanor.
Of course, it never hurts to bribe the bus driver.
I was on the verge of speaking to Jehosaphat’s parents about the need for them to remind him yet again that those strange objects (seats) are there for his safety when he came aboard and presented me with a gift card.
“Maybe another day,” I thought, stashing the offering in my shirt.
I must confess I have a soft spot for students who come bearing gifts.
“When’s your birthday?” I was asked one afternoon by Ethel the eighth-grader. The date was still a week or so away, and I was stunned when she boarded the bus on the solemn occasion and declared, “I remembered what you said. Happy birthday!”
It was very sweet of her. So was the Christmas candy cane and note she gave me that read, “I hope you have a safe holiday. I’m also grateful that I have you as a bus driver!”
I’m still getting the hang of this Christmas thing, though. Other drivers wear Santa suits, hang decorations, play holiday tunes and hand out gifts. I’m Scrooge by comparison, but I did hang a stocking full of candy canes from the dashboard and invite departing riders to take one.
“Hey, the bus driver’s nice!” I heard Axel — a cheeky fifth-grader who is often the object of my scolding — tell his fellow travelers as they exited with their sweetmeats. There was real amazement in his voice.
It seems the wonders never cease during the holidays.