I came to this job two years ago with a lot of uncertainty.
The father of three and stepfather of one, I had a passing familiarity with kids but didn’t know if I’d like the pressure and responsibility of the gig or if I had what it takes to handle 30 or so rampaging urchins at 30 miles per hour.
(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.)
My wife delights in saying the daily aggravation I suffer is karmic payback for copping out as the Good Cop while we raised our brood. The tough discipline was left to her. Now I don’t have her to restore order on my bus. It’s DIY time, Buster. Enjoy!
For sure, driving a school bus has been a test of my resolve, better angels, and sanity. But I never thought I’d say this:
After the coronavirus crisis shut down schools across the land and left me parked at home until who knows when, I actually began to miss the little vipers. Even the ones who make me want to give them assigned seats in the luggage compartment.
See: Student Management, Assigned Seats and Sanity
Many of my fellow drivers feel this way, and now I know why.
I miss the things kids say.
One afternoon at his school, Oswald, a rather serious-minded third grader, came up the bus steps with a green cube in his hand.
“I’m going to blow you up!” he solemnly informed me as he gestured with the cube.
“Oh yeah?” I replied. “If you blow me up, who will drive the bus?”
“My mom will just come and get me,” he replied as he sauntered to his seat.
All I could do was crack up.
I miss their gifts.
Notes like the one on the left from Robespierre, a fourth-grader who is one of my most rambunctious and, shall we say, challenging riders, warm my ol’ heart and make me want to go the extra miles for my young passengers.
I’ve been given drawings and a knitted necklace, but the sweetest moment was when Birdie came aboard one morning and handed me a shish-kebab made of chocolates and marshmallows all wrapped in cellophane and a ribbon.
“It’s her birthday,” Birdie’s mom explained. “She wanted you to have one.”
I never knew Birdie cared. A shy, quiet third-grader, she hadn’t said two words to me the whole school year. Her gift said a lot.
I miss their kindness.
One day, Bumpus, a sensitive third-grader, was crying because his friend Hobbestweedle didn’t get on the bus after school. When Guttersnipe and Snodgrass started making fun of him, Maude, a brassy fifth-grader who doesn’t suffer male fools gladly, got up, led Bumpus to her seat, and put her arm around him.
Then she told Guttersnipe and Snodgrass to leave Bumpus alone and consoled him the rest of the trip. At her stop, I told her what she did was wonderful. She just shrugged. Twarn’t nuthin’.
Kids like Maude can restore your faith in the human race.
I miss their performances of the fine arts.
Hobbestweedle was the only rider on my bus for a stretch one morning when he began reading poetry — “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe — at the top of his lungs. For some mysterious reason he kept dramatically repeating the lines, “Ah, distinctly I remember it was in bleak December. And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.”
It was a bizarre moment, but it was entertaining.
I miss their music.
Particularly the music they make themselves. The voices of 30 or so third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders raised in a zesty chorus of “Old Town Road” or “Bohemian Rhapsody” are a wonder to behold.
Forever seeking my permission to sit in the coveted last two rows of the bus (where they think can get away with their mischief), Brutus and Jehosaphat pleaded their case by singing — to the tune of “America the Beautiful” — “Oh, Mister John. Oh, Mister John. Can we please sit in back?”
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Though I’ve had many days when I’ve said to anyone who would listen, “This gig would be pretty sweet if we didn’t have to let kids on board … maybe I’ll suggest it to the district,” I can truly say I miss the commotion, especially the happy commotion of kids just being kids.
The sooner I hear it again, the better.
4 thoughts on “Coronavirus Shutdown: Missing the Little Dears on My Bus”
John–this piece is wonderful, funny and heartwarming. Thanks so much for writing it. A much needed blast of humanity.
Many thanks for your kind words, Laura. Very much appreciated!