“Mr. John, why do you always wave at other bus drivers?”
Good question! Kids often ask me that one, along with “What are all those switches for?” and “Do you like driving a bus?”
“We’re just saying ‘Hi’,” I explain after I’ve exchanged waves with another driver passing us in the opposite direction. “We’re like a family.”
And like a family we share the Four Cs: camaraderie, concerns, cares and conflict.
(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.)
We are always crossing paths — on the road, in the bus yard, the key room, the garage, the dispatcher’s quarters, the head bus driver’s office, or the boss’s woodshed. Interestingly, I was warned to stay out the driver’s lounge except for a quick trip to the wee-wee room or the vending machine because it’s a hotbed of gossip and sour gripes. Interestingly, that warning came from the person who urged me to apply for a job at Fishmeal Falls Central School District.
“It’s a great place,” she said. “You’ll love it!”
I was there barely a month before she started grousing, “This place sucks! I can’t wait to get out of here!”
She’d been there for years. Maybe I ruined it for her? But during my entire working life I’ve avoided watercooler talk, so I try to mind my own bidness and follow the command on the sign above our dispatcher’s desk: COME IN, DO YOUR JOB, GO HOME
I do enjoy my job and my colleagues. The vast majority of them, anyway.
Unfortunately, in today’s insanely strained political environment, people fall out at the proverbial drop of a hat. I’ve been snubbed by a few co-workers I once got along with, but (so far) they haven’t let the air out of my tires or tried to run me off the road, so I’m still ahead of the game.
Wave On, Brothers and Sisters!
I often exchange waves with drivers who are not from the same district or company. We also offer each other courtesies, like stopping, turning our hazards on, and letting a bus turn onto a busy street if there’s a break in the traffic that will save them time.
Piloting a yellow madhouse is a brotherhood/sisterhood and we appreciate what each other does every day. It’s a challenging, demanding and often thankless gig I liken to trying to control a herd of crazed weasels and a 29,800-pound vehicle as you drive over Niagara Falls on a rickety bridge while folks complain about you.
I confess that early in my illustrious career, I felt snubbed if my wave wasn’t returned. Oh, I realized that the driver may simply have been focused on something other than my jolly gesture, but it still felt like when your Facebook post gets no likes even from friends, family or your friendly vicar.
Now there’s the weird feeling of realizing that I just waved at someone who doesn’t particularly like me, but I can’t stop. I’ve developed a habit born of one wave after another, especially when a long line of buses is going by me.
I wave at everything now, even when I’m behind the wheel of my car. If an oncoming vehicle is big it automatically gets a waggle of my hand. It’s become a reflex .
In one of my prouder moments ferrying urchins to school, I waved and suddenly realized it was a beer truck passing us, not a bus.
“Oh, dear, that doesn’t look good,” I muttered, looking around to see if anyone had noticed.
Well, the on-board camera did, but if anyone asks about it I think I have a pretty good excuse.