As an inmate of the Great Institution of Holy Acrimony for nearly 35 years, I couldn’t help noticing that it’s not much different from the job I’ve had for less than three.
For example, while my beloved wife regales me with tales of fabulous things other husbands do — build extensions on their houses, fix their own cars, rustle up gourmet meals, and plan exotic trips (instead of sitting on the sofa and cussin’ at the New York Football Giants) — the kids on my bus tell me how great other drivers are.
(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.)
“Miss Beulah gives us candy!” I am told.
“Mr. Roscoe gives us presents even if it isn’t Christmas!” I am told.
“Mr. Hobart says funny stuff over the loudspeaker!” I am told.
“So do I,” I reply.
“Yeah, but Mr. Hobart says funny things!” they say.
Kids tell me they like other drivers better because those drivers play the radio. When asked, I always say mine is broken. Hey, I have enough noise as it is and the radio just makes kids even louder because they yell over the music. I also have another good excuse: My boss wants me to keep the din down so he can hear the kids’ cussin’ and other deviltry on the video.
“Miss Harriett doesn’t scream like you do!” I am told.
Adding indignity to insult, Brutus, my most “challenging” rider, told me he likes Mr. Titus better because “Mr. Titus is strict, but he’s good strict.”
“Oh, really?” I replied with a wild roll of my eyes. “I’ll have to ask him how I can improve the way I write you up, won’t I?”
For Better or For Worse
As in marriage, you can count on being promptly reminded of your screw-ups.
“You sure miss a lot of people’s stops!” grumbled Mortimer, the fifth-grader who sits directly behind me, during a particularly bad week when nothing went right (largely because of all the distracting foofaraw in the back).
“I don’t want to upset you but this bus seems to get slower every day,” groused Hobbestweedle the blunt fourth-grader as we approached his stop one afternoon.
“Gee, Hobbes, I’m pedaling as fast as I can,” was all I could say in my defense.
And just as one’s spouse will fawn over an old flame or someone they think you should adopt as your role model, so the little buggers on your bus will excitedly wave and yell at a beloved driver they had before they got stuck with the sorry likes of you.
“Hi, Mr. Stew! Hi!! We miss you!!!”
“Hi, Miss Beverly! We love you!! Please come rescue us!!!”
Like marriage, driving a school bus lets you discover just how dumb you really are. For instance, one day I put up signs about not touching or moving the name tags over the seats. Of course, the kids took one look at the signs and immediately started touching the tags. Even Louise and Calliope, two of my most angelic passengers, went over to the dark side and moved them.
Lest you think I’m serving only lemon juice in this bar, I must admit I’ve gotten very nice notes of appreciation from kids just as I get kind words and cards from my wife. I’m not at sword’s points with her and I get along well with my riders, even the ones like Brutus who drive me crackers. But I am humbled by what other drivers do, especially the ones who have earned our county’s Driver of the Year Award: read to the kids, play games with them, wear Santa suits, and turn every trip into a heartwarming Hallmark Special.
Heck, it’s all I can do to get the little rascals to and from school without triggering an international incident.
One day a big roll of paper towels fell out from behind my seat and bounded down the steps to the door. So I pulled over in a quiet spot and went to get it. As I schlepped down the stairs I heard a kid ask, “Hey, where’s the driver going?”
Unable to resist, I yelled, “I’m leaving! I’ve had enough of you numbskulls!”
Wouldn’t you know it, they burst into cheers and applause.
By golly, I sure was tempted to spout the old line my grandpa used to lay on grandma: “If you can get someone better than me, you go right ahead and get ’em!”
One of these days …