Buttering Up the School Bus Driver

The daily aggravations of this job can sure sour your feelings about your precious cargo.

I start each year full of good will, cheer and optimism. Two months in I’m curdled and crabbed by the lack of response to my greetings, the bloodcurdling language, the littering, and the refusal to follow simple rules that have been explained a thousand times.

Just the other day, after pulling the bus over several times to restore order, I was still treated to the sight of Wilhelmina, a particularly loud and active eighth grader, making her way up the aisle while we were in motion.

I pulled over yet again and when she said, “Sorry! I forgot!” all I could do was slump onto the wheel and mutter, “God bless your pointed little heads.”

(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.)

Life has been especially enriched lately by the kids on my after school runs who won’t tell me where they get off … or tell me 20 minutes after I’ve driven past their house. This despite my explanation at the start of each trip that I don’t have names and addresses, only a general route, so it is up to them to let me know when to stop. Some do, most don’t. Having to wind my way back turns what should be a one-hour run into an open-ended tour of the county.

SEE: Great Misadventure

The kids who act like soccer hooligans actually give me a certain amount of perverse pleasure at keeping them on while I drop the pleasant kids off first. Some aren’t released until 6:30 p.m. or later…after leaving school at 3:30.

Nothing stops them, though.

With the start of the holiday season, it dawned on me that now that I drive only middle schoolers, I don’t get many cards and goodies like I did when I was driving a bunch of raucous rascals to and from Helga Poppin Intermediate. So I wasn’t feeling inclined to wish anyone a happy Thanksgiving unless they wished me one first. When someone in the back asked, “Hey, driver, what are you doing for Thanksgiving?” — after I’d pulled the bus over for the fourth time on the trip I recounted above — all I could reply was, “I’m seceding from the human race and moving to another planet.”

So I was stunned the next afternoon when some of the more lively ladies on the bus handed me notes.

I must admit, these messages gave me a dewy eye and a lump in the throat. Suddenly, all (well most of it) was forgiven. Or if not forgiven, I was at least willing to postpone poisoning the lot of them. Yes, this is the kind of thing that makes the job worthwhile, the pat of butter that soothes a driver’s suffering.

Of course, the girls barely paid attention to me when I told them how it was kind of them to give me the notes and how they meant a lot. And when I got home, my wife presented me with a reality check: “They must have had an assignment in class.

I prefer to think that somewhere underneath all their single-minded devotion to being contrary, raising hell, and making me rip what’s left of my hair out in tufts, these urchins do have a conscience and don’t live just to stick it to the old man at the wheel.

So in this season of peace (in theory) on Earth and good will toward all, I will do my best not to carry “Bah, humbug!” in my heart. They are only kids after all and they do always give me stuff to write about. For that I am most grateful.

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