The School Bus Wildlife Sanctuary

In the best of times, I drive a rolling zoo. It’s yellow, 40 feet long, and packed with a variety of critters that make the job a challenging adventure.

On any given school day you will find on my bus:

Pigs: Experts at making breathtaking messes in which they often wallow. After repeatedly finding trash on the floor, I left the bottles and wrappers and medical waste (used masks, band-aids) on the culprits’ seats for them to dispose of when they returned. To a pig, er, kid, they just sat in it.

Screech Owls: Their shrieks and maximum-volume chatter drown out my two-way radio while raising what’s left of my hair.

Parrots: They can be relied on to pick up and repeat … and repeat … and loudly repeat … any profanity and inappropriate language they hear. And like the beloved but notorious bird, they pay no mind to who is in earshot when they repeat it.

Otters: According to Fauna Facts, they are very active, playful creatures that love to chase each other around, especially when they are bored.

Caribou: No, my passengers aren’t that large and they don’t have antlers, but caribou migrate long distances with round-trips of more than 745 miles. I’m willing to bet my last doubloon that the kids I drive also migrate at least as far if not more during a school year with their endless changing of seats and cavorting up and down the aisle.

Rats: The snitches who tattle on wrongdoers. I’ve found them to be of great help in keeping tabs on wrong-doers.

SEE: The Rat Patrol

(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.)

During down times (nights, weekends, vacation breaks), other varmints move in.

My district’s bus compound is haunted by a raccoon who is skilled at pulling unsecured doors open, climbing aboard, and feasting on trash that hasn’t been emptied.

As you can see, he or she has done quite well on my bus, once finding a large baggie of crackers I’d left in the garbage box in front.

There are also birds, robins mostly, that find their way in. One September I returned after two months to find a nest had been constructed on the first aid kit near the door. More recently, feathered friends have been finding open windows and hatches and leaving icky white reminders on the dashboard, seats and anything else they can perch on or above.

Fortunately, my bus doesn’t look this bad, but the birds that get in are trying their best.

So far, I’ve gotten off light. The driver who parks next to me has not, but even she doesn’t have to deal with what the pilot of one unfortunate spare bus will find when he or she is assigned to drive it. Often unused, it has become a full-time bird house that will require a massive cleanup (see photos above) if not a Superfund grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Honestly, those birds make the pigs I drive look like amateurs. And like the pigs, they aren’t very good about cleaning up after themselves. But that kind of stuff just comes with this territory.

SEE: How I Won the Garbage War