One of the more sobering realities of a gig chock full of sobering realities is our responsibility for every kid who comes aboard our school bus, and that includes the rascals who aren’t supposed to be on there in the first place.
(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.)
Every now and then a driver confronts a stowaway: the kid who tries to hop a ride to a friend’s house without permission from their parents. A bus pass from the school is required for such excursions — my district is starting to require all students to show ID when boarding — but these rogues try to sneak on and sometimes succeed. I’ve had to stop at least one strange face from getting off.
“And where do you think you’re going?” I asked one startled lad as he followed Chumley, one of my regulars, to the bus door after we arrived at Chumley’s house. “Do you have a pass?”
Relieved that I caught him in time, I radioed for instructions and was told he lived right around the corner, but I was to drop him at his house anyway. Fortunately, he just heaved an exasperated sigh and did not jump ugly with me. Drivers I know have had kids tell them to F off before barging out the door and scampering away. One of my regulars managed to scoot out at a friend’s stop and he ignored my pleas to come back. A middle schooler in my district is notorious for randomly riding buses to wherever he pleases.
Guess who will be liable if something happens to these rapscallions?
There are also kids who try to sneak back on to a bus after being booted off. I recently succeeded in getting a seventh-grader removed for constant misbehavior. Hortence Prunella was reassigned to a small bus, one of our Devil’s Island transports for the incorrigible, but one afternoon the assistant principal came aboard mine looking for her. Lo and behold, Hortence Prunella was found hiding in the back amid her usual partners in crime. She’d managed to come on without me spotting her in a thicket of kids. Every day now requires me to be vigilant for her possible return.
SEE: Who’s Who? Losing the Name Game
My after-school activities runs are particularly dicey because I am given only a basic route of main streets but not the names of the ever-changing cast of kids or where they actually live. They often look alike, but after a while I become familiar with some faces. Every so often a kid I’ve never seen before will ride and I’m supposed to let them off wherever they say they are going. Unfortunately for one girl who tried to pull a fast one on her mom, her nefarious plan went awry:
I was hauling my usual cargo of 25 or so kooks one afternoon when my dispatcher’s dulcet tones came over the radio: “Attention all after-school buses. Please check to see if a Beulah Belle Whipsnade is on your bus.”
When I inquired over the PA, a hand shot up in the back. So I reported that I was the lucky contestant who had today’s featured wayfarer on board. “Please drop her off at 2455 Bunkum Boulevard,” I was told.
Beulah was too far away to hear this crucial instruction, which made for a rather nasty surprise … for her.
About 20 minutes later, Beulah made her way to the front and said, “You’re supposed to let me off on Agita Road at Angelina’s house.”
Suspecting that this might be news to my dispatcher, I radioed it in and was told to stand by while a call was placed to Beulah’s mother. A few minutes later, I was told, “Her mother says under no circumstances is she to get off at Agita Road with that girl. She is to be taken home.”
When I relayed this to Beulah, she was hardly pleased and I soon overheard her grumbling to her friends, “The bus driver won’t let me off!”
This moved me to grab my PA and explain, “The bus driver is responsible for everyone’s whereabouts and making sure they get to where they are supposed to go. If you get off somewhere you’re not supposed to be and something bad happens to you, I will be in big trouble. I regret to inform everyone that I am not going to risk my job if I can possibly help it.”
SEE: Rockin’ the School Bus PA
So Beulah, who turned out to be the last one off, ended up sitting in the seat behind me, muttering “How did this happen?” and staring like a con about to go to the electric chair. Apparently her mom was waiting and wasn’t pleased.
I thank my lucky stars that my dispatcher radioed about Beulah, which enabled me to blow the whistle on her, but the close call makes me fret and stew over every passenger. They often come on in a fast-moving crush that makes it hard to take stock. Some ride infrequently, so they don’t seem familiar at first. I’ve called in my suspicion that Beulah was on board and trying to get to Agita Road again. (She wasn’t.) But she does resemble three other girls on my bus.
Kids think we run a taxi service. Gotta watch ’em all like a hawk.