No matter what we do in life, we are told about the benefits of a positive attitude and appreciating the good things that come our way. That mindset enables us to do just about anything.
Right. I’ve discovered that it also includes handling all the trouble that rains down as soon as you look on the bright side.
During my five years at the wheel of a big yellow madhouse, I’ve found positive thinking is the best way to court trouble and have it arrive at my bus door bearing wilted flowers and a box of melted chocolates.
(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.)
Bascially, any time I think it’s going good, I doom myself to aggravation.
The first time this happened wasn’t long after I’d completed my training and was given a route in a big 40-foot bus. The thought crossed my mind that my runs were on time and the kids had been angels. Later that same day I hit and knocked out a tail light on a bus while trying to pull into the parking space next to it.
Fast forward five years. I most recently made the mistake of complimenting the usually rowdy kids on my middle school run for “keeping things civilized” for two weeks. The next day, they came off the spool big time.
“I knew was jinxing myself,” I groaned over the PA as they ran amok in the aisles, hootin’ and hollerin’ and cussin’ up a storm.
For good measure, the precious cargo on my after school run started acting up (again). Write-ups and suspensions had briefly achieved peace in our time.
Now, you’d think I would have learned my lesson, but you would be wrong. In between the two incidents, my sad story is littered with this kind of stuff:
During the height of the pandemic, things were quiet — too quiet — in my district … until I was told by our head bus driver that there had been only one write-up and no complaints from drivers, kids or parents for an entire month. I replied that the kids on my bus were strangely cooperating and getting along and, gasp!, treating me politely and with respect. I actually wrote a column for my local newspaper about it and how kids like this can be good role models for adults.
The very next morning after the column ran, a driver radioed in that a girl on his bus had pushed another lass down and hurt her. Then a second driver reported that kids were pulling down their pants on her bus. For good measure, my intermediate schoolers got in on the act by sticking their arms out the windows and boisterously jeering and waving at cars behind us. I had to pull over and restore order.
“No good deed goes unpunished” is another fact of school bus life.
A fourth grader named Brutus always made me regret using positive reinforcement. I actually told another driver that I was nominating Brutus for a Nobel Peace Prize because he’d helped me defuse a scuffle by letting his frenemy Beetlebomb, one of the combatants, sit next to him and away from his foe, Hogshead. That arrangement lasted one day. Brutus and Beetlebomb started arguing about who got to sit next to the window. The next morning, they refused to get in their seats. That afternoon Beetlebomb informed me that he and Brutus didn’t want to sit together anymore. Then they went back to being at each other’s throats.
All of his took place not long after the time I was about to praise Brutus to the Principal during a visit to her office. That silly idea came to a screeching halt when she informed me that Brutus had slugged Hogshead in the gut (unbeknownst to me) during our trip that morning. Merely thinking positive thoughts about Brutus was enough to cause him to revert to the mean. But like Charlie Brown attempting once more to kick a football being held by the smirking Lucy, I gave him yet another chance after he stayed out of trouble for a couple of weeks.
“I don’t want to hear any complaints about you,” I told him while allowing him to return to the rear of the bus as a reward for his improved behavior.
Of course, not wanting to hear complaints didn’t mean I wouldn’t hear them.
Sure enough, within five minutes I got three: Brutus was using the F word, standing on seats, and calling another kid’s mom a lesbian. “He’s picking on Gertrude,” Beetlebomb informed me. “She’s crying.”
So I planted Brutus in a seat behind me for the rest of the school year with no chance of parole.
I now doubt my sanity every time I do someone a favor, but sometimes it can work the other way. When I expect the worst, it doesn’t happen. I try this approach while watching my favorite sports teams.
I’ve also prepared big, windy speeches only to have the main miscreants not show up for a few days. But if I were a betting man, I’d lay my wages on the bus breaking down and/or the kids going haywire as soon as I think this gig is going good.
You’d think I’d learn by now.
But you would be wrong.