Saturday, August 17, 2019

The wheels on the bus

I think yellow is a great color for a school bus. It stands out, doesn’t blend in with the background, and it screams, “Don’t mess with me because I’m bigger than you and you do NOT want a nasty scrape of yellow along the door of your Lexus.”

My father-in-law likes to tell the story of the time when he had to ride a school bus to school – a vehicle that was really only school bus in name. It was more like a panel van with benches against the wall. One rainy day, the driver called him up to the front to manually work the windshield wipers. My father-in-law turned the knob to the left, the wipers swiped left; turned the knob to the right, the wipers swiped to the right.

He turned that knob back and forth all the way to school, and loves telling me that story whenever we come to visit because he knows I’m a school bus driver.

I learned how to drive a school bus way back in ’86, not because the school district was in need of bus drivers or would pay me, but because driving something big and yellow looked like so much fun. I didn’t drive a regular route at that time. I just drove the marching band to their games and contests – and it wasn’t a bad gig.

Eventually, jobs changed, careers changed, and I found myself on a regular morning and afternoon route here in East Texas. I drove for Harts Bluff ISD, Chapel Hill, and then finally Mt. Vernon. I’d wake up every morning at 4:45, be out the door by 5:30, in the bus by 6, and on the road at exactly 6:13 so the riders could walk through the schoolhouse doors just before 7:30.

And I liked it. I liked it so much I made up names for almost every portion of my route:

First, I drove my bus through the Eye of the Needle, and whether I survived it or not, ended up at the Purley Gates. I took the Short Cut to the Castle, turned around and went through The Spooky Woods to the Goat Farm, then headed through The Cow Pasture until I drove past the Loveliest House on the Hill. From there I zig zagged through Tornado Alley, drove by the Rabbit's Den, turned right at the Tree In The Middle of the Road (which isn't there anymore because it died), went past the Horse Ranch, down Blind Man's Alley, took a left through the White Fences, past the cemetery, and took a ride on Dead Man's Rollercoaster which took me back to the main highway. Eventually I found my way through Pelican Bay, and if I made it through there alive, I picked up my last riders on Liberty Lane and headed north back through The Eye of the Needle.

I passed by four cemeteries, drove through a working cow pasture, got to see peacocks, dairy cows, deer, wild boars, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, vultures, and occasionally went head to head with a donkey in the middle of the road.

I drove a school bus for almost 30 years, but this year I’m taking a break. When Mount Pleasant, Chapel Hill and Harts Bluff buses are plying the neighborhood streets picking up students – and they will be pretty soon, so you better give them wide berth – when those drivers are out on their morning routes, I’ll be sleeping in.

Every now and then, I might even eat a proper breakfast.

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