I have come to despise shopping. Yes, shopping. I avoid Wal-Mart like the plague. I have even come to hate stepping into my local grocery store. Why? Because of parents who cannot control their heathen spawns of the devil children. I can live with being recognized as a bus driver, but when your heathen spawn child is running up and down the aisles screaming mommy look it look it look it. Or mommy buy me buy me buy me. Or even granny I want I want I want. It is neither attractive nor appealing for me to listen to while I’m trying to do my shopping in peace.
For instance, today at the grocery store, I happened upon this mother and her devil spawn wonderfully behaved approximately 5 year old child. It was in that dreaded Ice Cream Frozen Treats aisle where this child was incessantly naggingpolitely asking his mother for more freezer pops. His mother told him no less than 5 times once that there was no space in the freezer for more Popsicles, and that he would have to finish the ones they originally bought. Not only that, the child insisted on following ME up the aisle where when I turned around and discovered the heathen sweet little boy, he ran off in the opposite direction back to his mother, while I resisted the urge to run him over with my shopping cart smiled politely and went about my shopping. I encountered him again at the checkout where he was running wildly up and down the checkout lane standing patiently next to his mother while she got the groceries. I resisted the urge to drop loud hints that this mother should put her child on Ritalin smiled politely again and went and paid for my groceries.
As a Bus Driver, I’ve had a lot of nerve-wracking moments, but none compare to this one. This happened when I was a fairly new bus driver.
I was driving one of the older spare buses on a route and had just finished picking up all the students from the schools. I had a packed bus. Often we have the younger ones sit 3 to a seat, and the older ones sit 2 to a seat. I was heading out towards the route and brought the bus up to about 45 mph. I approached a local intersection and noticed that the stoplight had turned yellow.
I swiftly and firmly applied the brakes attempting to slow and stop the bus packed full of children in order to prevent an accident. I felt the bus slow when the brakes suddenly released and the brake pedal pushed all the way to the floor. The bus had only slowed from 45 to 35. At this point the light had turned red and I saw that there was no way to stop the bus from proceeding through the light.
I pressed on the horn and prayed! We barreled through the red light at 35 mph with my foot on the useless brake praying that either the bus would stop or that we wouldn’t get hurt. Luckily no one was hurt!
I radioed into the bus shop for another bus as the brakes didn’t seem reliable on the bus I was on, and got told to “carefully finish” the route. I was able to keep an eye on my speed and slow the bus appropriately for each stop afterwards, but it was truly scary!
As a bus driver, I am expected to maneuver the bus into some pretty tight spaces. Often, I find myself in situations where parents seemingly block my access to an area where I need to be, or they tend to tailgate the bus, which then creates several traffic problems. While I don’t mind if parents follow the bus in order to get to a destination, I do wish that parents would tend to think a little bit ahead of the bus and be courteous if we have to turn around in tight spaces.
With that said, I took the local third grade classes to the Museum of Science and History in a nearby town. It was about a 2-hour drive, and quite pleasant up until the major construction on the road and massive traffic towards the city. I had been assigned this field trip in early October, so I had been looking forward to this field trip all year. We arrive at the museum without incident and I pull around a tight roundabout and pull into the museum driveway. The driveway leads into a small circle and is bordered by the museum on the right, a park at the head of the circle and a fairly large parking lot on the left. The intersection the museum sits on can be best described as a lowercase “t” with a circle at the top of the “t” and a circle where the two lines intersect.
Anyhow, I pull up and around the intersection and stop to unload children in front of the museum. Mind you, every OTHER bus had done this as well. Unfortunately, the parents following me had created a bottleneck situation in the intersection. My tail end was out of the intersection and NOT blocking traffic. They called Security to tell me to move. I simply told Security that I would move when we were done unloading the children. The teachers took their sweet time in unloading all the children off the bus all the while; I had parents sitting on my rear end.
At the top of the “t” there was the circle that lead into the park, I could have turned the bus around in there except that parents had parked all along the circle making it increasingly difficult to maneuver a very large vehicle around. I did the next best thing; I pulled INTO the parking lot in search for a space to park the beast. I was initially told that someone would tell me where to park, but alas, the kids unloaded, the teachers disappeared and I was stuck trying to find a solution. I noted all buses that were lined up along the street side of the parking lot and that there was no available space there. I noted one other bus that had parked IN the parking lot. So I assumed that it would be ok to park there. I pull into the parking lot and manage to take up only TWO spaces with this monster of a bus. I noted signs along the outer edge of the parking lot that stated clearly “Museum parking only.” I secured the bus and wandered into the museum.
I notify the front that I’m the bus driver with XYZ group and they wave me into the museum. I’m about halfway through an exhibit (my one and only exhibit of the day) when an employee finds me and tells me I’m needed at the front desk. I’m thinking, “Ok, they forgot to give me a ticket into see XYZ show or whatever.” So I call the front desk on my cell phone. The museum informs me that the parking lot across the small little circle is NOT owned by the museum and that I have to move my bus. The lady also informs me that the bus is about to receive a ticket for parking in the wrong place.
I run down to the front desk and inquire as to where I should park the monster bus. The lady tells me that the buses can be parked “underneath the bridge” down the street. Now, the distance from the museum to the bridge parking area is about the length of TWO Wal-Mart parking lots. There is a marina in between the original parking lot and the bridge parking lot. Confused yet? I was. THEN the museum informs me, “Oh, by the way, the parking lot owner called a tow truck.”
Holy Shit Batman!
Panic-stricken, I ran walked swiftly out the door praying that the bus was still in one piece and untouched. I could hear the conversation in my head.
Bus Driver: Hi Mr. Bossman Sir, we’re on a field trip in XYZ city and well, the bus is sort of at the impound lot and we’re stranded.
Yeah, that would NOT go over well!
Luckily, the bus was still in the place I left it. There was no ticket stuck on the door or shoved on the windshield and there was no tow truck in sight. Feeling quite relieved, I maneuvered the bus around to the “appropriate” parking lot. As I entered the parking lot under the bridge, a large sign greeted me and informed me that the parking lot was a “Park ‘N Ride” parking lot and that only those with permits would be allowed to park there. Suffice to say, I didn’t bother leaving my bus for the rest of the day and sat in silence waiting for the children to enjoy their time at the Museum. I took that time to inform my boss of the situation so that there would be no surprises on Monday.
More crazy and wacky stories from the school bus. The end of the school year is coming like a freight train with our last day being on June 5, and the summer looming ahead as a sea of tranquility with no screaming animals children to transport on a daily basis.
I've been kept busy running from one place to another and have hardly had a chance to breathe. I could be posting about the fabulous chocolate cake I consumed the other week while waiting for 6th grade band to toot and tweet their way through an invitational band clinic, or I could talk about the wonderful cookout food we had on the day on the river at a local 8th grade history field trip. Or about the upcoming 3rd grade trip to the Museum of Science and History this Friday.
Today, I had some unexpected and very much needed news. I have secured a second job for this summer and possibly into the next school year. I will be driving for the local transit system during the time I'm not on the bus. The job doesn't pay the best, but its a step in the doorway to possible opportunities. I love my job driving the school bus and wouldn't trade it, besides, the stories I come away with from the bus are unbelieveable (and somewhat insane)!!!! So, fear not readers, the year is almost out and this bus driver will be available far more for fun blogging and I'll definitely be working on queueing up some very interesting posts.
JudyL posted a comment in one of my blogs posing several questions:
“On the subject of Field Trips, what qualifies a driver to do trips in your District? Are all NEW employee's allowed to do trips or do you have a time set for them to become more experienced and familiar with your highways, night driving and so forth?”
In my particular district, once a bus driver has a license to drive a bus, they are qualified to haul children. We complete at least 40 hours of training, with at least 28 hours in the classroom and 12 total hours of driving time. This driving time is split into two 6-hour sections. We have to drive 6 hours without children, which gets us acclimated to driving a very large vehicle. Then we drive 6 hours with children on the bus, which tests how we handle more stress. We are also required to have CDL class B licenses with Passenger and School Bus endorsements. We also have to pass the Air Brakes test at the DMV as well before we can even get behind the wheel.
No amount of training can fully prepare you for all the conditions you will experience as a bus driver. On the subject of field trips, in my district, we have field trip sign-ups once a year. Any new drivers can sign up for the field trip list as long as they have all their qualifications in place and they are considered full time employees. We usually have a small group of “Floaters” who are considered full time employees and the rest of the newcomers are considered Substitutes. The difference between the groups is that a Floater gets a salary and health insurance benefits, where as a Substitute comes in only as needed and gets paid only if they work. My district has approximately 5-7 full time Floater positions in addition to full time Driver positions. A Floater is a permanent full time substitute.
The sign up for field trips usually occurs around mid March and have 3 different options for drivers to choose. We have 3 types of field trips: Mid-Day, After School/Overnight, and Summer. I sign up for all three. Some of the more experienced drivers in my district don’t like that just anyone who is qualified can sign up for field trips. They feel a waiting period should be in place. In my case, I got my license in October and was able to sign up the following March for field trips. I had about 4 months of driving experience under my belt before I signed up for field trips.
This only details what my district does about field trips and doesn’t reflect on other districts in my state.