Saturday, February 7, 2009

Holidays that Bus Drivers Love to Hate

Six major holidays coincide with the typical school year. Four of these are “candy” based holidays: Halloween, Christmas, Valentines Day, and Easter. Candy is something I absolutely HATE as a bus driver. Wrappers are constantly found on the floor. Unidentifiable sticky stuff ends up on the seats and seat backs. Mushy goo is typically wedged between the seat and the bus wall. Fluid spills from soda or other sticky drinks run along the floor, then dry, and manage to collect various amounts of nasty sand, gravel, dirt, and the occasional dropped M&M or Skittle. Gum is found pressed firmly within the grooves of the aisle providing sticky goodness to shoes everywhere. Garbage cans are a foreign concept to many children.

Halloween comes in late October, but early in the school year. Along with it comes a plethora of chewy gumdrops, chocolates, lollipops, and other Halloween based items. I find myself picking up Halloween based wrappers right up until January, when the candy supply runs out. Often kids will bring candy in their backpacks to trade or sell on the playground, or simply just to eat as a snack. Sugar City!

Christmas brings assorted jellybeans and peppermint candy canes to the mix. Add in a chocolate Santa and you’ve got a recipe for children bouncing off the walls. Usually these get lumped in with the same candy that’s left over from Halloween, or for the particularly voracious child is thankfully gone by New Years Day.

We experience a bit of a lull in the candy wrappers save a few of the cough drop ones, as it is now cold and flu season. Then Valentines Day hits. Ahh, the day of love and cherishment. A day for a child to express feelings as a secret admirer and to exchange “Be My Valentine” cards with EVERY OTHER child in their class. This, by far, is my favorite of the “candy” holidays as a bus driver. Why? You ask? Because, my dear readers, the children put NAMES on the cards, and I can write them up for eating and drinking on the bus. I know, its grinch-like, but when you’ve been sweeping up wrappers all year, you finally have your culprits in hand and name. All thanks to little Suzie who wrote To: Johnny, From: Suzie on the M&M’s wrapper.

By the time Easter rolls around, I’ve given up on the candy hunting and just resigned myself to sweeping up and praying no child chokes from the piece of hard candy they have in their mouths. Its especially hard as it is increasingly difficult to wade through the masses of backpacks, bodies and other items to get to the child that is choking let alone that child chokes WHILE I drive.

My final pet peeve comes in two forms. One is when a teacher insists on giving out candy as a reward to kids, just before they get on the bus. I will invariably find the wrapper and possibly the sticky residue of the treat the teacher so lovingly gave out. Please stick to pencils, erasers, and stickers!!! The second one is class parties that are given within the last 30 minutes of a school day. The kids are so hyped up by the time they get on my bus to go home, they are bouncing off the walls and are completely out of control. They are loud and obnoxious and the next thing I hear is crying as little Michael decided to pull an Evil Kenevil stunt and landed on his head as he vaulted over the bus seat in a feat of bravery. The crying is eventually drowned out by scads of children loudly screaming as little Jacob decided to projectile vomit ALL of his lunch AND his party foods that he consumed. Believe me folks when I say, projectile vomit of school lunch food and classroom party food is NOT something you really want to see. I just thank God that school buses are covered in rubber and vinyl.

Sugar High,

The Bus Driver

Monday, February 2, 2009

Seatbelts and the Backpack Rant

I seem to be doing alot of topics in two's, so in keeping with tradition......

A popular topic as of late that is debated year after year is the issue of seatbelt restraints on school buses. Most states have laws where Special Education buses and smaller buses - half the size of a normal 72-100-passenger school bus - are required to have some form of seatbelt restraints installed. People often ask why seatbelts are not required for the larger buses especially given the “cargo” we transport daily. There is no doubt in my mind that seatbelts save lives, however a seatbelt restraint system in a large school bus while theoretically is a good idea, is largely impractical to implement.

First, there is the practicality of getting all the children seated and buckled. On a Special Ed bus, an aide rides along and ensures the children stay seated and firmly buckled. Additionally, on a larger bus, there is only one driver that handles all the children. Putting seatbelts on a bus only increases the possibility that they be used as weapons against peers. (Miss Bus Driver…..Little Joey choked/hit me with the seatbelt!!!) Also if the bus gets in a crash or otherwise needs to be evacuated quickly, some children may get stuck by the seatbelt. Many children don’t have the dexterity and strength it requires to press the seatbelt buckle. They may also be injured to the point of immobility. It then becomes the bus driver’s responsibility to free and rescue that child with a seatbelt cutter. Multiply the mayhem and insanity on a regular day times 100 and you’ve got what happens in an accident. As a driver, I don’t want that added responsibility on my shoulders.

I digress.

Backpacks are the fashion statement from hell. You may think it’s cute to send little James to school with a Spiderman backpack or little Mary to school with a Dora the Explorer book bag. What I see is the multitudes of paper your sweet child will dump all over the floor of my bus, which I have to clean, if the paper has not flown all over the bus and ends up crumpled or in my face while I’m driving. Also, I’m sick of picking up Joshua’s or Janie’s pencil that they forgot on the bus for the MILLIONTH time. They call it HOME-work for a reason! I swear I should charge a dime for every pencil the kids want to “borrow” from my cup of pencils that I’ve accumulated. I have to clean out the pencil cup at least 3 times a year to keep it from busting at the seams with pencils, pens, crayons, erasers, and other items I find on the bus floor.

Also those backpacks with wheels on it are the worst invention/fad EVER. It’s obnoxious enough when your child insists on taking EVERYTHING out of his backpack during a 15 minute ride and then has to hold the whole bus up when we’re at his stop waiting for your little cherub to wander up the aisle and waddle off the bus holding 20 million papers, but when your child insists on trying to wheel the backpack down the narrow aisle, getting it stuck on every seat along the way and holding up the route while they wrestle the stupid bag into the seat they’ve chosen, at the BACK of the bus, only to wash, rinse, repeat at school, here’s a little hint…. THE WHEELIE BACKPACKS DON’T FIT DOWN THE AISLE OF A SCHOOL BUS --- DON’T BUY

Toys should be banned from the school bus. Especially toys that are round, or have wheels that make the toy move easily along the floor. Please teach your children that the school bus is not a playground and the seat is for sitting in, not playing with toys and being obnoxious. For the Love of God, please, please, please lock your children’s backpack and offer your child’s teacher a key. Then maybe you’ll actually GET that field trip permission form that didn’t end up in the garbage of the school bus.

Up next!! Obnoxious Children!

The Bus Driver