Saturday, March 28, 2009

Tribute to a fallen Bus Driver

On Friday, some shocking news rippled its way through the bus shop. Early in the morning, one of our fellow colleagues, Mr. P, was gripped by stabbing chest pain. Best anyone can gather at this point, he was on his morning route and the symptoms came on suddenly. He had enough wits about him to stop and secure the bus and radio for help from the bus shop requesting someone come out and finish his route so he could seek medical attention.

Mr. P’s wife called the ambulance shortly and they raced him to the hospital. When they got there, his health declined quickly and they made the decision to airlift him to a larger hospital by helicopter. He suffered a massive heart attack in the helicopter on the way to the larger hospital and passed away en-route.

Mr. P was a kindhearted man who always put others before himself. He was a husband, father, and grandfather. He supported his family through the pay he earned as a bus driver. He never had a bad word to say about anyone else. He was a truly humble man who did the best he could in life. His passing was sudden and unexpected. Please keep his family in prayer.

Rest in peace Mr. P. You will be missed!

The Bus Driver

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Write Ups and Parents

After reading an article about a child getting suspended off the bus for excessive flatulence, I realized I hadn’t explained what sort of things a child can get written up for on a school bus. I explained the common rules found on a bus here. On our “Bus Conduct” forms there are 10 check boxes. Nine of them have common violations listed, but there is one check box always left blank with several lines for the bus driver to write in the offense. Most of us opt to write in the offense along with checking off several of the other boxes.

A child can get written up for the following and any variation of the following:

1. Violation of Safety Procedures

This includes standing on the seats, walking up and down the aisle while the bus is moving, changing seats, and not staying in assigned seat.

2. Destruction of Property

This is self-explanatory, but includes defacing school property by tearing, mutilating or otherwise damaging the seats, walls, floors and ceiling of the bus.

3. Fighting – Pushing – Tripping

They lump these three together and we are expected to circle the appropriate offense on a student-by-student basis. These are pretty obvious offenses.

4. Excessive Mischief

This goes hand in hand with the Violation of Safety Procedures and includes crawling under the seats, making noises deliberately for the distraction of the driver.

5. Writing/Smoking

Again self-explanatory offenses.

6. Insubordination

Not following the rules and being difficult.

7. Eating – Drinking – Littering


8. Rude – Discourteous – Annoying


9. Unacceptable Language

Yeah, no swearing allowed!!!!!!

10. Other – Describe.

We most commonly use this checkbox to describe the incident.

Even with all this, we still get parents who complain. A common grievance we get from parents is “Why did YOU give my child X days off the bus?” Fortunately we don’t actually make the decisions on what each child gets as punishment for the infractions we write up. The school makes that decision, yet still, we get parents who insist it is still our fault.

To those parents who say “Not my child, he/she goes to church/can do no wrong!” I say this: I warned your child several times. I pulled the videotape of the incident and watched it. In some cases, my boss watches it as well. The administrator of the school has watched the tape. The tape never lies. Additionally there are typically witnesses. Fellow students squeal like stuck pigs when its not them getting in trouble. They are perfectly happy to throw another student under the bus in order to save their own skins. So please understand that when your child got 3-5-10 day bus suspension, it is entirely your child’s fault, not the bus drivers’.

Writing away!

The Bus Driver

Friday, March 13, 2009

Speeding Drivers, The Warning, and The Spontaneous Insanity.

The week started out pretty typically. The usual announcements to the SAME people who NEVER turn in their paperwork were, again, announced over the radio to everybody. I mean come on people; we are NOT children anymore who do not do our homework. Please just complete your paperwork for the Love of God! Then, in the same breath, the secretary announces that there is a meeting for all Field Trip Drivers.

Oh goody, WHAT do we have to do now? The last meeting was just them adding MORE paperwork onto our payroll sheets. First it was adding a long 27 digit number to the payroll sheets, then it was attaching the field trip FORM to the payroll sheets, then we have to do our fire and evacuation drill on EVERY field trip AND get a roster of students from all coaches/teachers. So, when this announcement happened, the first thought to my mind was what next? Are we going to have to stand on our heads and recite the ABC’s backwards?!

I dutifully go into the bus shop and wait for the meeting to begin. The Bossman comes in and proceeds to chew us out for speeding and for showing up late to field trips. It is already required that we show up 15 minutes prior to the departure time on our field trip sheets, now its required that we show up 20 minutes prior to the departure time. Speeding is a whole different ball game though.

The federal law mandates that a school bus cannot exceed 55 mph when traveling at “highway speeds.” If a bus is traveling within a town, the bus cannot exceed 45 mph, keeping in mind all speed limits in between. Years ago our buses were set (governed) at 55 mph exactly. That means the bus could not go past 55 mph. They changed it to 60 mph to allow buses to pass motorists going slower than 55 mph. As the newer buses kept coming in, they governed the speed at 65 mph, to compare with some of the fast 70 mph highway speeds we have here as well as giving buses extra “oomph.” Apparently the Bossman had been getting a few too many phone calls of drivers speeding and being unsafe. Instead of reprimanding just those FEW drivers who break the rules, the Bossman reprimands ALL of us. He set the gauntlet and told us if he had one more call or saw another driver speeding, that he would have all the maintenance guys govern the buses down to 55 mph again. Guess what happened on Thursday? Bossman got passed by one of our bus drivers doing over 65 mph. NOW our buses are governed at 55 mph. In my opinion, they SHOULD have been governed at 55 mph in the FIRST place. Again common sense is NOT present.

However, it was NOT me who was speeding on Thursday. Where was I? I was on a spontaneous insane excursion with my best friend. She called me up Thursday morning and asked me if I wanted to come along to a nearby big city (about 2 hrs away) and go pick up some items with her. I said sure, I’ll drive, you pay the gas and off we went. Sketchy parts of town with construction areas are definitely my idea of a good time. So is a jewelry store that looks like a pawnshop on the outside. We also almost got put on a local radio network when we got lost and turned around. It was nearing 12:30, and we knew it was going to be difficult to get back in town to get to work on time, so we devised a plan that we would try to call out separately for different reasons at different times and then plan to spend the rest of the afternoon goofing off and having fun. I went first as I had the earlier start time. I have to be at work for 2 pm and she has a 3rd wave bus that doesn’t begin until after 2:45 pm. I played sick and got the afternoon off. She couldn’t because there were already too many drivers out. Apparently I was the last one who could be out. DAMN, foiled! Anyhow, such began our RACE back to town so SHE could be on time. We literally pulled 80 mph going down the highway trying to get back to town after sitting in construction and dealing with idiot people all day. We cut it close because we stopped to see her husband on the way down. Her husband works for a big soda company driving one of their trucks. We left the big city somewhere between 12:45 and 1, and we somehow made it back into town by 2:10 pm, drove through Mc Donald’s for lunch, and then dropped her off at her bus so she could go to work. She barely made it. I had the rest of the afternoon off. The best part about this day is that I learned that my best friend is absolutely insane. She kept me in stitches with her stories about her rebel teen years including her near death experience with a snowplow.

We've also decided that one day we both need to just take the afternoon off and just hang out together.


The Bus Driver

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Planetarium and Chick-Fil-A

Today I took the gifted 2nd and 3rd graders to a local area museum and planetarium. I have wonderful memories of the planetarium near where I grew up and assumed this would be similar, just smaller scale. The place was easy to find as it was on a college campus. The museum was located near the center of the campus and the planetarium was just a short walk away in the mathematics and physics building.

As a kid, the planetarium always gathered lots of adoration and excitement. We often explored the science museum for 3-4 hours prior to standing in line to enter the planetarium theater. While standing in line, there were always these cool lights that caused all white pieces of clothing to “glow” neon blue. The presentation inside the planetarium was educational and informational. So, today, when I discovered we’d be going to a planetarium, I was very excited to see it and compare to the one I knew as a kid.

We arrived about 9 am and the kids took in the museum first. I wandered the campus and peeked in the museum. It was nothing spectacular or impressive – just a few tables of artifacts and like 2 interactive exhibits. I walked on over to the planetarium and discovered a pretty neat lab of about 30 feet wide with a domed top. The small scale for a small university was expected. I briefly met the planetarium presenter (FrootLoop) before the children started trickling into the building. My impressions first off were that she was a little batty and somewhat scatterbrained, but I thought she would have it together for a presentation to 2nd and 3rd graders. I was wrong.

The presentation was absolutely AWFUL! FrootLoop began with reprimanding her two college student “assistants” in front of the children. She then insisted on rambling more about the space station and upcoming night sky events (along with other planetarium propaganda/fodder) and space exploration through NASA rather than point out a few constellations, speaking about the stars, and then conducting a “Solar System Walk”. She used a lot of words that were way over the education level of a 2nd and 3rd grader. I could tell that most of the kids were being polite, but were getting really restless after her third different explanation of the Greek Mythic History of the stars and their origins. The teacher kept asking about different parts of the program (Solar System Walk) and FrootLoop answered, “We’ll do that later…” or “But first I want to tell you about this real quick…”

I wandered out of the planetarium about 11:20 am as the teacher wanted to be on the road about 11:30 and I wanted to get back to the bus with time to unlock and sweep it off a bit before the children ambushed the bus in a mad dash to get away from the place. The teacher boarded the bus and as she sat down she remarked to me, “That was absolutely awful!” When I questioned her about it, she stated, “The whole day was one long boring lecture.”

Apparently, the museum gave them a really long lecture about Native American artifacts and they didn’t have an opportunity to complete the activity they really wanted to do which was a simulated fossil dig, classification, and identification activity. Then as they wandered over to the planetarium, the teacher was simply expecting about a 15-20 minute presentation that would include the simple things such as the make up of stars, 3-5 constellations, pointing out the Milky Way, and then talking about the order of the solar system before going outside and doing a “Solar System Walk” in which they get to actively distance out the solar system on a small scale. Instead, she got FrootLoop and her assistants who slept through most of her lecture. FrootLoop also insisted on showing the kids her necklace made from the rock of something in space. I left prior to that catastrophe.

The museum provided the children with “Grab Bags” of useless toys, trinkets, and annoying noisemaker whistles. Apparently the museum even messed this up too and didn’t have enough of the type of bags they were supposed to have. I think there were three different types of bags a teacher could request.

We headed over to a Chick-Fil-A for lunch and then went back to the school. As we were driving back, the teacher and I continued to discuss the poor quality of the field trip, and she mentioned, “I’d have to say, the best thing about today was going to Chick-Fil-A and having you as a driver.” Overall, the educational value of the fieldtrip bombed, but the kids I hauled today were the most well behaved children I’ve EVER hauled on a field trip. I made it a point to tell the teacher that I was incredibly impressed with their wonderful behavior. I think she is going to try to request me as a driver for future trips. We’ll see how that pans out.

Bleary Eyed,

The Bus Driver

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Ok, so the month of February has turned out to be busier than expected and every time I would get a minute to sit down and blog, it wouldn’t happen.

We had winter break just after Valentine’s Day, although it didn’t seem like much of a break as my grandparents came to visit, then I had two field trips over the course of the break. I learned that Applebees has good food to go and the couple times I’ve asked them to deliver it to the bus, they’ve acquiesced. All things considered, my life has been extremely busy.

Being a floater again is like walking on air. Yes I get the few kids that drive me nuts, but then I don’t have to see them again for at least another 2 weeks. My voice has remained intact and the stress level has decreased quite a bit. When I’m stressed, I’ve learned I lose my voice. Losing your voice on a busload of children is NOT a good thing.

There have been some changes up at the bus garage, starting with the field trips. I’ve now become an airline attendant before every field trip. We have to give a little speech about the proper fire escape procedures to some very rude and obnoxious children who insist on not paying attention. I keep tweaking my speech to include things I forgot to cover in the last group. The bus shop didn’t really give us any real guidelines, so I suppose it’s as long or short as the driver wants it to be. We’re also supposed to collect rosters from the schools prior to actually going on the trip. The coaches and teachers must have the rosters on the bus and must give us a copy. I actually like these new guidelines because it gives us a little more control over the situation, plus we actually know whom we are hauling to and from events.

I had a field trip on Friday taking the local 6th grade middle school kids to the movie theater. Yes, that’s right the movie theater. I had heard we were going to see Coraline, but we ended up seeing Ink Heart. I don’t know WHAT the educational value of each of these movies is, but it wasted 3 hours on a Friday. Ink Heart was actually a decent movie starring Brendan Frasier and a few other unknown people. The premise of the movie was somewhat interesting and completely engulfed in fantasy. Again, I question the educational value. This is the time of year we typically get a lot of the “stupid” field trips that have little or no education behind them.

Overall, it’s been a good month and hopefully I’ll be able to blog more in March.
In Like A Lion,
The Bus Driver