Bus Driver Appreciation Week!

School Bus News

It’s School Bus Driver Appreciation Week so show your appreciation to your favorite bus driver!

Last year Mr. Bus Driver Man Sir became Mr. Hot Spot Man Sir when I was driving a mobile hot spot bus, providing internet service to kids during school hours for online learning. The program was discontinued before the start of this school year as kids went back to in-person school.

My elementary kids were disappointed when they tried to log in to the bus wifi on their ipads and chromebooks.

“Where’s the wifi?,” one boy asked.

I said, “We don’t have wifi anymore.”

A girl said, “If you don’t have wifi, how do you listen to the radio?”

The boy asked, “Why don’t we have wifi?”

I replied, “The kids didn’t like wifi so they got rid of it.”

“What?!?!?! We LOVE wifi!”

Cruel? Maybe, but I couldn’t resist. The poor kiddos had to talk to each other. Now that’s cruel!

So, what do little boys do in the school bus when they can’t get online? They check out cars.

One little guy said to another, “That’s a Ferrari or a McLaren! The black and red one!”

I looked to where the boy was pointing at a very nice vintage red and black Chevy El Camino. We used to call them car-trucks when we were kids. This El Camino was a fine vehicle, but a far cry from a Ferrari or McLaren. I had to google McLaren. It’s a high end sports car that sells for $300,000. No wonder I hadn’t heard of it. I’ve never paid more than $3000 for a car.

As part of the covid-19 protocol, all students and staff are required to wear masks, we keep windows open, and we make seating charts for each trip for contact tracing purposes. To make this process quick and easy I pass the blank chart with a pen and clipboard to the kids in the front seat. They write their names in the corresponding seat number and pass it back. When it gets to the back they start passing it back up front. The kids have their own middle school way of doing this.

They’ll pass the board over the seat and wait for someone to grab it. If that doesn’t happen they’ll give ‘em a whack on the head with it. They in turn whack the head of the next kid if they don’t respond right away. Last week they returned the seating chart attached to half a clipboard. It’s a middle school version of paying it forward.

Speaking of middle school, those kids are full of surprises. I few months ago, in my home town I saw two middle school age kids riding bikes singing Frank Sinatra. More recently in my school bus two middle school kids were singing Oh, ho, ho it’s Magic, ya know, never believe it’s not so! It’s not the easiest melody but those kids nailed it!

Technology overload?

I started this school year with a brand new bus. It has AC and all the bells and whistles. It has a thing called Collision Mitigation. In theory it detects objects that are too close and gently applies the brakes to avoid a collision. In practice it’s not quite so subtle.

I was driving ‘round a bend when the bus detected something on the side of the road. Maybe it thought I was going to veer off the road and hit a tree? Halfway through the bend the bus slammed on the brakes! They released before I came to a stop and I was able to continue, albeit with my heart pounding.

Another time, I was in a line of buses leaving the high school in the afternoon with a full load of students. It’s slow, stop, and go traffic for a while until we hit the open road. Well, my bus had another panic attack and slammed on the brakes. We were going pretty slow and this time it did stop completely. The kids screamed and were thrown forward. Thankfully the seats are padded, unlike the buses I remember from my childhood where the back of each seat had a metal bar with exposed rusty bolts.

After the route I saw the driver who was behind me at the school. She thought a kid ran in front of my bus prompting me to slam on the brakes. I said it wasn’t me, it was my nervous bus acting up again.

I told the shop foreman what was happening and he had the bus sent off to reform school or rehab or wherever it is they send buses to learn how to cope with normal traffic.

Stay safe out there and watch out for kids (and nervous buses)!

My Birthday Blog

To celebrate my 53rd trip around the sun I’ve decided to add an entry to my blog.

Last Thursday marked the end of a very unique school year. For about six months after the onset of the pandemic I drove a school bus but I didn’t see any kids. Try to explain that to a school bus driver who just stepped out of a time machine from 2019.

Austin schools resumed in October 2020, but not like before. Most kids were learning online and very few attended school in person. Even fewer rode buses. We had our safety protocols to follow. Face masks, shield, gloves, temperature checks, open windows whether it was 100 degrees or 23 degrees, and no more than one child per seat unless they were siblings. I might have trouble recognizing some of my students if I saw them without a mask.

Gradually, more kids started riding the bus. By the end of the school year I was transporting 26 elementary students (far fewer for my middle and high schools.) It felt like a lot after starting the year with five or six, but I haven’t forgotten the days of calling for an overload bus because we exceeded the 71 passenger limit.

The upside was that I knew every kid’s first and last name. It was like we had our own little secret school bus society.

My elementary kids enjoyed the field trips to outer space and to Jurassic times. I had a six year old co-pilot name Slaid. That wasn’t his name but one day he declared his name to be Slaid and I couldn’t call him anything else.

For six months I pulled double duty. I drove my morning route, then went straight to my wifi post (okay, sometimes I’d stop for a breakfast taco) where Mr. Bus Driver Man Sir transformed into Mr. Hot Spot Man Sir for the next few hours. Then it was time to take the kids home via Saturn or Jupiter or 77 million B.C.

Sadly, we skipped the guitar signing ritual that normally happens the last few days of school. I hand the kids my guitar and a sharpie and they do what they will. I couldn’t think of a way to do it without breaking safety protocols. My idea came a little too late. I could have started a month before school ended and had one student sign the guitar each day. I’d be able to hand them a sanitized guitar and pen. Sigh.

I received a card from the parents of a young boy from my route. They said their son will miss the music and quizzes.

Playing my guitar in the afternoon has been part of my being a school bus driver almost from day one. An eight year old girl who started riding later in this school year would demand (with an implied ‘or else’) that I play my guitar. I’m always happy to oblige (especially when faced with the wrath of an eight year old girl!)

I like to give quizzes once in a great while. They usually consist of three questions. For example:

1. How do you spell HEB? (for non-Texans, HEB is a Texas based grocery chain that proved to be a champion early in the pandemic.)

2. What is the phone number for 9-1-1?

3. What color is an orange?

This year the kids were constantly asking for the next quiz. Three blocks from the school, thinking I got away, the kids would shout, “What’s the quiz?! What’s the quiz?!”

I had to come up with more questions on the spot.

What color is a blue jay?

Is a catfish a cat or a fish?

How many layers in a 7 layer cake?

Sometimes I would throw in a curve ball.

Which weighs more, a ton of feathers or a ton of bricks?

Overall, we had fun and every kid scored an A++ and a half, and graduated to summer break.

For the next few weeks I’ll be wearing the Mr. Hot Spot Man Sir hat until they retire the school bus wifi program. Wifi will continue by other means. Time will tell what the next school year will look like. In the mean time I’ll be broadcasting summer school signals, then traveling to see family I haven’t seen in too long.

Be safe and health and enjoy this world as at reopens.

Jimmy Joe

aka: Mr. Bus Driver Man Sir

aka: Mr. Hot Spot Man Sir (for now)

One Year In

I had my last field trip a year ago today. There was talk of the coronavirus that was wreaking havoc in other parts of the world and the Pacific Northwest but Texas didn’t seem particularly concerned.

I ran my morning route that Thursday morning, as I would any day. After my last drop off I drove to an elementary school to pick up my field trip group. I had a pretty full load, somewhere between fifty and sixty humans, including kids, teachers and chaperons. The destination was the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, where they would be sharing breathing space with several groups from different schools. After the trip I proceeded to my afternoon route to transport my 120 or so students home. Later that evening I had a gig at a local bar that wasn’t well attended. People were beginning to get freaked out about the new coronabug.

I’m horrified to look back and think that I might’ve been a key cog in a super spreader event, but what did I know then? Some people knew a lot more because school was closed the next day, the last day before spring break. We went into spring break with a sense of fear and foreboding, thinking this kind of thing doesn’t really happen here and now. We thought it might blow over in a few weeks but we all know how that played out. No need to go into what we’ve all been experiencing for the past year all over the globe.

It’s a year later and the face mask has become as ubiquitous as socks and our hands are a lot cleaner than they used to be. It’s Friday and I clocked out a little while ago, entering spring break with a tired old fear humming in the background, but also with a sense of hope on the horizon.

For now, we take field trips of the imagination. My copilot is a six year old boy who sits in the front seat. As we leave the school yard every afternoon I ask him where we’re going. He says, “Dinoland, to see the Brontosurus and T-rex!” I say, “I forgot to charge the Cosmic Dwizzle Bazimperator! We can’t travel back in time without it.” He points to a compartment above the door and says, “There’s a generator in there. You can charge the Cosmic Bazimperator there!” I say, ” What are we waiting for? Plug it in!” And we’re off to Dynoland, simple as that.

Some days we go to other planets, other days to parallel universes. Today we went to the land of Milkweed and Metalweed. Milkweed, according to my copilot, has an acid strong enough to melt a bus. Metalweed is, of course, metal that grows out of the ground and can destroy a bus if we hit it. Then there’s the snowcat. It eats snow and school buses. We were okay for a while since it snowed twice this season, but now that it’s warmed up, the snowcat is hungry and looking for school buses to eat. It’s dangerous work but I’ll gladly rise to the challenge, at least until we can return to museums, parks, and the like.

Stay safe and healthy out there. We’re not out of the woods (or Dinoland) yet!

Did you see that?!

I turned the corner and activated the loading lights as I do every day. This morning something was different. I opened the door as the student approached. I got the sense I was seeing something I shouldn’t be seeing.

Her face! I had never seen her face below her eyes before. I said, “Where is your mask?”

She looked up at me, waiting for me to check her temperature. I started to repeat myself but thought better of it. She can’t hear me talking through a three layer cotton mask and a plastic face shield. I lifted the shield and pointed to my own mask. She had a moment of shock and embarrassment as she patted her pockets.

I raised a finger in a “Wait a second” gesture. I pulled a box of masks from my PPE kit and handed one to her with gloved hand. She put the mask on. Her temperature was fine. She boarded the bus and all was well.

That moment of seeing something I shouldn’t see sparked a memory from several years ago.

I had just left the school in the afternoon with a busload of middle school students. We were stopped at a red light next to a minivan. I looked up at the mirror when I heard a ruckus in the bus. The boys were hootin’ and hollerin’ and getting out of their seats to get a good look at something outside the bus. I looked out the window to see what captured their attention. In the back seat of the minivan was a girl of about 11 or 12, apparently one of their schoolmates, taking off her shirt to change into her soccer uniform. I turned my attention back to the boys, trying in vain to get them to sit down. They were too busy giving themselves whiplash as they worked at getting a better look at the topless girl before she pulled her jersey on.

The girl got dressed, the boys settled back into their seats, and the light turned green. We drove on. For the next mile or two I could hear them saying, “Did you see that?!”

Stay safe and healthy this holiday season so we can celebrate together next year.

Space Bus is Back!

I got home from work the other day at 6:41PM, just in time to climb up on the roof and watch the International Space Station fly over at 6:49. It’s amazing to think that humans are inside that speck of light traveling at roughly 17000 miles per hour and 250 miles above the earth’s surface.

Speaking of Space Stations, Mr. Bus Driver Man Sir has officially resumed space travel in the bus for the first time since early March.

As we were departing the school parking lot I checked with the dozen kids in the bus to make sure they had their face masks in place, seat belts fastened, and space suits on and secured. They confirmed all three.

We were scheduled to visit the International Space Station but it is suddenly too crowded and it would be very difficult to keep our social distance in that confined space.

So I asked where else they’d like to go.

“PLUTO!” they shouted.

“Pluto it is,” I said, “but wait, I had to loan my cosmic dwizzle bazimperator to another bus driver who had a field trip to the moon.

A little girl said, “I have one in my backpack!”

I said, “Great! Let’s plug it in and hit the sky!”

She saved the day! I explained that the cosmic dwizzle bazimperator enables the bus to travel through time and space. We need the time travel element to get back to earth right after we left so their parents don’t have time to worry.

“Before we get to the traffic light we’ll hit a worm hole, which takes us through a ripple in the space time continuum and drops us off just a few miles from downtown Pluto.” The road seemed to get really bumpy and BLAM!, we were in the wormhole!

I said, “Welcome to Pluto! Oh, I didn’t realize it was so developed out here. It looks a lot like south Austin.”

The kids marveled at all the Pluto cars, Pluto trees, and Pluto dogs. We turned onto the Pluto Highway headed toward downtown Pluto. After a mile or so we came to a locked gate.

“So sorry kids, downtown Pluto is closed for cleaning today. We’ll have to turn around and head back to Earth now.”

There was a collective disappointed sigh from the group. We caught the other end of the wormhole at the dip in the road and were transported back to Austin.

I said, “Welcome back to Earth! Only a few earth minutes have passed but you’re all now 73 years old.”

They gasped.

I said, “Don’t worry, you still look the same. Space and time travel can be weird like that.”

I dropped them all off according to schedule and their parents were none the wiser.

Happy, safe and healthy Thanksgiving to y’all!

22 Years!

My friend Ida Collins recently celebrated 44 years as a bus driver for AISD.  Ida, I just reached the halfway point. 22 years! I started on the 14th of October, 1998. That was in another century! Before that I never held a job for more than a year. I would get bored and move on. After twenty two years I’m still not bored; kids have a way of keeping it interesting. And this year it all got a lot more interesting.
This is my original school bus guitar. I call it Charlie after the late Charlie Fischer, my hometown neighbor who fisched it out of the trash in 1986 and gave it to me. (It looked a lot nicer back then.) I brought Charlie out of retirement because my second school bus guitar, the baby Taylor is falling apart. Both guitars have many layers of kids’ signatures from the past two decades. It’s an end of school year ritual which, like so many other end of school year rituals, was thwarted by a pandemic.

School shut down on March 13, 2020. I had a field trip on March 12. In addition to my 120 regular route students, I hauled fifty or so kids from another school to a museum where they mingled with hundreds of kids from other schools. It is difficult to comprehend that now. Did that really happen? I’m pretty sure it did. The date is still in my calendar.

After a month or so of isolation, I went back to work driving a wifi bus. The buses are wifi hotspots for students learning online who don’t have internet service. Typically in the summer, we’re out touring to the west coast or east coast playing music. This year I stayed home and drove the wifi bus during which time I changed my name from Mr. Bus Driver Man Sir to Mr. Hot Spot Man Sir. The wifi bus isn’t quite as exciting as driving through the Rockies, visiting with good friends, and performing on the Oregon coast while watching the waves of the Pacific crash against the shore across the street from the venue, but it’s a job that I’m very thankful to have. We lost a lot of gigs like every other musician I know but I’ve had steady income doing something that helps out some kids in these challenging times, even if it felt like I was doing nothing at all. Every so often a parent would come out and thank me from behind a mask, reminding me that it wasn’t nothing.

Last week I started hauling kids once again. It’s a far cry from the past. I wear mask, gloves, and face shield when I point my laser ray gun temperature checker at the students before they board the bus. Then I tell them to sanitize their hands and go to the back of the bus. All 25 windows are open to keep fresh air circulating. I spray the seats down with disinfectant after each route. So far I haven’t had more than eight kids in the bus at one time. And that seems like a lot these days. Sometimes it’s just one student. It’ll change over time but I feel like we’re in a delicate balancing act. I asked my lone middle school student haw many kids were in class with her. She said six. I’ve seen masked teachers with as many masked children going through their lessons under an oak tree in front of the school.

Interesting times. There’s certainly no room for boredom.

Stay safe and be well

Sequestered School Bus News

It’s been a few weeks since I parked the bus and began adapting to the current way of life. I have been catching up on sleep, getting some work done on the house, and writing songs. However, I do miss the kids. I miss being part of their everyday school experience. I miss the sense of purpose as a school bus driver. With lessons moving online, will future demand of bus drivers be reduced? Only time will tell.

Fortunately I have a treasure trove of memories from which to pull.

 

A kindergartner said, “In two days my friend’s dad had a baby.”

As I was processing his statement, the boy said, ”I have a field trip today. Will you be my bus driver?”

Me: “Sorry, I won’t be driving. Who do you think will be driving today?”

Boy: “Miss Jessica. When I was in college Miss Jessica was the bus driver.”

Me: “Which college did you go to?”

Boy: “Texas College.”

 

The conversations get a little deeper in middle school.

A middle school girl said, “Mr. Bus Driver Man Sir, can I eat your kidneys?”

I said, “No, I’m still using them.”

 

One day a six year old boy said, “Do you know The Simpsons? The bus driver looks like you.”

I took this as a compliment. People often compared me to Otto in my early days, before most of the color ran from my hair. One time my employee badge came apart and my picture fell out. I downloaded and printed a picture of Otto from The Simpsons and pasted it onto my badge. No one questioned it until my field trip to Sea World in San Antonio one summer. I dropped off the kids at the entrance, parked the bus and went back to the front gate with my badge. Most places allow the bus drivers to enter with their group, free of charge.

The ticket taker was not impressed. He said, “That’s not you.”

I said, “Yes it is.”

“No, that’s a cartoon. I can’t let you in with that.”

So I explained about the badge and told him I drove 99 miles at 50mph with a bus load of screaming kids. Ultimately he let me in and I had a wonderful day.

As it turns out, I have a real life connection to Otto. My friend Mike Reiss has been writing for The Simpsons for three decades. I asked him if I could claim that Otto was modeled after me, even though Otto was a bus driver long before I was. Mike said it was more likely that I was modeled after Otto. There may be some truth to that.

Time for a shameless plug. Last year Mike and I collaborated on a song and subsequent video. It’s called The Ballad of the Three Bean Salad. You can find it on Youtube.

 

A third grade girl ran to the bus all excited one afternoon. She said, “My two friends just met for the first time and they decided to get married in school tomorrow!”

The next day the girl said that her teacher found out and told them they couldn’t have a wedding in school.

The following week the girl was giddy again.

She said, “My friends decided to have a video game wedding!”

I said, “What’s a video game wedding?”

She said, “Their avatars are getting married in a video game!”

This was a few months ago. These kids were way ahead of the game with physical distancing!

 

Stay safe and healthy!

Caio

How Old is the Bus Driver?

Over the decades I’ve been asked about my age many times by the kids on the bus. I’ve always asked them to guess. It’s a lot more fun that way. Guesses have ranged from zero to eighty nine million thousand. I always tell them the same thing. “Close!” It keeps them guessing.

Recently a young child asked, “How old are you Mr. Bus Driver Man Sir?”

I said, “I’ll be eleventy-nine on the eleventeenth of Octember, the eve of the crescent blue moon.”

The kids, way too smart for that nonsense, started to pick apart my logic immediately. So, I guess we’re back to the guessing game.

 

In a previous blog entry I told you about Ray, the five year old ray of sunshine. I haven’t seen Ray in quite some time. I don’t know if he moved away or if his parents drive him to school. I suspect that he travels to in intergalactic school in a space craft of his own design. I’d like to share some of Ray’s wisdom.

Ray: My parents are probably a thousand years old and they drink a LOT of coffee! They don’t eat food. They only eat coffee for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Ray: Let’s drive to Mars today, then Jupiter, my favorite planet. I don’t want to go yesterday, that’s already past.

Me: Okay, how do we get to Mars.

Ray: Turn left, then turn right, turn right again, turn left, go up the hill, down the hill, then turn right, and turn left. (In my head I’m following his directions and they are the exact directions to school) Then at school there’s a portal. We go through the portal and get to Mars.

I try to trip him up on the directions by intentionally asking if we turn left at the next street.

Ray: No, turn right! Why do I have to tell you three times? Tomorrow we’ll go to Haumea. (I had to look that one up.)

Ray was planning our route for the week:

“TLAA614 is the Slime Planet. Watch out for slime asteroids. Cars are sleeping slime asteroids. The Bufepire planet is the danger planet, T-Rex is the hot planet. Let’s skip Bufepire. It’s too dangerous. We’ll go to the sun. We need sunglasses and sun block. Then we go to Mercury and the Chicken Nugget planet.”

Me: What about the Bufepire planet?

Ray: No, it’s too scary! I’m the boss of the planets. We’ll go to Planet HR652199C12.

Me: I don’t know how to get there.

Ray: Just look at a map. (Do 5 yr olds even know what a map is anymore?)

 

In other school bus news…

I overheard two middle school girls talking about music.

Girl 1: I never thought I’d like Norwegian Death Metal but I love it!

Girl 2: I love Japanese Death Metal even more. It has lots of heart and soul.

 

The Weather on the Bus goes Round and Round…

Although my bus has no air conditioning, it has a front heater and a separate rear heater that both work very well. I never know how hot or cold it is in the back of the bus until the kids complain, so one day I asked, “How’s the weather in the back of the bus? Is it snowing?”

A little boy replied, “No, there’s a firenado!”

I said, “What’s a firenado? It sounds scary!”

The boy said, “It’s a fire tornado. It’s not scary. It went away.”

Thank goodness for that! They didn’t train me on how to deal with firenadoes on the bus.

 

One afternoon last week a little girl and her mom were walking past my bus.

The girl stopped and asked, “Why are you always playing your guitar?”

I said, “Because it makes me happy.”

She thought for a second, smiled and said, “I have a play date with Emily today!”

That little girl wanted to share something with me that made her happy and it made my day!

 

Happy Thanksgiving and stay away from firenadoes!

 

 

 

 

 

My Friend Carlos

We lost a good man

at the bus barn.

I want to tell you about my friend Carlos.

Around two years ago I met Diana, a bus driver in training. My friend and coworker, Ida, told me that Diana was a professional singer. I had seen Diana and said hello but we hadn’t met until then. Diana was very sweet and had a kind smile. She said she was from Colombia and had been living in Miami with her husband Carlos. Carlos was managing Diana’s music career. After a few years in Miami they decided to give Austin’s thriving music scene a try. I had seen Carlos around but we had not met. Diana introduced us and we liked each other instantly.

Diana had been working to improve her English and was looking for someone with whom she could sing in English and Spanish. My wife Chrissie had been working very intensely learning to speak Spanish and was doing very well. She was writing songs in Spanish and was actively looking for Spanish speaking musical partners.

I said to Diana, “I have the perfect person for you to meet!”

Chrissie and Diana became fast friends and started working on music together. They sang a bilingual duet in which Diana sang in English while Chrissie sang in Spanish.

 

Carlos had a plan. They would move to Austin and work as school bus drivers while they got established in the music scene. The schedule would give him time to focus on furthering Diana’s music career.

The end of the school year was just around the bend when my friend Addie at the Westcave Preserve asked me if I would be interested in driving a bus for them that summer. Westcave Preserve is one of my favorite field trip destinations and I loved that she asked me but I had to decline as Chrissie and I would be traveling and touring all summer.

Soon after that, Carlos told me he was looking for part time summer work. He was the new guy and they didn’t have any summer routes available to him.

I said, “I have the perfect job for you!”

I put Carlos in touch with Addie and he got the summer job.

Carlos was very happy to be driving for Westcave Preserve doing nature field trips. He told me that he ran a non-profit nature conservancy organization in the past. It was perfect! I loved how things were falling into place for my new friends.

Then came the bomb shell. About a year ago Carlos was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the same disease that took my father three years earlier.

Carlos had a remarkably realistic, yet positive outlook.

He said the doctors told him he might have a year or so. Carlos told me that he didn’t necessarily believe them and their numbers. He was going to do his best to stick around and be healthy. He said, “If I am going to die, I’m going to live every day until I do.”

And live he did.

Carlos was out driving the bus whenever his health and chemo treatments allowed.

He and Diana traveled to Miami, France, Greece, and Colombia over the summer.

They spent time with family and friends.

Three days ago Chrissie and I visited Carlos in the hospital. He was weak and in pain but he smiled and welcomed us with open arms when he saw us. I played my guitar for him. He loved Pachelbel’s Canon in D so I played it.

I can’t say enough good things about Carlos. His presence made me feel like everything was going to be okay, even when it was obvious it wasn’t.

I’ll miss you, my friend.

I hope I don’t write another tribute for a long, long time.

Dog Days of Bus Driving

We’re a few weeks into the new school year and it’s been 100 degrees every day. Though the school district has been purchasing air conditioned buses for the past two or three years, I’m still driving an older, naturally ventilated model. Oh, well, it’s cooling off this week. I’m looking forward to the crisp mid-90s. Maybe I can cut back to eight bottles of water and four t-shirts a day. I shouldn’t complain. It only seems worse because I’m driving around seeing other buses with all their windows closed, drivers and students sealed in their own micro climates.

Did I mention that it’s been a hundred degrees every day? I had the pleasure of transporting a varsity football team during the first week of school. The odor was overwhelming. My dashboard fan was worse than inadequate. While driving down the road I spotted a small animal running back and forth in my lane. Too dark to be a squirrel, I thought.

The coach said, “Is that a skunk?”

As I got closer I was able to confirm that it was indeed a skunk. I think the smell of the varsity football players was strong enough to confuse the poor animal.

I swerved to avoid hitting the little stink beast, but I secretly hoped that I got close enough to scare it into spraying the bus. Yes, even skunk spray would’ve been an improvement over varsity sweat on a hundred degree day.

We all managed to survive. The skunk didn’t spray but I sprayed nearly an entire bottle of disinfectant on the seats.
I have the same route that I had last year, other than a few minor differences. One of my students from last year, a six year old boy, asked me to play the island song. The island song includes the names of any and all kids present. I played the island song the first few afternoons. Then on the fourth day, the boy who initially requested the song said, “Stop playing the island song. You play it too much.”

So I played a round of Name that Tune. I played songs like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Mary Had a Little Lamb, etc.

One little boy said, “I can play that on piano. Can you play Smoke on the Water?”

So I did, complete with that driving bass line. Then another boy asked me to play some Bach. So I did. Welcome to Austin where the music indoctrination starts early.

There’s a new five year old boy named Ray on my route. Ray is a Ray of sunshine. He’s all smiles. One day he suggested that we drive to the sun. He said, “We can follow the rocket ships to the sun. It’s sixty nine forty thousand degrees!”

I said, “We’ll burn up! We should go to the sun at night.”

Ray said, “But we’ll freeze!”

A few days later on our way to school, Ray said, “Turn the wrong way!”

I said, “Why do you want to turn the wrong way? We might get lost!”

Ray said with his big smile, “That’s okay, we’ll figure it out.”
If I have any advice to offer, it’s this:

Be like Ray. Be willing to take a different path. When you get lost just smile and say, “That’s okay, we’ll figure it out.”