A few years ago I won the bus route lottery. It wasn’t a real lottery. Every summer bus routes are administered via a bidding process. One summer about eight years ago I came home after my summer travels to a message from my supervisor. She said, “Jimmy Joe, where are you? You missed bidding! Are you coming back to work? We only have three routes. If you want one you’d better get down here!”
It was slim pickins. I chose a route that had only one school, a high school, and barely enough hours to cover the health insurance. The day before school started an elementary school was added to my route.
On the first day of school I set out in the dark looking for my new stop. I didn’t have time to scope it out so I drove slowly down the winding hill until I saw a little girl and her dad waiting on the corner. Ellen was five years old and cute as a button. No other kids rode the bus to the elementary school that morning… or the morning after that or any morning for the next three years. There were as many as three to five kids riding home in the afternoon but in the morning it was just Ellen and me. I was Ellen’s personal chauffeur.
There are many advantages to having one child on a bus route:
1) Seating charts are easy. Seat #1 = Ellen. Done.
2) No fighting to worry about.
3) If Ellen wasn’t riding the bus her mom would text me early in the morning and I would relax and have breakfast on the bus.
4) If a paper airplane hit my head I’d have a pretty good idea who threw it. Ellen. (Just a hypothetical – Ellen never threw paper airplanes.)
I could go on and on.
Disadvantages to having one kid on the bus:
I told my Pop about my great new route. He said, “That’s costing the taxpayer.”
Thanks, Pop, way to burst my bubble.
A middle school was added to my route. After I dropped Ellen off I picked up fifty ornery middle school kids. It balanced out.
Ellen and I became pals. We would make up fun and magical places and creatures to see on our way to school. It was like driving in a parallel universe. One day I picked up Ellen and asked her where she wanted to go.
She said, “Mt. Everest!”
“Mt. Everest it is! I’ll just push the magic purple button to activate automatic snow tires and oxygen tank. Now if we can only get the heater to work…”
We would travel to the moon, the bottom of the ocean, around the rings of Saturn, and always get to school on time. One morning we even went back in time to Brooklyn, circa 1955. I spoke in my native New Yawk tongue, which Ellen picked up on right away. It was cuter than cute hearing her say, “Hey, what are you tawkin about?”
During this time I went to see Ellen’s principal and offered to do a free lunchtime concert for the kids. She loved the idea and it became a tradition.
I wrote a song called Ellen’s Ride. It takes the listener through our morning ride to school, complete with The Jungles of Forest on the Cliff, Rhinocepotamus, and the Three Legged Iron Back Rusted Belly Fish. I gave it to Ellen for her 10th birthday. Ellen’s mom put the cd on and asked Ellen if she knew all the places in the song. She smiled and said she did.
Fast forward a few more years.
Chrissie and I recently finished recording an album of music for Children. It’s called Playing in the Dirt and for this project we’ve named ourselves Mr. Bus Driver Man Sir and Her.
It took us a year and a half to complete and we are very pleased with the finished product.
Yes, Ellen’s Ride is included on the album. The whimsical, playful and darkly colorful tune features none other than Ellen, now in middle school, on the cello! Her mom asked if I would mind giving her a ride home from the recording studio. Would I mind?! It was wonderful catching up with Ellen and I still knew the way.
We also have plans to add a picture book to accompany the cd. Illustrations will be done by multitalented musician and artist Darrin Kobetich.
We are running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for production costs for the cd and to get the book done by next year. So here’s my shameless plea:
Please help us out by contributing to our project! We have a whole batch of rewards available based on the amount you pledge.
The campaign ends Dec. 7 @ 11:11pm. If we don’t meet our goal we get nothing so please pledge. We’re pulling our hair out over here!
We have some great guest musicians on the album and the production is superb. I am very excited about it! You will love it!
Here’s the link:
Life gets even better when my worlds collide!