Mario always managed to put a smile on my face. He was that kind of guy. He was my coworker and friend. He’s been driving for AISD nearly as long as I have. He was crazy for karaoke and sang his heart out. When we have parties at the bus barn, Chrissie and I bring our guitars and PA system to entertain the bus drivers, while Mario brings the karaoke. We would often hook up his system to our PA for a seamless shift between sets. He was a compact man from the Philippines with a big heart and genuine smile that he shared freely.
We effectively swapped bus routes a few times over the years. I once had a route that Mario had the previous year. His last bus route, 1106, was one that I drove a few years ago. It was not long ago when we did our last field trip together.
Mario had a great hat collection. I’ll always remember his smile and his hats.
A coworker told me that Mario’s health had diminished and that he was in hospice care. I wanted to see him but my schedule was so busy. On Tuesday I had a field trip to a nature preserve. The forecast called for rain in the afternoon. In an effort to outrun the storm, the group boarded my bus early. As a result, we returned to the school an hour ahead of schedule. The school happened to be in the neighborhood where Mario was. I called Cindy, my supervisor, and asked if I could drive the bus to visit Mario before I had to be at my next school. Cindy had just returned from visiting Mario and she said, “Yes, please go.”
Mario was not able to talk at this point. His responses were subtle but his family assured me that he could hear me. I played my guitar for him. Then his wife asked me to play School Bus Driver Man because he loved that song. He responded in movement while I sang. He passed from this world a few hours later.
I wrote School Bus Driver Man for my friend Johnny McCarty on Jan 3, 2003, the day that he died.
I sang it for Mario on Apr 23, 2019, the day that he died.
The song fit too well, especially the last lines:
He waits at the high school in mid afternoon
He sits with his friend and they’re singing a tune
The kids stop and listen but it’s over too soon
For that School Bus Driver Man