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.”

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