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)