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)!