One of the biggest concerns for a school bus driver at the end of the first day of school is trying to get everyone home to the right place. The hardest child to deliver is the first day kindergarten child who has no brothers or sisters on the bus and has lost his name tag. Usually, at the end of the route, that child will be the only one left on the bus. The conversation between the bus driver and the child usually goes like this:
Driver: “What does your house look like?”
Student: “It’s square with a tree out front.”
Driver: “Do you know the house numbers?”
Driver: “What are they?”
Student: “One, two, three.”
Driver: “In that order?”
Student: “I’m not sure; that’s the only numbers I know.”
Driver: “O.k. What color car does your mama have?”
Student: “Either red or blue, that’s the only three colors that I can name.”
Driver: (Getting frustrated now.) “That’s only two colors.”
Student: “Yes, but green is the other color I know, and that’s the color of the grass that my mama said is ‘too tall’ in my yard.
Driver: “O.k. Anything else that might help us find your house?”
Student: “Well, I have a dumb dog that sleeps on our porch.”
Driver: “How do you know he’s dumb?”
Student: “Cuz my daddy said he is.”
Driver: “And your daddy is always right?”
Student: “Most of the time, but he can fix things you know. But my mama is always right!” the little boy said with assurance.
The driver is starting to feel a headache coming on and a long ride back to town when the little boy excitedly exclaims, “And there’s my mama standing by the road up ahead.” Exasperated, the driver asks, “How do you know it’s her?” The child replies, “Cuz she has one hand on her hip and the other hand outstretched and she is a shakin that finger at the bus. I know that’s my mom, cuz that’s the way she talks to me at home!”
The little boy got off to his mama’s waiting arms and the driver went home and took two Excedrin tablets and said a prayer of thanks. He also was glad to see the boy’s mama because he knew that a house with a tree out front, a car that might be one of two colors, and tall green grass with a supposedly dumb dog on the porch was not the best clues to where the little boy stayed. But there was no mistaking the “Mama image” by the side of the road in front of all those things. A mama image can make most things clear real quick. It was all just like the little boy said when he waved good-bye to the driver, “See, I told you just where I stayed, tomorrow you won’t forget it.” The driver sighed with relief . . . tomorrow was Saturday!
Now that we really know where the students stay, it is good to know that seven new buses will be on line this year to assist with the work load. Most of us are aware of the awesome task of early morning runs and afternoon drops of students throughout each work day, but that is only a small but important part of the work of buses.
For example, football, band, softball, cheerleading, and cross country are about to start their athletic and extra-curricular functions. That means that buses will be traveling all over North Mississippi in the late evenings and into the night this fall. Also, buses are in high demand after school starts transporting classroom children on field trips to the Buffalo Park, animal discovery centers, and academic competitions. Buses are almost never at rest except during the summer break when they receive a full physical for brakes, tires, lubrication and clean-up.
Thanks to great drivers and an attentive maintenance shop, our buses are able to stay in service for long periods of time. However, eventually the wear and tear of “stop and go” driving on daily routes and bouncing on farm-to-market roads, as well as wash board grooves, wear out the suspension systems and bodies. Like the mail, school buses are expected to roll safely through the rain, sleet, snow, and hot weather transporting our students. Student numbers can range from fifty to seventy-five in volume per bus. They are able to transport large groups of students safely to various functions.
No wonder they are affectionately called the “dependable yellow dog” by students and bus drivers.
As the school season starts up, remember to always exercise “extreme caution” when approaching a bus that is moving or stopping.
Never pass a bus that has warning signs out or lights flashing. That means that children are very close by loading or unloading on them! Safety is always the main concern, but it is also the law! Have respect for the yellow dog and the awesome task it performs each day.
Some things never change. The school bus is always yellow, Daddy can fix most things, the dog sleeps on the front porch and Mama . . . well, Mama is always right! Such is life seen through the eyes of a kindergarten child.
Dr. Steve Coker is Superintendent of the Houston School District. He can be reached at 456-3332.