I was near the end of a good day of subbing. I thought over his request and said, “Mark, I have driven thousands and thousands of miles as a coach on athletic trips, but I haven’t subbed on a regular route in over 28 years. If you really need me however, I will be glad to help you out.” I had to say yes because the folks I have worked with at the bus garage were absolutely first class over my 30 years of teaching and coaching. Oh yeah, I did ask Mark where the route was, and he replied, “It just goes up West End Street and a student will guide you from there.” With that, I was off to the bus garage to pick up my big yellow bus.
Let me take you through the afternoon and give you an appreciation of what bus drivers do. First of all, a bus driver’s job does not start when he or she starts up the bus. It starts long before with intense training in many areas including rules, regulations, laws, driver expertise, drug testing and mechanical knowledge. Like, do you know what a slack adjuster is? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Well, bus drivers know! Anyway, the job gets tougher every year, and they expect more of drivers. Sort of the same path that teachers follow. Once the driver obtains the proper training as mentioned above and they get their CDL, then they are ready to transport the most precious cargo in the world – children.
My day started out by warming up my bus and following driver trainer JJ to the bus lineup outside the middle school. I opened up my door and waited for the students. Now, there were only about three students on this bus route over 4 feet tall. It was a route of mostly sweet little young’uns. My first task was to appoint a student to tell me where to make each stop. Every school district I know uses this tried and true method to help a sub route driver. Well first of all, as the kids boarded the bus, nearly all of them demanded to know who I was. “Who are YOU?” they would say. “Where is our real driver?” I patiently explained that I was Coach Wright and I was subbing for their driver. I then picked a young lady who seemed very bright and really wanted to be my assistant. She would be the one to tell me where each stop was. You see, I had to pick a young one because the three older students were to get off the bus at one of the first stops.
Well, when I made my choice, that is where the trouble began. About 20 of those young’uns started squalling that they were supposed to be the helper. They would not let the helper of my choice work in peace. They were aggravating her so much that she couldn’t concentrate. Early on, I missed one stop because my special helper was distracted. No big deal, it was a child I knew well and I would let him off later in the route. As we continued with the route, I had to constantly reel my helper in and tell her not to worry about all of the other kids yelling at her. The sweet little helper replied, “Well, I have got to keep an eye on those two. They are my cousins and they will start biting!” All in all, let me say that my helper was tough under pressure.
As the fun continued and I got halfway though the route, Mark called me on the bus radio and asked if I had two first grade twins on the bus. Now, how did I know that? They were all so small and they looked all looked the same to me. Never fear, sweet helper was all over it. She said, “You got them Coach. They should have got on another bus that went to their grandfather’s.” Not my fault, by the way. Anyway, their parents were on the way to meet the bus along with Mark. We all met at about the same time and got them handed off.
By the way, about that route ole Mark said went up West End. Let me just say, be careful about getting into a card game with Mark Harris. He didn’t reveal his whole hand. The route did go up West End and then to the right to Hilltop, back across West End to another road, then out Cerulean Road, to east Adams Mill, back to Rocky Ridge, to Cerulean Road, to West Adams Mill, to several little roads by the recreation complex, then by the Earnest Lawrence estate and plantation, to Cerulean Road then back down West End and home. You think that is a long sentence. Try driving that sentence.
In the end, everybody was delivered safe and sound, and it actually was a really good experience for me. My real reason for the column, however, is simple. I want to say THANK YOU to all of our many regular bus drivers in the Trigg County School System. Thank you for all you do to prepare and train in order to safely transport the youth of this community. You have my respect and adoration for what you do.
Take time to salute and thank a bus driver this week, as it is actually national Bus Driver Appreciation week.
OT: By the way, when you return a bus and shut it down, a shrill whistle goes off which forces the bus driver to walk to the back of the bus and hold a button in till the lights blink twice. This is to keep a driver from leaving a student on the bus. Well joy, joy. My whistle would not stop and the horn started honking every second. Turns out the bus had been having this issue on and off for a while.
Double OT: Heard from quite a few Hilton Head fans after last week’s column. The most interesting was probably Mrs. W.J. Simmons, who said they had gone to Hilton Head for 35 straight years, 1974-2009. When they first started going there, they had to go over a drawbridge to access the island. Cool!
Enthusiasm Makes the Difference
Mike Wright is the former head coach of boys basketball and cross country at Trigg County High School. Emails concerning Coach’s Corner can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.