Becoming One

(Bus driver that is)

At the time of this writing, you are probably wondering why I would even consider driving a bus to begin with? To this I can only answer that it all began very innocently. My daughter attends a Montessori school in Fort Collins. The school has two other branches that they are always transporting kids to and from. The director thought it would be a better idea to get a used school bus and transport that way. A bus was located for the price they could afford and delivered to the school. The kids were all excited, they all wanted to go for their first “School Bus” ride.

As far as the school directors were concerned the bus was ready to transport kids, they just didn’t have a driver. With me not working, it just sort of seemed like the thing to do. I sort of took the school bus under my wing to prepare for getting my license, as the “back-up” driver. I put in many hours (often in adverse weather) getting the bus ready for carrying kids again. Most of the time was just getting all the lights and switches working again, replacing windows and figuring out how to fit seatbelts. The last step towards getting the bus roadworthy was filling the tires. You wouldn’t think checking and adjusting the air pressure in six tires would be all that difficult, well, with no power, no access to pressurized air and no license to drive it to air presented a bit of a problem. I cured this problem by renting a compressor that ran on gasoline. The whole process only took two and a half hours!

Ready for the road!

The director kept sidestepping the license issue (she was supposed to be the primary driver) so I felt I ought to take the bull by the horns and get my own. The first few minutes of phone investigation left me thinking, “Is nothing easy?” The steps required to get a School Bus License: a DOT physical, be fingerprinted by the Police for an FBI investigation, a hepatitis shot, CPR, basic First Aid and a CDL class BP-1 (to suit the bus) endorsement on my driver’s license. I had no idea of all the requirements until I started the ball rolling. The kicker was I couldn’t drive the bus until I had a license but I needed to get the bus out to the Fort Collins airport to take the test, as the testing outfit didn’t have a bus available. This little problem was fixed by paying the “testing agent” to come and give me some instruction first at twenty-five dollars an hour. After going through a full pre-trip inspection, I was tutored to the testing site and then tested. I think I did pretty good, dropping only three marks on the skills test and one mark on the road test.

The actual field trips I took the school on are not much more than a blur punctuated with the memory of happy faces bouncing by. The places we went to in Denver, Boulder and surrounding areas I almost always had the same thoughts, like where am I going to be able to park, how will I get turned around, where are the bathrooms not to mention, are we leaving with the same amount of kids? Leaving someone behind is always the biggest worry, it just doesn’t matter how many times you count the squirming bodies, you wonder if you counted right. On each field trip along with all the concerns the bus and driving brings, I am always issued a list of kids to keep under control. It’s not that the kids needed to be controlled; they are just being kids, doing kid things. Luckily, one of my charges is usually my daughter , without her, the list of names on a piece of scratch paper means little.

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Copyright 2009 Pokie Parmidge