This year, for me, has been a year of change. Some of those changes, were fairly significant…well, at least for me they were/are. I started the beginning of the school year on a new bus after having driven my former bus for five years. In addition, after having driven the same route for seven years, I opted to change routes as well. This not only meant I would be taking on a host of new students, It also meant new neighborhoods, parents and schools. I went from knowing my route, its stops, all of my students, and their parents to an, unknown zone. Not to be confused with the twilight zone though, at times, it certainly could be mistaken as such. As is typical, with change, comes growing pains…or should I say…changing pains. It has been a year filled with challenges. Challenges that I have rarely, if ever, encountered in my seventeen year driving career. Those stories, for now, will remain untold.
Awhile back, a parent called the office questioning my daily arrival time. Largely due to the fact, that her child had been missing the bus. An unhappy parent phone call, was uncommon, nearly uncharted territory for me. I was dismayed when I was called into the office to learn that one of my parents was questioning my timeliness…or lack there of. Thankfully, it is easy for the office to determine my busses arrival time, or any busses arrival time, since all of our busses have been installed with both GPS and digital cameras. I must say, I was delighted when my boss pulled my GPS on three random occasions discovering that each time, I was exactly on schedule, making my stops at the designated stop time, every time…yeah me. The child’s parent was reminded that they needed to have their child out and waiting at their scheduled bus stop and in their place of safety, five minutes prior to the busses arrival. I am happy to report, that the once, tardy child, has been present and accounted for ever since. Two things occurred after this event took place and are the primary reasons for sharing that particular story. Here’s what happened.
When I pulled up to one of my middle school stops on Friday, two of the three students were waiting in their place of safety, though I could see that the third child was easily a block away. After stopping, I gave the children a hand signal, indicating that it was safe for the students to cross the street to board the bus. When I did this, one of the students, knowing how far back her friend was, literally started taking baby steps across the street in an effort to allow her friend to catch up. I saw the child and had no intention of leaving without her. I may be cranky at times, but Crankshaft, I am not. I was touched by the gesture of kindness her friend was exhibiting. A similar incident occurred on my high school route earlier this year, when one of my students refused to board the bus if it meant he would be leaving his sister behind. When his sister arrived moments later, he boarded the bus, content that she was right behind him. Again, I was truly touched by his outward act of kindness and affection for his sister…yes, I said his sister. What a joy it was to witness these two separate, but similar acts of kindness.
The second part of this story is not based on any particular incident, but is instead, memory based. I got to thinking about being a student and my experience as a school bus rider. It brought back a myriad of thoughts, that ranged from my bus stop location, then quickly wandered to the individuals who caught the bus with me. One person instantly came to mind. In addition to sharing the same bus stop, this person and I were classmates, neighbors, and friends. His name was John Tobiason. When I think of John, it is his smile and laugh that I remember most. John was rarely without a smile and was eager to share a joke or participate in some antic that was sure to make you smile. If the antic itself did not make you smile, John’s infectious laugh most certainly would. Now, while I cannot see John taking baby steps to detain the bus from leaving without me, or refuse to get on the bus because I was not there. John was, after all, my neighbor not one my brothers, and ours was not THAT type of friendship). I could easily see John creating some other form of distraction that would both amuse and detain the driver long enough to achieve the same, baby stepping results. That, or he would hop on as quickly as possible, ask the driver to move it along, and watch and laugh as the bus pulled away with me running behind. HA! Though there were a number of other riders who would choose that option, including my very own darling brothers, shoot, back then, there may have even been a cash reward offered to the driver, so that exact scenario could be played out. John would not have been one of them. John would do anything for a laugh, but not at the expense of others. Memories of John, however, are bittersweet, since John was killed in the line of duty, November of 2007. He may be gone from this earth, but my memories of John are fond and enduring.
I find it peculiar how memories work. Some memories are so vivid, while others are quite vague and they have a tendency of washing over you without warning. Some may be brought on by an event, others while visiting a place, heck, some may even come about from a smell, a sound, or even a song. It is hard to determine when and why specific memories are triggered, but for whatever the reason, I am glad my memory brought me back to that time, that place and to that person.