This year, represented the first year that I had been issued a brand new bus at the beginning of this school year. It was the first “new bus” I have had the privilege of driving in my 14 years with the Centerville school district and my 17 year driving career. So a pretty big deal for this veteran driver…exciting stuff, for sure. My brand new bus, is a , 2017 International, 71 passenger CE series with a cummins engine. Shiny, and bright, with that new bus smell…ooh…what a thrill…and quiet…oohlala NICE!
A little over a week ago, my bus had to go in for some warranty work, due to a check warning light that kept coming on….Grrr. This seemed to be a trend for that particular group of busses purchased at the beginning of the school year.
I removed my personal belongings and said goodbye to my new friend…bus 120. As is typical, a spare bus was issued as a replacement until 120 made its way back from the shop. I found myself on the second oldest bus in the entire fleet, bus#98. 98 is a 2004 Vision BlueBird. I have to admit, for an old bus, it drove surprisingly well and I actually really liked the mirror set up better than my prized International. Can you believe it…I still have not named my new ride….GASP! Hmm…maybe this wouldn’t be as dreadful as I had anticipated it was going to be.
I always get a kick our of my kids reaction to the new equipment and I was not disappointed in their reaction to our replacement bus this time either. I received the typical responses, like…This bus smells bad and this bus is old and dirty, the seats are close together and the steps are narrow. I did have one student that actually thought the seat cushions were more comfortable in the old bus. I believe the term he used was the cushions were squishier. I think one of my favorite responses to bus 98 was from one of my fourth grade girls, Lila. The second morning as Lila was boarding the bus, she had this to say about our new ride.
“Do you know what the bus looks like to me?” Lila asked.
“No, what does the bus look like to you, Lila?” I replied
“It looks like a caveman.” She said.
“A caveman, how so?” I questioned.
“Well, you know…a caveman’s chin sticks out, kind of like how the front of the bus sticks out.” She said.
While I may not have entirely grasped her visual connection to a caveman, I just love the originality of her creative imagery. To Lila, bus 98 looked like a caveman with a protruding jawline, so who was I to challenge her creative vision. Sometimes I am in awe of the creative perspective of my students. They tend to have unique interesting viewpoints and objectivity, that occasionally border on the obscure.
The weekend came and went and Monday was upon us. I received a note from my supervisor indicating that I would still be driving bus 98 until the return of my beloved 120, which I was missing more and more with each passing day. Had it really only been three days?
I went out to bus 98, turned the key and the engine grumbled…whir…whir…whir…whi…whi…whi…wi…….then…nothing…not even a grumble. Perfect! And now the song, Manic Monday, is running through my mind and playing on a loop in my brain. What a way to start my Monday morning! So I radioed into the garage and they told me to take bus 97 instead. So, I grabbed my belongings and headed for bus 97, basically, it was 98’s twin. Whew! It started! That was a good start. I proceeded to pre-trip the bus, things were humming along, until…I tried to move the seat. It wouldn’t move. I was feeling a bit reluctant to call the garage again, and feeling even more reluctant to ask one of our mechanics for help with a seat latch! Reluctant or not, that seat was not moving, and with where the seat was set, there was no way I was going to be able to drive that bus. The seat was set for the Jolly Green Giant and I am…well, I am…Jolly Green Giant’s sidekick, Little Sprout. Like it or not, help was definitely what I needed. Since one of our mechanics just happened to be hooking up bus 98 to a battery charger, I engaged his help to go about helping me move the seat latch. A part of me was glad when the mechanic had no luck adjusting the seat latch, but that also meant, that I was now in need of yet another bus. I found myself once again on the radio in search of a bus…any bus…at this point, I would have taken the Fred Flintstone bus. It was now past my normal departure and I hadn’t even found a roadworthy bus…yikes! I radioed into base and was instructed to head to bus 50.
Now, bus 50, was a newer spare, so I was reasonably certain that the third time would be the charm and sure enough, it was. The bus started right up, I completed my pre trip and I was on my way only twelve minutes past my scheduled departure time…not too hateful. Bus 50 even had a radio…BONUS!
Once I finish my elementary run, I have about a ten minute layover before I begin picking up my middle school children. I pulled into a parking lot, and turned off the bus. It is after all, longer than a five minute break. Anytime we are sitting idle, for longer than five minutes, we are supposed to turn the bus off. This is an effort to limit emissions and engine run time. So, I turned the engine off and do whatever needs done in that short period of time. I decided to start the bus up a few minutes earlier, since it was cold out that morning. I turned the key and nothing….not even a grumble or a whir…just nothing. Was this morning for real? Could this possibly be happening? Oh, it was happening, all right. Manic Monday…or was it Rainy Days and Mondays this time…who knows, I may have even mashed the two songs into Rainy Manic Mondays.
So, for the third time…or was it the fourth…Geez…I’ve lost track…anyway, I found myself calling the garage for assistance. It went a bit like this.
“120 to base.” We use our regular bus route number even when we are on a spare, so base knows which drive they are speaking with.
“Go ahead to base.” They replied
“Umm…bus 50 won’t start, do you have any suggestions?” I asked.
“Jiggle the gear shift.” Was the response I heard on the other end.
I didn’t even bother replying though I’m sure they could imagine the puzzled reply based on my lack of response.
Jiggle the gear shift?…Umm…really?
Well, it worked! Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles…that was a miracle too. (Oh, I do hope these have been some good ear worms for you!) Oh, what a morning, with an afternoon that had its own set of challenges, though not of the mechanical variety.
I’m going to fast forward to today, Thursday. One week and one day since 120 went bye bye for repairs. Suprisingly the remainder of the week went off without a single mechanical hitch on bus 98, once the battery had been charged. I came home for lunch and just before I was ready to leave for work, I received the greatest text from my boss. Bus 120 is back and ready to take for your PM route. WOOHOO! This made my whole day, and I told him as much.
In my excitement to get back on bus 120, I neglected to pick up the keys…oops. The long walk back to base to retrieve the keys and the return journey, just didn’t matter. I had my bus back. I picked up my kids and their joy almost matched my own. One of my middle school kids stopped just short of the bus, spread his arms wide and yelled…My bus is back!
Yes, Yes it is, and I hope it’s back for good!