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Catching the early bus

A few weeks ago, I wrote what I thought was a good story. McDuffie Mirror Publisher Jason Smith said it was good, but would be even better with a different perspective. I nodded in agreement until he got to the part about the perspective coming from my own personal experience. As reality sank in, my blood pressure climbed up. The story topic was school buses, (look for it in next week's edition), and Jason thought I should ride one.

Now, I never get up early - not even for a day-after-Thanksgiving sale. And if I do, I certainly don't carry on a conversation, so I wasn't looking forward to 40 children's conversations at once. (As it turns out, I didn't have to listen to 40 - the bus I rode carried 78 children that morning.)

As Jason and my cohort, Billy Hobbs, enjoyed a good laugh over my assignment, I called McDuffie School Transportation Supervisor Butch Blount and asked to ride a bus. Not only could I ride, but Mr. Blount said he needed a driver. Now, everyone in The Mirror office enjoyed a good laugh. (Mr. Blount was joking, by the way).

So, I got up early, drove to the bus barn and boarded a bus. I don't know what I expected, but it was definitely €¦ an experience. If God ever calls me to be a school bus driver, I won't argue with Him, but it will take a miracle for me to survive.

The buses are long - 35-40 feet - and packed with 66-84 children. Each bus has one driver who must keep his or her eyes on the road, the traffic, the children on the bus, the children on the side of the road and on the weather (see story) all at the same time. The children don't stay in their seats and the other drivers don't stay in their lanes. These other drivers dart around the bus or pull out in front of it.

And they complain.

Mr. Blount said he receives numerous calls from car drivers complaining they see a bus with children standing in the aisle. I couldn't help but wonder what the complainer expects the driver to do - get up from behind the steering wheel in the middle of the road to go make the children sit down? Then the caller would complain that the bus driver was standing in the aisle. I'm sure the caller is concerned for the welfare of the children, as is the driver.

Next time, instead of complaining, volunteer to be a monitor on the bus. If that's not your style, at least be a courteous driver and stop to let buses exit side streets. It'll help keep the children safe and the driver sane. And then I can sleep late and won't have to ride the bus for a story.

Web posted on Thursday, March 12, 2009

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