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A Day in the Life

Reader blogs about sights, sounds and the joys of driving a school bus

School bus driver Robert P. Dean, Jr., submitted the following blog, indicating he finds driving a bus both challenging and interesting as well as keeping him young at heart.

The morning mist seeps through the damp chain link. It oozes itself sensuously around the tires and through the rims of the mighty slumbering beasts. The calm is upon the lot, the sun not yet risen nor the cock crowed. Dew runs off their roves and drips off their sides. This is the time of rest for the herd. It has been a time of slumber, all too short. Soon they realize things will change.

Then quiet footsteps in the grey dawn. The jingle of keys, the rattle of locks opening and chains falling. The creak and squeak of gates opening. The distant sound of voices. It is the gathering of those who know and control the mighty herd. The snippets of conversation as the courageous handlers make their way into the yard. “Did you hear about Joh?” And, “did you see the kids play last night,” or “how is the husband and wife doing?” Some with their coffee cups and some with their fruit or papers and some just quietly contemplating their day. The squeak of air doors being opened and valves being closed. Steps and the rattle of keys. Then it happens!

The whine of the first starter. The grumble of the first start and the cloud of smoke. Then more and more join in. You can hear the rumble of the great Blue Birds of happiness and the grumbling roar of the mighty Thomases’. If you listen closely, you might even hear the braying of an old Ford in the background. Mixed in with all the mighty rumbling is the lighter clatter of the miniature Thommies and Birdlets. With a flash of many lights and the trumpet of many air horns. The herd is awake.

Slowly they begin to move. Some will go to the pumps to feed and some to the back to have minor injuries fixed or adjustments made by those highly qualified in the maintenance of those noble steeds. Some will be begin their duties early and be gone in a cloud of burnt diesel. The herd is on the move.

Uphill and down dale, around the corners and through tight streets their fearless drivers guide them. During the morning the herd is dispersed and only meets for short periods at various points to discharge their precious cargo. After several hours of arduous labor, floors dirtied, seats stepped on and windows slathered with goo, most will return to the lot for a well deserved break. Others will travel on throughout the day, continuously flitting from place to place.

As the afternoon approaches the process begins again, only this time there is a difference. Now many of the herd travel together in long lines. Some are very protective of their place and squeak back and forth to protect that place. They travel to a central point to once again pick up their precious cargo. They then disperse like smoke in the wind to deliver their packages safely to their destinations.

As each completes its required rounds it makes it way back to the lot. They’re to be serviced, cleaned and bedded down to await the next day to begin all over again. The herd has gathered. Night drops likes a blanket, no stars nor moon to be seen. The fog has returned, the herd awaits a new dawn.

Robert Dean is a 12-year veteran bus driver for a school district in northeast Washington near the U.S.-Canada border. He was also flight engineer for over 20 years while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

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