So every week day at 5:30 AM my alarm clock rings. I get up immediately. I am not a snooze button girl. I open my closet and I stare at its contents realizing, as I do every morning , that I do not have a bus driver wardrobe and my choices are very limited. I finally settle on something after considering the rain, puddles, mud, and bus grease in my life, and then I get ready. I have realized moisture in some form or another is part of life here in Oregon so my hair is almost always in a ponytail or a bun since moisture wreaks havoc on my hair that seems to think it is curly. I fix Natalie's lunch for school and I approve what she laid out to wear for the day. I also make sure there was nothing in her back pack I had to sign she likes to not tell me about those things. I make my sandwich and then fill a sandwich bag with grapes. Sometime in the middle of all of this I make sure Tatiana is up since I have to drop her off at her early morning church class. And then I stand at the counter and eat a bowl of my mothers granola while I stare into space.
We have to leave the house by 6:20 am. But Tatiana thinks 6:20 am means 6:28 am. Which is why I told her 6:20 :) The mornings have been dark. Which I love. We listen to Taylor Swifts new cd as we drive around the lake, down the curvy road by the dam, and into town. I like to listen to my music very loud and as we get into town and closer to the church where I drop Tatiana off she always tries to furtively turn the volume down. She says it embarrasses her. I am not sure how. But it does. She always scolds me as I try to turn it back up, saying, "Mom, I can hear every single word of the song perfectly when I get out of the car and shut the door." I smile at her and say a sheepish sorry and then I always turn it up loud again the minute she gets out and shuts the door. And she glares at me disapprovingly as I gleefully drive away. Yes, I am 46 :)
The school district transportation lot is about 3 minutes from where I drop her off. When I get there I can see all the lights of all the school buses flashing as the drivers are all checking their lights. It looks rather festive. I pull into the front parking lot and park my car. I grab my big huge awesome flashlight, which is one of my favorite possessions. I also grab my umbrella and the bag with my sandwich, grapes, and water in it. I have to make sure I have my wallet since it has my license in it and I have been known to forget it.
I have to walk a little ways to get to the transportation office. And all around me as I walk are school buses in various forms of getting ready to leave. Lights on. The sounds of air brakes being tested. Horns honking and backing up beeping sounds as everyone is getting ready. Once I get into the office I grab my keys out of this enormous cupboard with the numbers of all the buses and rows of little hooks. I put my employee number into the time clock and make sure I have no notes about my route in my box and then I head out to pre-trip my bus.
My bus is parked all the way at the front on the lot back out by where I had to park my car but I do not mind the walk. I shine my flashlight on my bus as I get close to check for any signs of vandalism or any flat tires. I get on the bus and drop my bag and then go back out to check all the tires. I grab a "thumper" which is a long metal....crowbar? We use them to thump our tires to check for inflation and to make sure the mud flaps are firmly attached. After checking all the tires with my flashlight and making sure I have touched all the lug nuts and axle nuts to make sure they are all secure then I get on the bus and start checking all the lights, fans, indicator lights, seats, and ,,,,yeah, basically everything. I let the air pressure in my brakes build up as I get out and check all the outside lights on the bus, my brights, hazards, and student lights. So it is a lot of in and out, and in and out. The air brake test is the last thing and my favorite part.....you turn everything off on the bus and release the parking brake and just sit for 60 seconds and listen for air leaks and make sure your psi's do not drop to fast. Then you sit another 60 seconds as you apply pressure to your service brake again listening. I just enjoy the silence for two minutes. I stare out the window and look for hints of the sun while I listen.
At about 7:05 am my bus aide arrives at the bus and she and I get ready to leave. Almost all the other buses are gone by this point so I can back my bus up into a completely empty parking lot which is glorious. And makes me contemplate the possibility of doing a doughnut in that empty parking lot for a short minute :) I drive a bus with 330,000 miles on it. It has a flat front and I love how it turns on a dime. This bus and I are peeps and I will miss it when I have to move on to another.
For the next few months I have been assigned to be a substitute driver on a special education bus route. So I do not pick up lots of kids. I pick up a few kids at lots of different times during the day and at lots of different places. Normal bus drivers pick up in the morning and drop off in the afternoon but special ed drivers are busy all day. I like being busy and being useful. On most days I am done driving at around 3:30 pm. I have a few hour long breaks during the day. I have to pre trip my bus whenever I have been parked in the parking lot for more than an hour but I find the routine of the pre trip very soothing.
The kids make me smile. Sometimes they have hard days and sometimes they have good days and they are so excited to tell us when they have a good day. They love to tell me where they live. They cheer when I back up :) Some walk slow to the bus, some run. Some beg me to avoid the bumpy roads others beg me to take the bumpy roads. One asked me today if I could drive the bus with my eyes closed. One likes to give me hugs. One begs to be able to shut the door. One always has to lift the emergency handle on the window and set off the alarm.
I love this driving gig. I get to go out in the country past lakes, covered bridges, dams, rivers, fir trees in abundance, and mountains. I also get to drive around in our small quaint town. I get to go over lots of train tracks. I get to drive past Weyerhauser and watch piles of logs go from log to lumber. The smell of fresh wood as I drive by is definitely a perk of my job. I get to wave to the same people every day. Funny how many people are walking or driving in the same place everyday...I had no idea. I also get to see sheep, horses, chickens, and cows everywhere I go.