I bet you all have been dying to know what a bus driver actually does all day. And trust me I have been dying to tell you. So get buckled....here we go... one day in my most exciting life as a school bus driver.
So every week day my alarm rings at 5 am. I turn on my little bedside light and I lay there for ten minutes and think about my day. Yes, I actually set my alarm for ten minutes earlier so I can do this. I think about what I am going to wear, you see my wardrobe is not really a bus driver wardrobe and I do not want it to be a bus driver wardrobe. I think about what I need to accomplish during the day....homework...shopping....appointments. I think about mean people. I think about nice people. I remember I have no control over either one :) Anyway, you get the idea....I love this time and often think I should bump it up to 15 minutes.....but that just feels excessive :)
I leave for work at 6 am. I drop my Tatiana at a friends house so that she can get to her early morning seminary class and then I head to work. I like to get there at about 6:18. There are basically two parking options at my work you can park in a front, paved parking lot which we share with the adjoining middle school or you can drive all the way back behind the transportation building. I parked in the front last year but this year my bus is one of the buses that is parked in the back lot so I park in the back. I love parking back there. The parking lot is covered with big gravel-y rocks. I drive all the way to the back and park the nose of my car against a chain link fence under a row of enormous trees. On the other side of the fence there is trees, underbrush, loud frogs, a river, and the train tracks.....which you can not see. I can hear the river flowing on by when I sit in my car and read a book. I love that part. It is a very peaceful spot and it is worth the trees dropping all sorts of seeds and leaves on my car to park there. When I arrive in the morning it is dark so I do not do any admiring of my surroundings when I get to work.
Before I leave my car I gather my wallet, my humongous flashlight, and my gloves and then I walk back across the gravel parking lot towards the transportation building. Some bus drivers are already pre tripping their buses and I find the blinking of lights and sounds of running buses strangely soothing.
When I get in to the office I check my box to see if there are any notes for me and I have to tell you I rarely get notes in my box. I am sure it is nothing personal and I tell myself it is probably a good thing. But that empty box sometimes takes up way too much space in my brain.
I get my yellow folder out of the cupboard. This folder has all my route information in it and is supposed to always be on my bus with me. Once I gather that I head for the time clock. I try to make sure to always clock in around 6:25 am.
Pre tripping your bus in the morning takes a good 15 minutes. I turn on my flashlight as I head back out to my bus and I head for this little yellow shed where I grab a tire iron that I use for my pre trip. I turn on my bus and first thing I do is crank all my heaters, defrosters, and mirror heaters. Then I start checking lights, all the seats, emergency exits, steering wheel, horn, amps and volts, and so much more. Then I grab my tire iron, flashlight, and gloves, and head outside. I go around the entire outside of the bus checking all my lights, turning every single lug nut and axle nut, checking tires for inflation. I like doing the outside part.When I get back in my bus it is time to check the air brakes. You have to follow a very specific procedure for this. Part of it is pumping all the air out of the brakes. You use your right leg and pump, and pump, and pump.....56 times on average (yeah, I count it takes my mind off of the misery :) until the low air light and warning buzzer come on and until the parking brake pops out. Every single time I do this I think my leg is going to die. Yeah, it's a workout. I wonder if it is a workout because I have short legs? It probably does not even faze bus drivers with long legs.
I have some paper work I do while I press on the gas pedal to raise the RPM's thus, building the air back up. And then at 6:43 I leave and head out on my route. For the first part of my route I head out on one side of the Cottage Grove Reservoir. I love, love this drive. The lake, the mountains, the trees, the rural. It is a pretty sweet ride. After I pick everyone up on my way out then I turn around and pick up the kids on the other side of the road on the way into town. I sort of like the gathering feeling that comes as I pick them up. Some run to catch me almost every morning. Some are patiently waiting. Some have very sweet views of the sunrise from their bus stop.
I have a cute little kindergartner that every morning gives me a hug and tells me her brother pushed her, or broke her stick at the bus stop. Her brother is in middle school and he quickly explains every time that she is just being dramatic :) And I am confident he is right. One day she was covered with mud because she fell. One day she tripped up my bus steps. She makes me smile every morning.
My morning route is as close to perfect that a school bus route could be. The kids are fairly quiet and still waking up. I stop at an elementary school, take a load to the high school, and then stop by another elementary school. I am back into transportation by about 8:15.
To get extra hours I wash buses. There, I said it. It will not get me any dates and there is probably no one in the world that can love a girl that washes buses but it is what I do to get extra hours. I have five buses I wash, so on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 8:15 until about 10:00 you can find me behind the transportation building in the bus washing area. One week I do the outside of the bus and the next week I do the inside. It is hard, grueling, hard, grueling work...did you get all that? I am not going to lie. For the outside of the bus I fill a bucket with soap and water and use a big, long brush. I spray the entire bus with water and then I scrub and rinse all the way around the bus. The winter time is the worst. The buses are black. But it is very rewarding work for about 3 hours until it gets dirty again. I bus wash no matter what the weather is. I think the bus washing gig is surely refining me :)
Washing the inside is my least favorite. It is a lot of work. I sweep the entire bus. Under every single seat. Then I wash every window. Then I wash the dash board, steering wheel, and all that sort of stuff. Then comes mopping the entire bus. I scrape gum if there is any. I have found pop tarts stuffed between seats. I have faced glitter. It is good times. The "trip" bus is one of the buses I wash and you can just imagine the inside of that one after a sporting team has been on it. I am grateful for the work so I am not going to complain besides I feel very on top of the world when I am done bus washing every day.
Once I am done with bus washing I get in my car and drive over to our church. I do my homework and reading over there while I eat my lunch. I have to be back, on most afternoons, by 1:45 to drive my afternoon route. So I use this time to do reading, blogging, errands, meetings, staring off into space, you name it.
In the afternoon you have to pre trip your bus again but this time instead of the air brakes being tested you have to open where the engine is and check your alternator, air compressor, all the fluids including the oil. And then you again check all your tires all your lug nuts, the wear on your tires. Then your brakes, shock absorbers,leaf springs, spring mounts, exhaust pipe, steering box, and tons more.
I leave at around 2:00 pm and go over to park my bus at the elementary school. When I am settled there I go into the office to check the notes for kids riding my bus. Just in case they forget to show me their note and I do not know they are getting dropped somewhere different that day. I also use this time to wander up and down the aisle of my bus staring at my post it notes with all their names on them trying to figure out a way to have the most perfect assigned seating plan. Yeah, that is a dream that will most likely never come true. Just when I think I have got a kid in a spot that he can not possibly cause any problems something happens to crush my dreams.
At about 2:25 pm they start pouring out of the school. It is a very small country school and I drive most of the kids in the school. My bus is completely full. Most seats have three kids in them. I take most of them to the middle school where they transfer to their other buses. It is a loud, fairly oblivious to rules, kind of bunch. I have tried many things to get control of them but I have to tell you I have almost decided that I have an amazing tolerance level and for the twenty minutes of my life that this takes I am going to leave it. Referrals have not worked...having a silent ride has not worked....assigned seats have not worked.....moving the problem children by me has not worked. I think it may be time to admit that they win.
Like I said most of them get off of my bus at the middle school and then I get my middle schoolers. Then we all head over to the high school and get the high schoolers and then I run my route. It is a good route. I get to go back out around the lake. I head back to transportation at about 4:10 pm depending on if my last kids which live way out are taking the bus or not.
Some days are different. Like when the transmission in my bus falls apart and they have to bring me a new bus. Or when I get to drive a trip. Or when a train is blocking the tracks. I love driving trips but I am low on the seniority list so trips do not happen much for me. Wednesdays everything in the afternoon is an hour earlier. So there are some variations but not many. I do love watching the sun come up and admiring the views. And the funny things some of these kids say. For over $16.00 and hour it's not a bad gig while I am going to school trying to figure out what to be when I grow up.