THE RAT AND THE HORSE
One of the fundamentals of travelling is having an itinerary and of course being on time to catch your flight/train/bus etc. Thats all fine and seasoned commuters become blase about platforms, gates and
docks and their daily journies become routine. Not quite the same when you are 4 years old!
Yesterday was one of those days and I suppose could have easily degenerated into a parent’s worst nightmare. Little Michael leaves home at some ungodly hour and makes his way to the bus stop with
his elder sister and Mummy driving. At 0723 the yellow bus comes in sight and pulls up at the stop.
The doors open and Michael and sister are now onboard “The Rat”, and the bus rumbles onwards to
school. Being a pre schooler he has to sit up front with all the other little people and some that are in Santa’s “naughty box”. At the main school all the passengers get off in their assigned order and when
the last batch have gone a walk through is conducted for sleeping bunnies and then the pre schoolers
are taken off and walked over to Rodney on the “Panda” who will ferry them all over to Pre School as
the last part of his run.
In the evening it is a reverse operation with Rodney and the Panda collecting all the little ones from
pre school and bringing them round to the main school. On arrival all the other drivers walk over and
collect their respective charges and walk them back to their route buses for homeward delivery. As a
driver you have no way of knowing what transpired at school during the day of whether the parents are
self transporting their offspring. As an example the other day when I had a 2 day stint on the Panda I
delivered 11 in the morning and only picked up 5 in the evening.
Now as I have mentioned before all the school buses have a drawing in the side window by the door
so that all the other children can see which bus they are getting on in the evening as we may be lined
up in any order. For pre schoolers this is not a problem as they are escorted so they may not even
think about it. Of course some of the older children may bound onto the bus and see you as a relief
driver and may ask if it’s a chicken, dinosaur or a horse ?
For whatever reason yesterday afternoon there were 4 relief drivers or Subs on the afternoon run. I’m
driving the Horse for boss lady Lena and its a spare bus with no retarder, no auto snow chains and
manual transmission……. and its snowing like hell and the roads are slick. The Rat bus also has a
Sub driving. Young Michael takes a run at me at the Panda bus and off we go. Easy now with 20/20
hindsight, I had obviously seen the little boy on one of my many routes in the last couple of weeks
and I assumed as Rodney gave him to me that he was a Horse Bus passenger.
About half way into the route I come up to the stop where I am expecting to drop him and he tells me
its NOT his stop………. I ask the other kids where he gets off and after several blank stares one says
he doesn’t travel on this bus!………. WHOOPS !
Armed with this new piece of the jig saw we go through the bus animals and his face lights up when I
ask him if he should be on the RAT BUS ?………. I can then remember him and by now on his correct
route he would be 30 minutes overdue at his stop……. and the question has to be asked “what was
his sister thinking?” Fortunately we have 2 way radios to base and the stowaways presence is soon
reported and phone calls are made to find his parents. Despite Michael being a very chatty little fellow
he doesn’t know his second name but I can remember his stop so we are getting closer. It does strike the “Rookie Driver” that perhaps pre schoolers should have some ID tag so that we know who they are
even if they don’t!
Michael rides the Horse bus all the way around the full route back to the Bus Barn and isn’t phased by
any of it, never cries, never whines and even rushes round the bus when we finally stop collecting
trash and even moving the empty sign back in its position. A delighted father picks up small boy none
the worse for his experience and another happy ending is in the books.