THE ROOKIE

THE ROOKIE

THE ROOKIE

A new year, a new task, and at last something to get my teeth into. Those remaining that is !  Gainful employment was a part requirement but a challenge was perhaps more important than sitting in an
office sifting papers or at home watching TV. Like most things in life you don’t realise what’s totally
required until you try it and formulate your own opinions. So it is with driving the school bus !

Clearly I have a lot to learn but to date it has been a pleasant and enjoyable experience. Another 2
routes taking rally-cross notes as we hammer round and then driving D30,  known as the “Rat Bus”.
Week 1 has seen me driving D11, the “Horse”, D2, the “Panda” otherwise known as the “Polar
Express” as the heater never seems to bring the mobile igloo up to an acceptable temperature, and yesterday the “Rat Bus”. All the Dolores buses have a big sign in the side window with a picture so
the kids know which bus to climb on board. I still have runs on the Dinosaur, the Chicken, and the
Whale and one other I can’t remember, I’m told it is the Wolf.

In between the driving and note taking its over to Cortez for a few hours of training every day and I’m
working my way through a ton of videos before coming home for lunch and then out for the afternoon
run.

Tuesday was the “Panda” and it was a chilly -13 at the Bus barn when we cracked off. The forecast
high for the day was 10F  and the feels like -30 with a nice 10mph wind. Panda also takes the little
ones to Pre School after the main run and has a few car child’s seats and a couple of belts for the
other minis who can’t touch the floor when sitting on the seat. I have a totally deaf boy sitting next to
me and he is clearly distressed, cold and crying. He is well dressed for the cold but his woolen
gloves are wet maybe from snowballing? I dry them out for him and fit them correctly as he had them
on arse backwards with the thumb empty! Happiness is a warm pair of gloves that fit all fingers!

The Panda route is the only one I have been on to date where you don’t turn it round multiple times
on the trip which maybe is just as well as its a 78 seater !! On arrival at the main school all the other
drivers bring their mini charges over to the Panda and help them aboard as some can’t make it up the
first step which for them is about thigh high. With all the other buses gone the Panda then pops over
to Pre School and drops off the little ones, same procedure in the afternoon and then the other drivers
come and collect their snow bunnies for the homeward delivery.

All lined up for the afternoon run with two “minis” being escorted 

Wednesday and Thursday on the Rat Bus with me driving the second day and Larry the normal driver
riding shotgun. Friday is a non working day for Dolores and Cortez and Dolores also has MLK day off
on Monday along with Mancos. For reasons unknown Cortez is working so I’ll be learning a Cortez
route on Monday as the normal lady driver has some planned surgery coming up in the near future.
Tuesday and Wednesday I’m on the Rat Bus as Larry is away in Denver. A Whale of a morning on the
special needs bus on Thursday then over to Mancos to drive the Middle School basketball team to
Dolores and back. Well as the school is only 200 yards away I can bring the bus back to the RV park
and watch TV at home until I have to collect them.

I bring the Rat Bus to the first stop at the Brew Pub and Brenda takes in
the action 

The Rat Bus leaves town for the Boonies with 60 on board

Just finishing breakfast and thinking about going and getting more firewood when Wes, the Mancos
Director, rings to ask if I’m available for an activity run? This will be my first one so I eagerly accept.
Arrive in good time and find Joe, one of the other drivers also there. Seems the school wants two
buses for this outing which is a “rewards trip” for Middle School and we are taking about 100 of them
bowling in Cortez.

Our convoy arrives at the pick up point which is different for activities, I get a briefing on all the
additional paperwork and eventually children and teachers arrive. I now have to become the airline
hostie and brief them all on the emergency evacuation procedures while pointing out the exits etc.
1245 and off we go with Joe leading. We get split up a bit joining the main road and Joe is setting a
cracking pace but as I’m in Sharon’s bus I have a slight power advantage on the hills so without
exceeding speed limits I’m back in position with about half distance gone.

“…… and there are two more emergency exits through the side windows”

Bowling begins with a  variable feast of skill sets with some showing good technique and knocking
down pins a’plenty and the others hurling cannon balls underarm and overhead at the elusive white
objects. 90 mins later they are back on the buses, the head count is done, and off we go again back to school.  With students and their associated trash unloaded its back to the Bus Barn and give Sharon
back her bus and swop to Sara’s for the afternoon homeward run from the main school.

So at the end of 8 days of training and driving what have I learnt ? Well quite a lot !  It would seem
every schoolbus is different and they are all purpose or custom built, a bit like Harleys, and no two are
the same. They do, however, drive better than most Harleys and are certainly more comfortable.

Having fun and still learning.

TONY DOWN

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