Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Clocking out

Today I turned in my lovely Yellowhound and finished another year of school bus driving. In fact, it was my 25th year of doing this. Strange as it may be, last year was my 25th as well. I was informed in March that they had miscalculated my tenure and had mistakenly given me an extra year along the way. What's crazy about this is that I was presented a watch to honor my 25th year last June and guess what...I got another watch today to honor my 25th year.

It's been quite a year. Until this year, my route always stayed in the neighborhoods and didn't venture out onto the freeways. Of course, most years I simply picked up kids who were going to the school where I taught. But this year, I had a new route that took me to far parts of southwest Dallas, loading up with girls going to Rangel, DISD's all-girl school. I drove 84 miles every day, with 90% of the driving on interstate highways during rush hour. As of today, I had accumulated over 15,000 miles of driving this school year. And, the best thing is that every mile was a safe one. I never can forget that I'm carrying around somebody else's dearly-loved kids. I do a lot of praying about this responsibility.

By far the craziest day occurred in April. I had made my first pickup and was approaching a red light at Loop 12 and Marvin D. Love Fwy. We could see an ambulance up ahead and knew something was going on. I stopped at the light and saw that there had been a chain-reaction accident involving 5 or 6 cars. That's bad but that wasn't the story. On a little, grassy traffic island to our right was a guy who was either "mental" or high on something. He was a bull of a fellow, about 6 ft. and 230 lbs. He was wearing only trousers...and seemed to want to attack the folks who had been involved in this accident. Wisely, they were all in there cars, locked up, and staring wide-eyed at this wild man.

Keeping a lid on this volatile situation was an even larger guy, probably 6'5", 260 lbs. He was a mountain of a fellow and all involved were certainly glad he was there, except for, of course, the bull-man. Here is where the story gets extremely bizarre. Somehow, the larger brute had tied a thick, yellow rope around the ankle of the smaller guy. And every time the crazy man charged toward the autos, the bigger man would jerk the rope, sending the bull-man face-down onto the grass. The smaller fella would angrily get to his feet and go after the bigger man, but to no avail. He simply couldn't out-muscle the guy. Then he'd charge the cars again and again have his left foot jerked up in the air and again he would pancake on the ground. The ambulance was parked by the little island and the paramedics were leaning against the vehicle, wanting nothing to do with either of these men. I'm sure they had requested police back-up. Of course, everyone watching, from the paramedics to the folks in their cars to kids on my bus, had all kinds of questions. Who were these guys? Were they involved in the accident? What was the problem with the, uh, crazy guy? And for pete's sake, how did he come to have a large yellow rope around his ankle? Had the bigger man put it there as sort of a leash to control the smaller guy?Unfortunately...very unfortunately, the light turned green. The final act in the drama seen by my stunned-speechless students was the mental-man charging the bus with both hands raised in the air. He got about three steps headed our way when he was summarily flipped again.!! Pulling away from this scene was going to leave more unanswered questions than the end of an "All My Children" episode. But I had no choice. I rolled away, much to the consternation of the girls.

We pass that intersection every morning, and often, one of the kids will start talking about the day we saw a guy on a leash try to attack folks. It was both funny and a bit scary, and definitely sad. One can only hope that the poor guy is getting some help, regardless of what his problem was. Maybe some day soon, I can tell you about the morning (years ago) when the momma of one of my male riders drove off with him draped across the hood of the car. What a great job this is!

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