As the school year comes to a close, I have to say that I love my son’s bus driver. In New York there is some law that if your child goes to school out-of-district your local government needs to provide transportation. Granted there is some restrictive distance for travel, I am not sure exactly what it is, but I think that it is similar to the fallout radius for the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant.
My son’s driver, Jack, was always on time and more importantly was always reachable by phone. The weather never slowed him down, nor did faulty equipment or even misbehaving passengers on his bus. He must have had some type of sensitivity training or was just able to rely on his years of experience to keep him and those around him mellow. His pleasant personality is the complete opposite of the bus driver that I remember most from my child hood–his name was Rudy.
Rudy was a crusty old Vietnam veteran who probably shouldn’t have been working with children in the first place. He always had a cigarette in his mouth and swore that the “No Smoking” sign on the bus was directed towards the passengers, not the driver. Rudy kept a keen eye in his rearview mirror waiting for the opportunity to catch some hapless child out of their seat so that he could quickly slam on the break. After his victim either fell or got bent over the seat in front of him Rudy would let out a gruff “Siddown."
If two kids were really going at it on the bus, Rudy had a patented move of quickly pulling up on the emergency brake, then, being more nimble than he appeared, would fly out of the captains chair, grab his sports section and quicker than you could blink good old Rudy would swat you in the back of the head with the newspaper, hard!
I quickly learned that the Monday paper rendered quite the thud, as it was full from all the weekend’s activities. To this day, whenever I hear the multi-click sound of an emergency brake being engaged, my neck descends into my body.
Not that I was so badly behaved, but when pushed to it, Rudy would crack and let out an operetta of four-letter expletives. The grandest punishment that he doled out was the dungeon. If things were getting a little too rambunctious on the bus, Rudy would just say two words, your name and dungeon. For example “Jack – Dungeon.” The dungeon was the area of the bus where there were three steps up from the accordion door.
I remember sitting in the dungeon and seeing the expression of surprise and disbelief on the faces of passing vehicle’s drivers when they would make eye contact with the long-faced child sitting down in the gum and bugger-lined pit!
I guess that in today’s litigious society, this type of behavior wouldn’t be tolerated for too long, and sadistic guys like Rudy are no longer driving the bus to school–they are teaching physical education!
Children are impressionable in so many ways, and today’s memories may last a lifetime. I hope that my son someday looks back and remembers Jack with his fine character and work ethic driving him from one side of Westchester to the other, without ever hearing a single four letter word.