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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Winter (the season) (08/13/09)

TITLE: Adventures in Bus Driving
By Robyn Burke


The alarm clock buzzes. In desperation, my hand searches through the darkness. Squinting my eyes, the lumpy forms in the bedroom take on identity. Husband. Cat. Bathrobe. Slippers. Yawning, stretching, I scuff my way down the stairs. O dark thirty is not my best time of the day.

The first sip of coffee is a holy thing. Reverently I bring the cup to my lips. I stand at the kitchen window, peering out, wondering what picturesque scene will be revealed upon daybreak. I look harder. The realization that we have snow brings a gasp of delight. It never fails to surprise me, even if it was predicted. Ignoring for the moment that I will soon be required to drive in it, I slip open the sliding glass door and let the sting of icy air greet me.

I live close enough to work to walk and this is serendipitous in snowy weather. It is the school bus I drive that will require careful maneuverings. The main roads will be wet and slushy. The narrow roads winding through housing developments are the trickier parts.

I drive for nearly 20 minutes through rural country side before I depart the highway and meander into the sub-division where my bus route truly begins. Weak light has barely penetrated the morning. The snow is coming down in earnest now, coating the roads with thick powder. White knuckled, I press on.

My students are charged with energy excited by the weather. Without taking my eyes off the road, I remind them numerous times to quiet down. The last stop on my route is at the corner market where I pick up six or seven passengers. I brake and assess my situation as they load the bus.

For I have now reached the crucible of my journey. The Hill. As in Down. As in Covered In Snow.

A small compact pulls out from the driveway to the right of me ready to descend. I watch in horror as the car immediately skids sideways, then fishtails to the main road, barely missing a truck preparing to turn up.

At that precise moment my bus phone rings. It is Sally, the bus garage secretary, calling for an update on weather in my location. I take this opportunity to fill her in on the challenge that lies before me, alerting her to the fact that I will be late as it looks like snow chains are warranted. She admonishes me to be careful and let them know if I need assistance.

Turning the bus engine off gets the children’s attention and I announce there will be a delay as I will need to put on snow chains. I speak calmly and with authority but in reality a knot has formed in my stomach. I know something no one else is aware of.

I have never put on snow chains in my life.

Of course I was taught this in bus driver training. But pretending to put on chains in a dry warm bus garage is a heck of a lot different than kneeling in snow and wrestling with chains while being ever mindful of my charges on the bus. I murmur a prayer.

One of my high schoolers comes to my rescue. Working together we get one side on. Before I can move to the other side, another student yells that my bus phone is ringing. I slip and slide my way back onto the bus, snatching up the phone breathlessly. My boss bellows instructions; the snow is coming down in full force, school is being called off, turn around and take my students home.

I look around my bus. It is empty. While I have struggled with the chains, my students have wandered over to the corner market! When I holler that school has been canceled they take off, shouting with celebration. They are gone before I can finish telling them that I need to drive them home. Even my helper has vanished. I sink down in my bus seat with a groan. This is not going to go over well with my boss. A tap on my bus door snaps me to attention. The smiling face of the store clerk greets me.

"Want some coffee Miss?”

"You bet!” I enthuse.

He asks if I take anything in it.

Whiskey I think. “Cream please.”

I think I will just sit and savor the unexpected treat before I continue my merry journey through this winter-wonderland.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Bryan Ridenour08/20/09
Fun entry. I enjoyed the bus driver's point of view. Nicely done!
Anita van der Elst08/20/09
When I finished reading this story & looked up I was amazed to be in sunny SoCal. That's how transported I was w/this story. VERY well written. School bus drivers are the truly unsung heroes!
Anita van der Elst08/27/09
And a great big YAY for you as well!!! Your EC is well deserved!
Anita van der Elst08/27/09
And you better be keep an eye out for that park ranger! CONGRATULATIONS on 2nd place! It is such a kick to share these accomplishments with you!!!