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(Apologies to “Weird Al” Yankovic for the title to this week’s column!)

People often ask me where I get the ideas for my columns. The simple fact is that I look at life all around me and often will find the germ of an idea from one sentence I hear uttered. Case in point is this week. Jayna mentioned liking the idea of being the first group picked up by the bus for a softball tournament because then she would get one of the “good” seats in the back of the bus.

I’m not sure there is such a thing as a “good” seat on a school bus. However, I remember thinking the same way growing up. Kids always seem eager to be one of the oldest on the bus so they can sit in those coveted rear seats. It always seemed that the absolute coolest kid got that short seat in the very back that could fit only one bottom. (I never got that seat.)

Anton, too, was telling me about some things that happened on the bus this past week. He rides over to New Richland after school most days to hang out with me until I’m done with work. It’s quite the craziness he gets to see with a bus full of kids excited to be done with another day of enforced labor at the salt mines. He told me about the bus driver having to chew out some kids when they reached their destination since they couldn’t stick to BIS (butts in seats).

Mr. Cyr used to tell me to get my bus driver license so I could haul my own sports teams to events. I knew better than that, though. If I walked that path, I’d get calls to cover routes and other really fun activities. Even today, I’ll hear the occasional nudge to think about doing that. No way! Bus drivers perform such a vital function, but are too often underappreciated. You don’t often hear about great bus drivers, but you always hear about ones kids don’t like.

I had one of each growing up. We lived a few miles out in the country, so I hopped on the bus every morning to see Maynard, an older gentleman who seemed like he didn’t care much about anything except getting there and back again. When I was in elementary school, some of the older boys stole my winter hat and played keep away. I went and told Maynard, who assured me they’d give it back. As we got closer to my drop-off point, I frantically told him again that I needed my hat, to no avail. When we reached my school, the boys tossed my hat out the window. Maynard noted that I could now get my hat.

Maynard was so oblivious that he once hit a fire engine… on its way to a fire. Since you can’t leave the scene of an accident, that particular fire truck never made it to its destination. Nobody was hurt, but when you’re in early elementary school and stuck on a bus for an hour as the police investigate and question people, it can be pretty traumatic.

After Maynard retired, we had Greg take over. Greg was one of those awesome bus drivers who would lay down the law when needed, but also treated you like a person. I was in trouble once for messing around with some other kids, but after a week of being stuck in the front seat, I had certainly learned my lesson.

Greg was lenient when it suited him. One of my favorite memories was the great catfight I saw while I was in middle school. Two high school girls, clearly not enamored with each other, got to arguing one day in the rearmost seats. I was about five rows up and whirled around when I heard their voices rise in pitch. Just in time too, as they hurled themselves at each other and began the hair pulling. But it didn’t stop there! One of the girls threw the other back into the seat, then reached down and tore up the seat behind her, intending to use it for bodily harm.

It was finally at this point that Greg decided to stop the bus. I had been sneaking glances toward the front and saw that he very well knew what was going on, but was enjoying the show. However, when the bus had been damaged, it was time to step in. I’m still amazed at the feat of strength it must have taken to rip up that seat!

Riding the bus as a coach or teacher is not my favorite part of the job, but I tolerate it and often muse on those long-gone days when riding the bus was an adventure every day!

Word of the Week: This week’s word is shilpit, which means feeble or worthless, as in, “I felt rather shilpit as the older boys laughed while bullying me on the bus.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!

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