Tag Archives: Pupil Transportation

Unliked, But Respected (a repost)

It’s going to be a busy day, today, so I was scrolling through the past and came across this post from 2017. I thought it would be good to repost it. Why? Because it shows how one person can make a difference in his/her community. It shows how just one person can affect even the direction of the government, if only temporarily.

You may feel like you are a nobody, but God made you a “somebody,” and all it takes is somebody to make a difference. And in the process, even if it doesn’t make people like you, it will earn you some respect.


A Bad Law

Not long ago a tragedy occurred in my town of Chattanooga, a tragedy that was felt across the nation, even around the world. Back in November of last year (2016) a school bus transporting children from Woodmore Elementary School crashed, ultimately being nearly cut in half by a tree, resulting in many injuries and 6 deaths.

Almost immediately people familiar with the story, and especially the affected families and friends within the Woodmore community, began calling out for seat belts on school buses. Actually, it was at Erlanger Hospital, where many of the wounded children were taken, that I heard grieving parents scream in anger, “That bus driver was wearing a seat belt, and he’s still alive! Why did he get to wear a seat belt and my baby didn’t?!!” When I heard those words I knew what was coming.

It wasn’t long before Tennessee State House Representative JoAnne Favors (D) of the 29th District put forth a bill that would require all school buses in the state to have seatbelts. The argument was that if the children from Woodmore had been wearing seatbelts, many would not have been hurt, and some may not have died. “How many more children have to die,” they would ask, “until we make seatbelts mandatory?”

The problem, however, was that the only ones arguing for requiring seatbelts on all school buses were those who never drove a school bus or had to deal with all that takes place on one. When bus drivers were given the opportunity over social media to express their opinion, the overwhelming consensus was that seatbelts on a school bus was a bad, bad idea.

I  Had to Act

The bill calling for requiring seatbelts on buses began to work its way through committee after committee, and it began to appear there was no stopping it. As a school bus driver I desperately wanted to state my case in front of one of these committees in Nashville, but how could I? Every time they had a meeting where the public could voice their opinions, we bus drivers were actually on the job. About the only thing I could do was resort to social media.

Early on, way back in December of 2016, I posted to Facebook a short video giving reasons why the seatbelt bill would be a bad law. That video got a little response, but nothing came of it.

Then, on April 28, on WRCB (Channel 3) I saw David Karnes interview Rep. JoAnne Favors and the attorney for the Woodmore families, C. Mark Warren. What they said ticked me off so much I had to do something right then, so I went directly to Facebook Live and recorded the following rant 😉

Click on the screenshot from my phone to watch the video.

The above Facebook Live video was quickly shared among the bus-driving community, and several suggested that I do more, even take off work and go to Nashville. The overwhelming proof that bus drivers do not want belts, and why, became evident in the thousands of views and hundreds of comments which continue to accumulate.

Taking It to the News Media

It is now the evening of May 5th, and David Karnes has yet to return my requests to counter Rep. Favors’ claims on his April 28th television program. Needless to say, especially with the urging of others, I made calls to other news stations in our area, expressing my belief that bus drivers were not getting a fair deal – we were not being able to share our side of this issue… and WE were the ones who were going to have to deal with the results of its implementation!

At first, I called the newsroom of WDEF (Channel 12). The gentleman I spoke with there assured me that nothing would come of Favor’s bill, so there was no need for me to share my thoughts. Well, then… la ti da.

Then, undeterred, I called WTVC (Channel 9). The lady I spoke with, unlike the gentleman at Channel 12, thought what I was saying sounded worth investigating. She told me that what I was saying was definitely interesting, and with the programming director listening in she informed me that a reporter would get back with me on Monday. She asked, “Would you have any problem talking on camera?”

“Heck, no!” I replied. “I’d be happy to talk on camera!” I mean, what kind of question was that? I then referred her to my Facebook page.

Monday came around, but no one called; I figured nothing would come of my call. Then on Tuesday morning, the very day on which another vote was to take place in another committee in Nashville, a reporter called me and set up an interview.

From around 10:30 to 11:30a.m. I sat in front of a TV camera and cameraman, a reporter, and a program director. For a whole hour, I was given the chance to respond to some very pointed questions and give my thoughts on the whole seatbelt issue.

The rest of the morning and afternoon, even until the evening, I felt sick. What worried me was the fact that I was an employee of the company that had been sued over the deaths and injuries resulting from the Woodmore crash. Going back to November of last year we had been instructed to avoid interviews with the media. But this was different, for I was acting as nothing more than a bus driver in Tennessee who was concerned about a possible bad law. I didn’t know how the news media would edit my interview, and all I could think of was how much trouble I could be in on Wednesday.

However, I wasn’t fired! The following video will show that the resulting editing was not only fair but quite favorable to my position.

The Point of This Post

Wednesday morning I went into work, not knowing what to expect. What I got were “high fives” and multiple joking requests for my autograph. After a few humorous requests, I held up the sign-in sheet where all drivers are to sign their names each morning and said, “Now that I’m famous, all of these sign-in sheets will be worth money, so don’t throw them away.” Ha!

Then, as I was standing there, an older woman, a driver of a special needs school bus (a small bus), walked up to me and began to talk.

“Mr. Baker, I need to tell you something.”

“OK,” I said. Now, keep in mind I had never, not once, spoken with this woman ever before.

“This is me…” she pointed to herself, “…so this is me talking…”

“OK,” was my response, again.

“You know,” she began, “I have never really cared very much for you…”

What was I supposed to say? How was I supposed to respond? Like I said, I had never even spoken with this lady, so what had I done to offend her? Anyway, she continued…

“But I want you to know that I respect what you did…what you said on TV. What you did was courageous, and what you said on our behalf as drivers is very much appreciated.”

Well, now! I got smacked in the face and complimented all at the same time!

Then, in regard to my concern that the management of the company could fire me for being interviewed on television, she matter-of-factly assured me, “And if those people in the office have a problem with what you’ve done, then I will go down there with you and tell them to their face they can kiss your a**, and my a**, too!”

With raised eyebrows and a nod of my head, all I could say in response was, “”Well, uh, thanks…I appreciate it.”

When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him. – Proverbs 16:7

All I could think about was how that when we stand up for what is right, even those who hate us may find some reason to respect us. That was the only way I could explain why this older woman who “never really cared much” for me would put her own “a**” on the line.

The Aftermath

Believe it or not, JoAnne Favors pulled the bill! CLICK HERE for the story.

Did my actions have anything to do with it? Honestly, I’d like to think so.

This afternoon, the lady who I mentioned earlier stopped by my car window as I was leaving work. She asked, “So, are you proud of yourself?”

“Well, to be honest,” I began, “I’d like to think I had a part in what happened.”

“I’m sure you did,” she said.

So, yeah, it feels good to have accomplished something…maybe. But it feels better to be respected, 

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Wednesday Workday Words

Training

As you folks probably already know, I’m a school bus driver. But in case you missed it, I am also a school bus driver trainer (BTW). So, on a regular school day I drive my usual route in the morning and evening, but train new drivers in the middle (3-4 hours).

Part of the training, as you can imagine, is getting out on the road and driving. I don’t drive; I sit behind and beside the trainee, of course, coaching as necessary. The fun part is when I take trainees on demanding and dangerous roads.

The challenging task I selected for today was going up and down a curvy mountain road… and it was as enjoyable as expected.

What Kind of Instructor?

As we were going up the curvy, mountain road, and as the new driver was beginning to get comfortable with the long wheelbase of the bus, he edged the right front tire across the line…right where the road was damaged…right next to the edge…right next to a few-hundred-foot drop!

Thankfully, the school bus trainee was also an experienced truck driver, so he didn’t over-correct by jerking the steering wheel (a mistake which actually contributed to the infamous “Woodmore” crash here in Chattanooga).

Nevertheless, I was calm, cool, and composed. That is when I said the following words…

“If you do that again I guess I’ll become a flight instructor.”

Praise the Lord, we made it back down to the valley without needing wings 🙂

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An Official Goodbye to an Era

Time for a Change

As you know, I have been driving a school bus for a while. Much of that time was spent in an area where I used to live and pastor, Lookout Valley, TN (just in sight of Lookout Mountain).

For several years (actually, since 2009) I was what we call a “park out” driver. That means that I was able, because I had the space, and because of the closeness to the schools I served, to keep my bus at home. That was extremely convenient in that all I had to do to go to work was walk out my front door.

But now that I no longer pastor in Lookout Valley, nor do I live there, it is no longer convenient to drive a bus route in that area. It makes much more sense to drive a school bus route closer to where I will now be living (in that parsonage I recently showed you) 30 miles away.

Now, there are no guarantees I will be able to secure a route in the area to which I am moving – that is still a matter of prayer. However, as with the last route I had, the fact remains the same: I want to be a fixture in the community in which I pastor. If it’s God’s will, He will provide the route I need.

It happened before, you know.

If it be the Lord’s will, next school year (2017-2018) I will secure a route on a special needs bus (a small bus) that I can park in the new church’s parking lot. However, that remains to be seen. This summer I will be working as a driver trainer, but I will be keeping my eyes open for whatever opportunities are out there.

In the meantime, I thought I would share with you some photos that tell a little about the era that is passing, the era of Bus 374.

A History In Pictures

When I first started driving for Durham School Services in Hamilton County (the Chattanooga, TN area), I was a “sub” driver. In other words, I didn’t have my own route, a particular route with an assigned bus, that I drove every day. What I did the first couple of years was fill in and drive whatever route needed me, wherever that route happened to go.

As a matter of fact, when I started driving a school bus in Kentucky back in 2001, that is all I ever did – work as a substitute driver. Some of the experiences I had while doing that, especially the part including tennis balls, is detailed in my book. However, I unfortunately don’t have any pictures of my early days driving a bus – I wish I did.

My first route after being a sub-driver was bus 369. I drove the 369 route for a year or so, then went on to drive bus 374. If I’m not mistaken, bus 369 started out as a conventional-style bus (with a long nose) and later changed to a front-engine transit (flat front) …it might have been the other way around, but I can’t remember.

All total I had four different models of buses during my time as driver of #374. At one point I drove a 2007 Thomas transit. Later I drove a conventional-style (long nose) Thomas with a Mercedes engine (my favorite bus out of all of them). After that I went back to a Thomas transit, but a more modern 2011 model. Lastly, I finally ended up with a 2013 International transit with AIR CONDITIONING!

My first ride as bus 374. A front-engined transit with no air – and it could reach 120 degrees around the driver’s seat in August!

 

The conventional-style Thomas (with the cool Mercedes engine) parked behind the church, the place where I parked all the time during the week.

 

The next generation of #374. This pic shows an ultra-rare instance of when we in Tennessee actually had to pick up kids in the snow!

 

A side view of the final incarnation of #374, the unwashed, rear-engined (called a “pusher”) 2013 International. Notice the additional cargo bays underneath.

 

Over the years I’ve seen a lot of things while driving a bus (and some of that is also detailed in my book) But there are two places on 374’s route that I will miss seeing on a regular basis.

The first is a little pond and the view of it from a little hill on Shanty Lake Road. The view varied with the change of seasons and the angle of the sun. Incidentally, the children on my bus hated it whenever another driver drove instead of me – I was always better at going over that hill without scaring the kids 😉

A view of the pond on Shanty Lake Road from inside my bus on the last day of school (the bus was stopped).

 

The very same view as above, but as the sun is coming up in January. God is a beautiful artist, isn’t He?

 

The other view that I will miss is the one seen driving back into Lookout Valley over Cummings Highway across the side of Lookout Mountain. I wrote about this in my book and six years ago in another blog, Ebs and Flows (you should check it out).

Looking down towards Lookout Valley and the Tennessee River from the Cummings Highway bridge – yes, a bridge.

 

Over the years I’ve also met a few adults while driving in Lookout Valley, not just a lot children (of all ages). There were a few teachers with which became friends, but it was the other bus drivers that helped make getting up in the morning a little easier.

Taken a couple of years ago, here we see Chris (370), Joseph (369), and me at McDonald’s.

 

Myself and Paul Mashburn (the contract driver of #49). Mr. Mashburn drove my wife on band trips in 1985! And she said he still looks the same!

 

The last day of school this year we went to Cracker Barrel. Here is Chris (370), a driver from New Orleans, Jean (369), and myself…I should have tucked in my shirt.

 

The following are just a couple of pictures I wanted to throw in for good measure. The first is me on a day when I wore a wig to keep my head warm – why wear a hat when you can be different?

The second picture is of our little dog, Nugget. Nugget went missing in August of last year, and we miss him terribly. This photo was taken on the day after we first got him. I was driving bus 369 at the time, and I didn’t want to leave him home alone, so I took him with me that day 🙂

A wig can both keep you warm and give you attitude.

 

Baby Nugget on the school bus.

 

On the last day of school I pulled up in front of Lookout Valley Middle and High School, along with the other buses there to pick up what kids actually came that day (I had none). Only four or five buses were ever needed to service this small school, so the afternoon lineup became a traditional time to shoot the breeze for a few minutes before the doors burst open.

My final lineup at Lookout Valley Middle/High.

 

And as you may have seen from other blog posts of mine, Bobble Head Phil always rode on my dash (secured with double-sided tape) and stared at the kids behind me. One time a little girl said, “Mr. Baker, make him stop looking at me!” I replied, “Why? What are you doing?”

Phil has left the building (or bus, rather).

 

I don’t know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future. God willing, Phil and I will drive another bus – a smaller bus – in the area closer to our new place of ministry. But for now, goodbye Lookout Valley and bus 374…we will always remember you.

In the meantime, keep me in your prayers – I’ve got new drivers to train! 

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Unliked, But Respected

A Bad Law

Not long ago a tragedy occured in my town of Chattanooga, a tragedy that was felt across the nation, even around the world. Back in November of last year (2016) a school bus transporting children from Woodmore Elementery School crashed, ultimately being nearly cut in half by a tree, resulting in many injuries and 6 deaths.

Almost immediately people familiar with the story, and especially the affected families and friends within the Woodmore community, began calling out for seat belts on school buses. Actually, it was at Erlanger Hospital, where many of the wounded children were taken, that I heard grieving parents scream in anger, “That bus driver was wearing a seat belt, and he’s still alive! Why did he get to wear a seat belt and my baby didn’t?!!” When I heard those words I knew what was coming.

It wasn’t long before Tennessee State House Representative JoAnne Favors (D) of the 29th District put forth a bill that would require all school buses in the state to have seatbelts. The argument was that if the children from Woodmore had been wearing seatbelts, many would not have been hurt, and some may not have died. “How many more children have to die,” they would ask, “until we make seatbelts manditory?”

The problem, however, was that the only ones arguing for requiring seatbelts on all school buses were those who never drove a school bus or had to deal with all that takes place on one. When bus drivers were given the opportunity over social media to express their opinion, the overwhelming consensus was that seatbelts on a school bus was a bad, bad idea.

I  Had to Act

The bill calling for requiring seatbelts on buses began to work its way through committee after committee, and it began to appear there was no stopping it. As a school bus drive I desperately wanted to state my case in front of one of these committees in Nashville, but how could I? Every time they had a meeting where the public could voice their opinions, we bus drivers were actually on the job. About the only thing I could do was resort to social media.

Early on, way back in December of 2016, I posted to Facebook a short video giving reasons why the seatbelt bill would be a bad law. That video got a little response, but nothing came of it.

Then, on April 28, on WRCB (Channel 3) I saw David Karnes interview Rep. JoAnne Favors and the attorney for the Woodmore families, C. Mark Warren. What they said ticked me off so much I had to do something right then, so I went directly to Facebook Live and recorded the following rant 😉

Click on the screen shot from my phone to watch the video.

The above Facebook Live video was quickly shared among the bus-driving community, and several suggested that I do more, even take off work and go to Nashville. The overwhelming proof that bus drivers do not want belts, and why, became evident in the thousands of views and hundreds of comments which continue to accumulate.

Taking It to the News Media

It is now the evening of May 5th, and David Karnes has yet to return my requests to counter Rep. Favors’ claims on his April 28th television program. Needless to say, especially with the urging of others, I made calls to other news stations in our area, expressing my belief that bus drivers were not getting a fair deal – we were not being able to share our side of this issue… and WE were the ones who were going to have to deal with the results of its implimentation!

At first I called the news room of WDEF (Channel 12). The gentleman I spoke with there assured me that nothing would come of Favor’s bill, so there was no need for me to share my thoughts. Well, then… la ti da.

Then, undeterred, I called WTVC (Channel 9). The lady I spoke with, unlike the gentleman at Channel 12, thought what I was saying sounded worth investigating. She told me that what I was saying was definitely interesting, and with the programming director listening in she informed me that a reporter would get back with me on Monday. She asked, “Would you have any problem talking on camera?”

“Heck, no!” I replied. “I’d be happy to talk on camera!” I mean, what kind of question was that? I then referred her to my Facebook page.

Monday came around, but no one called; I figured nothing would come of my call. Then on Tuesday morning, the very day on which another vote was to take place in another committee in Nashville, a reporter called me and set up an interview.

From around 10:30 to 11:30a.m. I sat in front of a TV camera and camera man, a reporter, and a program director. For a whole hour I was given the chance to respond to some very pointed questions and give my thoughts on the whole seatbelt issue.

The rest of the morning and afternoon, even until the evening, I felt sick. What worried me was the fact that I was a employee of the company that had been sued over the deaths and injuries resulting from the Woodmore crash. Going back to November of last year we had been instructed to avoid interviews with the media. But this was different, for I was acting as nothing more than a bus driver in Tennessee who was concerned about a possible bad law. I didn’t know how the news media would edit my interview, and all I could think of was how much trouble I could be in on Wednesday.

However, I wasn’t fired! The following video will show that the resulting editing was not only fair, but quite favorable to my position.

The Point of This Post

Wednesday morning I went in to work, not knowing what to expect. What I got were “high fives” and multiple joking requests for my autograph. After a few humorous requests I held up the sign-in sheet where all drivers are to sign their names each morning and said, “Now that I’m famous, all of these sign-in sheets will be worth money, so don’t throw them away.” Ha!

Then, as I was standing there, an older woman, a driver of a special needs school bus (a small bus), walked up to me and began to talk.

“Mr. Baker, I need to tell you something.”

“OK,” I said. Now, keep in mind I had never, not once, spoken with this woman ever before.

“This is me…” she pointed to herself, “…so this is me talking…”

“OK,” was my response, again.

“You know,” she began, “I have never really cared very much for you…”

What was I supposed to say? How was I supposed to respond? Like I said, I had never even spoken with this lady, so what had I done to offend her? Anyway, she continued…

“But I want you to know that I respect what you did…what you said on TV. What you did was courageous, and what you said on our behalf as drivers is very much appreciated.”

Well, now! I got smacked in the face and complimented all at the same time!

Then, in regard to my concern that the management of the company could fire me for being interviewed on television, she matter-of-factly assured me, “And if those people in the office have a problem with what you’ve done, then I will go down there with you and tell them to their face they can kiss your a**, and my a**, too!”

With raised eyebrows and a nod of my head all I could say in response was, “”Well, uh, thanks…I appreciate it.”

When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him. – Proverbs 16:7

All I could think about was how that when we stand up for what is right, even those who hate us may find some reason to respect us. That was the only way I could explain why this older woman who “never really cared much” for me would put her own “a**” on the line.

The Aftermath

Believe it or not, JoAnne Favors pulled the bill! CLICK HERE for the story.

Did my actions have anything to do with it? Honestly, I’d like to think so.

This afternoon, the lady who I mentioned earlier stopped by my car window as I was leaving work. She asked, “So, are you proud of yourself?”

“Well, to be honest,” I began, “I’d like to think I had a part in what happened.”

“I’m sure you did,” she said.

So, yeah, it feels good to have accomplished something…maybe. But it feels better to be respected, 

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Fairness Straws

Complaining Children

It may have never crossed your mind, but it’s pretty common to have complaining children on a school bus. Really? Yeah, really.

But every once in a while this fortunate driver is blessed with a child or two who has no concept of social skills, much less an understanding of what is or isn’t fair. Therefore, should anything at all not go their way, the usual response is a river of tears, an emotional breakdown, and the inevitable attempts to make deals.

Honestly, these kids will drain all the energy from you. Had we not already had three children, I would have been the one in the marriage to claim a headache, even on the honeymoon.

First One Off

This week, the big argument with my ever-complaining, ever-competing, socially-challenged, inconsolable brother-and-sister tag-team was who would be the first one to get off the bus when they arrived at their stop. Dear Lord! Help me! Why??

“Can I get off first, Mr. Baker?” came the first request. Then, from a panicky sibling, “Can I get off first, Mr. Baker? Please!” Back and forth, pleading like people about to face the death penalty, the brother and sister would argue their cases.

At one point they started playing “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” but they ended up finding ways to cheat. Then they tried a game of “Quiet Mouse,” but who were they kidding? Nothing they tried helped them decide who would get off the bus first, especially when the loser of any game they played wanted a do-over.

Finally, I came up with an idea.

Straws

These are the actual straws I used.

At first I thought about the whole “short straw” thing, but then I decided to modify it for the occasion. Since a total of four elementary children would be getting off at the last stop, I took four drinking straws, grabbed a Sharpie, and marked on each one.

I said, “I have four straws, and each of you are going to pull one out of my hand. If you pull out the one with only one mark on it, then you can get off the bus first.”

“Can I have that straw,” asked the little girl?

No!” I replied. “That wouldn’t be fair, now would it? You have to pick it from my hand.”

The little brain surgeon never missed a beat, “Well, can I pick that one, then?”

Life Isn’t Fair, Or Is It?

So, as you might have guessed, once it got down to actually drawing straws with marks, nobody got the straw they wanted, except the kid who drew the straw with one mark – and that kid didn’t really care!

Picture, if you would, a little boy flopping around in the seat, kicking, and bellowing out through snot and tears, “But my sister CAN’T go in front of me! It’s not FAIR!”

After having all I could take I looked in my rear-view mirror and said, “You know what? Life isn’t fair! You don’t always get what you want!”

Then something profound hit me: “What if life IS fair, but it’s just that we are selfish and don’t want to accept the results of the straws?”

Learn to be Content

If there was anyone in history who could have claimed that life wasn’t fair, it was the Apostle Paul. I mean, good grief, this man had everything in the world happen to him! He was beaten, shipwrecked, imprisoned, starved, and a whole bunch of other things – all for trying to do what was right. Was that fair?

But what did Paul have to say about all the things he endured?

“…I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances.” Philippians 4:11b (NIV)

Maybe if we were a little more like Paul, having the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5), drawing the wrong straw might not matter as much. Maybe we could better accept our position in line and wish the best for others going before? Maybe we could see the sovereignty of the Master Marker of Straws at work and learn to be content?

Maybe more of us should just be happy we were allowed on the bus in the first place! 

 

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