Tag Archives: school bus driver

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 ūüėČ

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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Filed under community, current events, Life Lessons, politics, self-worth

Thursday Thoughts (Right or Left?)

You know, I was just thinking (which is what Thursday is about)…it’s been a while since I’ve shared in “wisdom from the school bus.” Therefore, I will share a story I’ve shared before, but one you’ve probably forgotten. Driving down a previously traveled road can be a good thing; you see things you missed the first time.

“Which Way?”

Every school bus driver is a hero, but substitute bus drivers (“sub drivers”) are in a class by themselves. I should know….I¬†was¬†one.

Sub Drivers Rule!

Unlike a driver that has a regular route, a “sub” is driver that drives different routes every day. Whenever a driver gets sick, lays out, or gets fired for doing something stupid, the substitute driver has to drive that route. Most of the time, the call comes without any warning…or sunlight.

However, one of the problems that a substitute driver faces is figuring out where to go. Imagine being put in a vehicle with 70 children just out of class, wanting to go home. Imagine you are in a part of town you’ve never been in before. Imagine that you have no instructions or directions, but must depend on the kids (Heaven help us) to get you where you need to go. Been there…done that…literally¬†got the t-shirt.

Now, try to¬†imagine that the very ones that are trying to tell you where to turn don’t¬†EVEN¬†know their rights from their lefts! It happened to me…..surely it did!

“I’m NOT Stupid”

I will never forget pulling up to an intersection and being forced to decide which way to go. I asked the kids on the bus, “Which way?

Go right.” a young ¬†boy says. Yet, just when I started to make the turn, the following conversation took place:

Kid 1: ¬†NOOO! Go RIGHT! You’re going the wrong way!

Me: ¬† ¬† Wait, you said “Go right,” so that what I was doing.

Kid 1: ¬†No you weren’t…you’re going left…I said “go right.”

Me:     I DID go right!

Kid 1:  No, you went left.

Kid 2: ¬†You¬†did¬†tell the bus driver to go¬†right, man, and that’s what he did.

Kid 1: ¬†No he didn’t! He went left!

Kid 2: Dude, you must not know your right from your left.

Kid 1:  Shut up! Yes I DO!!

Me: ¬† ¬† (To Kid 1) Ok, let’s get this straight. Which is right, and which is left? Hold up your¬†right¬†hand.

Kid 1:  (Holds up his left hand)

Me:     Hold up your left hand.

Kid 1: ¬†(Holds up his right) See, I¬†told¬†you. I’m NOT stupid!

Life Lesson

There is a right way, and there is a wrong way. The right way may be the left way; but if the facts are not right, somebody’s gonna get left. I know I’m right on this one (enough with the puns). ¬†As a matter of fact, there is a verse in the Bible that seems to talk about the same thing.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. –¬†Pro 14:12¬†(NIV)

Whatever road you’re on, make sure of two things:

  1. The direction you are going
  2. That your source of determining right and wrong (or right and left) is reliable.

You don’t want to go the wrong way for an eternity, do you?

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Filed under Christian Living, General Observations, places, wisdom

Thursday Thoughts (Doctrines & Brandy)

Greetings, friends, family, and followers (including the freakily-weird ones)! It is another Thursday, so time to share some random-like thoughts.

  • Subscribers and Followers. Is it just me, or is it strange when you have people “following” your blog, but they are absolutely nothing like, they’re not even from the same planet, as you? OMC (Oh my cupcake)!¬†Some of my subscribers are hookers, Satanists, self-proclaimed aliens in bodily form, atheist (they’re more normal, actually), and visual artists who leave nothing to the imagination. I even have a few Democrats lingering in the shadows. Strange, isn’t it?
  • Essential Doctrines. Today I was asked by someone, “Can you tell me what you consider to be the essential doctrines of the faith?” I began by listing off the top few that came to mind, such as the Trinity, salvation by grace through faith, the divinity of Christ, etc. But then it became clear that the easiest thing to do was to start listing the doctrines/teachings that were not essential, especially the ones that typically divide the body of Christ. There are certainly doctrines that are essential, but there are so many more that are not. The problem is determining which is which.
  • Field Trip Disappointment. Today I drove a group of teenagers from Belvoir Christian Academy (a Lutheran school) on a field trip to the Hunter Museum of Art in Chattanooga. I thought I was going to be able to go in with the little kiddies, but I had to stay with the bus or get a parking ticket (not fair). So, after the cold, wintery disappointment got hold, I left the bus anyway and walked across the street to my favorite coffee and pastry shop, Rembrandt’s. Even though I didn’t get to tour the museum, a Russian tea cookie, a chocolate-covered brandied cherry, and a cup of locally-roasted coffee made me feel much better.

    photo 1

    Rembrandt’s

  • Brandied Cherries. If you ever happen to be walking through downtown Chattanooga, please stop by my favorite coffee shop. Not only do they roast their own beans, but they craft their own gourmet candies. And it is because of this I must warn you of something: when they say “brandied cherry,” they’re not talking about artificial flavoring. Biting into one of those, especially if you are a teetotaler, will get your attention real quick.
  • Legalism. No, I’m not going to go to hell, nor will I lose any eternal reward, because I ate a chocolate-covered brandied cherry.

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Filed under Alcohol, Food, legalism

Old Wisdom on New Bus

It was over a year ago that I did a series of posts entitled “Lessons from the School Bus.” Now that a new school year is here, and because I have a “new” bus for my route, I thought it would be fun to re-visit an old post.

This is my “new” 374 sitting behind our church in front of my study. After I took the picture I realized it is in a handicap parking place. But don’t worry, I don’t park it there on church service days.

(The following post was first published as “Lessons from the School Bus #2”)

“Which Way?”

Every school bus driver is a hero, but Sub Drivers are in a class by themselves. I should know….I was one.

Sub Drivers Rule!

Unlike a driver that has a regular route, a “sub” is driver that drives different routes every day. Whenever a driver gets sick, lays out, or gets fired for doing something stupid, the substitute driver has to drive that route. Most of the time, the call comes without any warning…or sunlight.

However, one of the problems that a sub driver faces is figuring out where to go. Imagine being put in a vehicle with 70 children just out of class, wanting to go home. Imagine you are in a part of town you’ve never been in before. Imagine that you have no instructions or directions, but must depend on the kids (Heaven help us) to get you where you need to go. Been there…done that…literally¬†got the t-shirt.

Now, try to¬†imagine that the very ones that are trying to tell you where to turn don’t¬†EVEN¬†know their rights from their lefts! It happened to me…..surely it did!

“I’m NOT Stupid”

I will never forget pulling up to an intersection and being forced to decide which way to go. I ask, “Which way?” The response comes back, “Go right.” So, that’s what I proceeded to do, when, I swear, the conversation went something like this:

Kid 1: ¬†NOOO! Go RIGHT! You’re going the wrong way!

Me: ¬† ¬† Wait, you said “Go right,” so that what I was doing.

Kid 1: ¬†No you weren’t…you’re going left…I said “go right.”

Me:     I DID go right!

Kid 1:  No, you went left.

Kid 2: ¬†You¬†did¬†tell the bus driver to go¬†right, man, and that’s what he did.

Kid 1: ¬†No he didn’t! He went left!

Kid 2: Dude, you must not know your right from your left.

Kid 1:  Shut up! Yes I DO!!

Me: ¬† ¬† (To Kid 1) Ok, let’s get this straight. Which is right, and which is left? Hold up your¬†right¬†hand.

Kid 1:  (Holds up his left hand)

Me:     Hold up your left hand.

Kid 1: ¬†(Holds up his right) See, I¬†told¬†you. I’m NOT stupid!

Life Lesson

There is a right way, and there is a wrong way. The right way may be the left way; but if the facts are not right, somebody’s gonna get left. I know I’m right on this one. ¬†As a matter of fact, there is a verse in the Bible that seems to talk about the same thing.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. –¬†Pro 14:12¬†(NIV)

Make sure of two things: 1) the direction you are going; and 2) that your source of determining right and wrong (or right and left) is reliable. You don’t want to go the wrong way for an eternity, do you?

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