Tag Archives: School bus

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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Filed under General Observations, Humor, Life Lessons

First Day, Old Lesson

Today is the first day of school in Chattanooga, so back to the school bus I go. Therefore, in honor of all those who get behind the wheel of the big yellow machines, the following is a short adaptation from my little book, Life Lessons from the School Bus.


Crazy Obstacles

Back when I first trained to drive a school bus, all drivers were required to complete an obstacle course. I don’t know what they do these days, but one obstacle that I had to overcome it worth remembering – the tennis ball row.

The obstacle course was tough enough, but one test that we had to go through seemed totally off the wall. It was the last test, the last trial, the last obstacle of the day. All one had to do was drive a school bus across a parking lot, but without touching any tennis balls. What’s the catch?

The right side of the bus, front tire and rear tires, was to go between two rows of tennis balls, the spacing of which only left 2 inches of clearance. In other words, you only had at most 2 inches on either side of the widest part of the back tires. Touch a tennis ball and you have to start over. Go over the tennis balls – you fail.

Really, I could see how this exercise taught precision driving skills, but what was the point. When on earth was I supposed to encounter a bunch of yellow balls on the highway? Little did I know, a day would come when I would see first-hand the purpose for this lesson.

The Real Test

A few months into my driving career, I was asked to fill in on a route in the county. The route I was put on took me way out into farm country…tobacco country. After picking up a few kids, my directions led me down a gravel road, way out amidst acres of Kentucky no-man’s land. It wasn’t too long until I came upon a creek. The only way to get across the creek was to drive my 15 ton bus over a homemade, log and plank bridge.

You have GOT to be kidding me!” was the first words out of my mouth.

“No, this is the way we always go,” said the boy noticing the terror in my face.

Trembling in my driver’s seat, my muscles hardly willing to obey my brain’s idiotic commands, I slowly began my crossing. Middle of the way through, as the bus was slightly rocking back and forth, I could see that my tires were barely on the wooden planks that lay across the logs. Then it hit me – “That’s why they had us drive through those tennis balls!

The next thought that came into my mind was, “If they had told me what they were training me for, I would have found another job.”

Life Lesson

The reason for the lesson may not be obvious until the need for application.

“Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.  But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” -James 1:3-4

Sometimes we are called by God to go through tests and trials which we don’t understand. What we need to realize is that God knows what is ahead of us, what bridges we may have to cross.

Let Him do what He must to train you for the road ahead. You may be the one responsible for carrying someone over to the other side.

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Filed under Life Lessons, Parenting, wisdom

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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“The Worst Field Trip Guide”

Since our spring break in Chattanooga is just about over, I thought I’d share a chapter (Stop #15) from my little book, Life Lessons from the School Bus.

One day I transported 80 kindergartners on a field trip to a mountain forest. Do you have any idea how loud 80 excited 5 year-olds can get when confined in a 40ft.-long steel box on wheels?

Teacher Talk

I couldn’t help overhear the advice school teachers were giving to the little crumb crunchers on the bus, then later after they unloaded. One warned, “Don’t pick anything up from the ground; you won’t be able to keep it, anyway.” Another said, “Don’t bounce on the swinging bridge; just look over the side.” Seriously? How can you tell a 5 year-old not to jump on a swinging bridge and then expect him not to jump on the swinging bridge?

SIDE NOTE: I remember when our oldest daughter, Alicia, who was around 12 or 13 at the time, went with me to visit the old capital building in Frankfort, Kentucky. In that old landmark is a genuine floating staircase on which Alicia decided to jump up and down. I asked, “What are you doing?” She calmly replied, “Trying to see if it will fall.” I said, “Two things…First, it’s been here since 1827 and hasn’t fallen, yet you think your scrawny self is going to break it? Second, why would you want to be on it if you could make it fall?”

Anyway… the best piece of advice from the teachers was clear enough: “Do NOT get off the trail!” But again, honestly, how many kids actually listen to instructions that make sense? I mean, you take a child that’s never been out of the suburbs to a forest with plants taller than their apartment buildings and you expect them not to run amuck? Therefore, I decided to speak up and add some clarification to the teachers’ warning. I said, “Because if you get off the trail, we might have to send the DOGS after you.”

Who knew one little girl was afraid of dogs? I didn’t! …Cry baby.

Bad Advice

So, that got me to thinking: what would be the worst advice to give 80 children before a trip into the woods?

  • photo 3 (4)Don’t worry about your lunch box; the forest is full of pretty berries.
  • As long as the animal is smaller than you, go ahead and pet it. It won’t mind.
  • Hey, bounce on the swinging bridge! It’s just like a trampoline.
  • Of course! Rules are meant to be broken.
  • Bears? What bears? This is Tennessee, kid. We don’t have bears. You’re thinking of Chicago.
  • I don’t care what your mom said, poison oak is a hoax. Don’t your parents have oak furniture? Does it make you itch? See, she lied.
  • Who can get closest to the edge? Let’s find out.
  • Whatever you do, don’t stay on the trail. Trails are for babies.
  • Snakes are overrated, misunderstood jump ropes. They want you to play with them.

 

Life Lesson

Thankfully, when it comes to the wilderness of life, there is One who always gives good advice.

In his famous Psalm 23, David wrote, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” God urges us to stay on the path that He has already walked, which is why Jesus said in Matthew 4:19, “Follow me.”

He knows the difference between good fruit and the forbidden kind.

Route Suggestions

  • Don’t give vague instructions to children; they need specifics.
  • Go check out the old capital building in Frankfort, Kentucky – but don’t jump on the staircase.
  • Never get to the point where you are too proud to listen to instructions or advice. For example, you may have been down this road before, but your tour guide has been down it more recently. There may have been some changes of which you are unaware, like a washed out bridge or recently released bears. Oh my!
  • Read Psalm 23. Was David walking alone? How could this Psalm relate to your life?

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Filed under Humor, Life Lessons

Reflections In the Dark

Driving

It may come as somewhat of a surprise, but I do enjoy driving a school bus in the rain. As a matter of fact, I enjoy driving it in the rain AND in the dark, at least on occasion.

For example, there is something sort of comforting in being able to sit there in the dry and looking out at bad weather. There’s a kind of coziness to it.

You know how relaxing it is to listen to the rain on a tin roof? Well, a bus can be that way, too. And when it’s dark, cold, and rainy outside in the mornings, the kids are usually quiet, also. The drone of the engine, the wipers swishing, and the hiss-like roar of water on the road – when you’re comfortable and dry – makes one appreciate caffeine.

Dangers

But even though I may like some aspects of driving in the early morning, there are certainly dangers of which to be aware. Besides the other drivers and the slick roads, there are a lot of false signals – reflections – that can be very distracting.

img_3105Take a look at the picture I took while sitting in a parking lot between morning routes (this is where I stop to get a cup of coffee with 2 other drivers). Notice that I am looking to my left at a mirror, but what you see in the mirror is the building to my right, which is being reflected onto the glass in front of the mirror.

Imagine what it is like when you are coming to an intersection and there are multiple lanes of automobiles, traffic lights, wet roads, etc.!

The Lesson

The reason I wanted to share this with you is because there is a lesson to be learned – and it’s not one included in my book 😉

Sometimes, when times are dark, when there are rainy days, distractions can cause us to be overwhelmed and lose our focus. Sometimes dark reflections of the past can cause us to see things that aren’t really there; we even get startled by oncoming illusions.

Focus on what is true and pray for discernment. There’s work to be done, no matter the weather.

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Don’t Call Me a Hallomeany

The following was originally published in October of 2012.

Not a Hallomeany

I am not a big Halloween guy. I don’t get in to the dressing up, and all that. For that matter, I don’t really celebrate the holiday.

However, I am not a total Hallomeany. I am not the Halloween version of Scrooge. For example, when a little girl asked what I thought of her costume, I didn’t say, “You look more like a prostitot than a princess.” I said, “You look very nice!”

When the little boys come around dressed like monsters, I always shiver like I am scared. When they dress like superheroes, I ask if they can fly. And when they look like a cat, dog, or freakazoid satanic mutt from the pits of hell, I say, “Wow! Do you have fleas, too?”

Wiggin’ Out

So, even though I don’t really celebrate Halloween, I try to keep the kids on the bus from thinking I am a “legalist.” What do I do? I wear a wig. This time I wore an Afro.

One little girl told me she was Little Red Riding Hood. I told her I was Big Black Afro Hood.

But the funny thing about all of this is the reaction of the elementary kids. It really made me wonder what bus they have been riding the last three months.

The Kids: (at least 1,000 times) “Mr. Baker, is that your real hair?”

Me: “Yes. It is. I was bald yesterday, but I put fertilizer on my head and my hair grew overnight.”

The Kids: “No it’s not…I bet it is a wig…that’s not your hair…let me touch it…I bet it’s a wig.”

Me:  “Of course it’s my real hair.”

The Kids:  “Is that really your real hair? You’re wearing a wig…I just know it.”

Me: (I got upset with some children who wouldn’t stay in their seats, so I got serious and took off the wig.)

A Little Girl (that has ridden the bus for 3 months): “Aaaahhhh (gasping, then giggling as she whispers to another child), Mr. Baker’s BALD!

Me:  “You THINK?! Where have you been? Did you not see me yesterday? Are you blind?”

You’ve Known Me How Long?

After telling the above story a few times, it seemed God wanted to tell me something.

I kept thinking of a conversation Jesus has with Phillip in John 14:8-9. Phillip asked, “Show us the Father.” That’s when Jesus replied in the same way I did to the little girl, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me?”

That got me to wondering. How long have I known Jesus? And how many times do I act like I haven’t even been paying attention to His presence? How many times have I been surprised by an answered prayer? How many times have I doubted, only to find Him faithful?

“You’ve known Me how long?” Long enough to know better.

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Filed under Christian Maturity, God, Humor, Life Lessons

“The Worst Field Trip Guide”

Since it’s the last full week of school (only 2 days next week), I thought I’d share a chapter (Stop #15) from my little book, “Life Lessons from the School Bus.”

One day I transported 80 kindergarteners on a field trip to a mountain forest. Do you have any idea how loud 80 excited 5 year-olds can get when confined in a 40ft.-long steel box on wheels?

Teacher Talk

I couldn’t help overhear the advice school teachers were giving to the little crumb crunchers on the bus, then later after they unloaded. One warned, “Don’t pick anything up from the ground; you won’t be able to keep it, anyway.” Another said, “Don’t bounce on the swinging bridge; just look over the side.” Seriously? How can you tell a 5 year-old not to jump on a swinging bridge and then expect him not to jump on the swinging bridge?

SIDE NOTE: I remember when our oldest daughter, Alicia, who was around 12 or 13 at the time, went with me to visit the old capital building in Frankfort, Kentucky. In that old landmark is a genuine floating staircase on which Alicia decided to jump up and down. I asked, “What are you doing?” She calmly replied, “Trying to see if it will fall.” I said, “Two things…First, it’s been here since 1827 and hasn’t fallen, yet you think your scrawny self is going to break it? Second, why would you want to be on it if you could make it fall?”

Anyway… the best piece of advice from the teachers was clear enough: “Do NOT get off the trail!” But again, honestly, how many kids actually listen to instructions that make sense? I mean, you take a child that’s never been out of the suburbs to a forest with plants taller than their apartment buildings and you expect them not to run amuck? Therefore, I decided to speak up and add some clarification to the teachers’ warning. I said, “Because if you get off the trail, we might have to send the DOGS after you.”

Who knew one little girl was afraid of dogs? I didn’t! …Cry baby.

Bad Advice

So, that got me to thinking: what would be the worst advice to give 80 children before a trip into the woods?

  • photo 3 (4)Don’t worry about your lunch box; the forest is full of pretty berries.
  • As long as the animal is smaller than you, go ahead and pet it. It won’t mind.
  • Hey, bounce on the swinging bridge! It’s just like a trampoline.
  • Of course! Rules are meant to be broken.
  • Bears? What bears? This is Tennessee, kid. We don’t have bears. You’re thinking of Chicago.
  • I don’t care what your mom said, poison oak is a hoax. Don’t your parents have oak furniture? Does it make you itch? See, she lied.
  • Who can get closest to the edge? Let’s find out.
  • Whatever you do, don’t stay on the trail. Trails are for babies.
  • Snakes are overrated, misunderstood jump ropes. They want you to play with them.

 

Life Lesson

Thankfully, when it comes to the wilderness of life, there is One who always gives good advice.

In his famous Psalm 23, David wrote, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” God urges us to stay on the path that He has already walked, which is why Jesus said in Matthew 4:19, “Follow me.”

He knows the difference between good fruit and the forbidden kind.

Route Suggestions

  • Don’t give vague instructions to children; they need specifics.
  • Go check out the old capital building in Frankfort, Kentucky – but don’t jump on the staircase.
  • Never get to the point where you are too proud to listen to instructions or advice. For example, you may have been down this road before, but your tour guide has been down it more recently. There may have been some changes of which you are unaware, like a washed out bridge or recently released bears. Oh my!
  • Read Psalm 23. Was David walking alone? How could this Psalm relate to your life?

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