Tag Archives: School bus

Don’t Call Me a Hallomeany

The following was originally published in October of 2012 – when I still drove a school bus.

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 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 celebrate Halloween, I try to keep the kids on the bus from thinking I am a “legalist” about it. What do I do? I wear a wig.

This time I wore an Afro (a.k.a, Bob Ross w/attitude).

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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Memory Lane In a School Bus

I would encourage you to pick up a copy of my book Life Lessons from the School Bus. There you can find some of the stories posted earlier today, plus a lot more (really, there’s a lot more content).

However, being this is my last day as a school bus driver (going to pastor full-time in Georgia), I now want to share some of my favorite photos from my bus-driving years, including some from today. I only wish I’d thought to take more when I first started doing this back in 2001.

I know this will be as boring as a vacation slide show, but maybe you’ll find some of the pics amusing.

Listen to the song, first 😁The School Bus Man Can

The man. The Legend.

I first started driving for Durham in Chattanooga in August of ’07. However, I started driving a school bus in August of 2001 in Christian County, KY. I don’t have any pictures from those days.

One of my favorite pictures taken by my daughter, Katie. This should have been the cover of my book.

Driving at night in the rain can be dangerous, especially with all the reflections. Notice the reflection of the gas station all the way across the parking lot to my right – reflected in the window, NOT the mirror to my left!

I officially drove a total of 3 routes during my 10 years with Durham School Services. First, I drove 370 for two days. Then I drove 369 for a couple of years. Finally, I drove 374 until the time I had shoulder surgery and left. However, 374 went through 4 different bus models during that time. This one had a Mercedes engine.

Hey, it was St. Patrick’s Day! Give me a break!

The bus. The Legend.

There were times that I had plenty of time on field trips to study for a sermon. But that’s what it’s like when one is bi-vocational – you study when you can.

One day when my bus sprang a coolant leak. This was the view from the passenger’s seat of a BIG tow truck. At least it had air conditioning 🙂

Literally, this was the closest thing I ever came to an accident that was my fault. No damage, just stuck. I got complacent turning into my own driveway and wasn’t paying attention. The student doors were so close to the ground that they wouldn’t open.

The only way to get in and out of the bus was through the side emergency exit with a step stool! LOL

If you haven’t bought one, you should 🙂

Book signing at Barnes & Noble.

My book at Barnes & Noble – in the comedy section!

“Bobble Head” Phil rode with me for years. He usually sat facing the kids (which some didn’t like).

Phil stuck with me through thick and thin, even waving down traffic when I was broken down.

Former drivers Chris (370), Joseph (369), and me at McDonalds. We always stopped either their or Hardee’s for coffee and biscuits in between our morning routes.

The last day of school (I forget what 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.

Driving a bus in the snow in Tennessee is more rare than a total solar eclipse or hen’s teeth. But it actually happened to me at least twice in 10 years.

 

This is where I would pull the bus into the driveway of the parsonage of Riverside Baptist in order to wash it. That was my old Cadillac, “The Ride.”

On the first day we got nugget I took him for a ride on my bus – with kids on the bus (this was when I was driving 369).

Our little dog, Nugget, would love to run out and meet me in the mornings after parking my bus.

Stress relief 🙂

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?

My final lineup at Lookout Valley Middle/High.

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

I was giving myself a thumbs up, but the driver I was training nearly took me off the side of a mountain that very same day!

Hot day on the lot as a driver trainer. All day on the asphalt in between my own routes.

My last day (in December 2017) before shoulder surgery, and my last day officially working for Durham.

I took this picture when I was coloring with children of family members of the children killed in the Woodmore accident. Everyone in the room at Erlanger Hospital was waiting to hear if a particular boy survived – he didn’t. He was one of the 6 who died. I was there as a police chaplain that night, and the best thing I could find to do was distract the other children with coloring.

This was the first day I started driving a bus again – after nearly a year! I went to work with Chattanooga Bus Company and my former manager at Durham, Dominic D’Amico. I couldn’t decide if I was happy or not 😉

This was my bus I drove when I finally got back to work this last school year (after my heart attack) and had a route. I called this bus “Spinal Tap” because of the number “11,” but hardly anyone got the joke.

This was taken the first year I was a “park out” driver. I prayed over every seat and asked God to use me in some way to make a difference in the live of the children I transported. He did. At least 7 came to Christ over the years!

My last-ever pre-trip log sheet (nothing digital this time).

The last bus cockpit I’ll officially sit behind.

 

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Life Lessons from the School Bus (#10) “Tennis Balls”

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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Life Lesson from the School Bus (#9) “Making a Way”

Trying to Merge

Have you ever tried to merge into traffic, only to find that everyone else is in a bigger hurry than you? Try convincing a bunch of motorists on their way home that your school bus needs to jump into the flow.

Every time people see my kid transporter attempting to enter traffic from a side street, they say to themselves, “Oh no! I can’t get stuck behind a bus!

So, without any compassion for me and my nerves, they pretend that they don’t see me. Better yet, they hold up a hand, wave slightly, and give me a look that says, “Sorry, but my schedule is too hectic to let you in front of me.” Jerks.

Making a Way

That’s when a school bus driver has to be proactive…he has to make a way into traffic. By being assertive with 35,ooo pounds of diesel-powered intimidation, one can MAKE motorist slow down and be polite. Making a way into traffic is possible because of a simple fact of life – getting put on the local news for hitting a school bus full of children is NOT in one’s best interest.

Life Lesson

God can make a way, when there seems to be no way.

Isaiah 43:16, 20 – [16] Thus saith the LORD, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters; … [20] The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, [and] rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.

When God chooses to do something, nothing in heaven or on earth can stop Him. God can make a way. No decree of man or law of nature is an obstacle to the LORD of creation. If God has told you to go somewhere, do some work, or reach some person, even if the way seems impossible, He is God…He will MAKE a way.

Are you going through a valley? Are you on a stormy sea and can’t see past the waves? Do you think that there is no hope, no way out of it this time? Trust in Jesus – He can make a way, where there seems to be no way. He can give rivers of hope in the midst of your wilderness.

Hope you enjoy this short video of a beautiful song by Don Moen.

 

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Life Lessons from the School Bus (#8) “Stop”

Stop Signs

If there is one thing that makes me angry enough to spit nails, pound a steering wheel, clinch my teeth, and silently whisper vulgarities under my breath, it is this:

People who run school bus stop signs!

Honestly, I would like to know what goes through the minds of these idiots. What causes them to act so carelessly? Are they just careless, or are they blind? Should they even be behind the wheel of a vehicle?

I can’t tell you how many times it has happened to me while driving. One time, believe it or not, a motorist (older white male) came around from behind me on the side of the service door! Let me make that clear, the driver came from behind and passed me on the side the kids get out! He came within a few feet of hitting three middle-schoolers!

What do you do in a situation like that? Well, what wanted to do was chase him with the bus and pin him to a guardrail with 30,000 pounds of yellow furry!

What did I actually do? I called him an unflattering name that referred back to him possibly not coming from a woman who was married at the time of his unfortunate birth. That was all I could do. He got away before I could get his plate number.

If you are one of those slimy pieces of human debris that think it’s OK to run a school bus stop sign, especially if you have an important date, or just can’t stand the thought of being held up another minute – God is watching. Yep, that’s what I said, scumbag. Every time you think you are so special that you can skirt the law, run the stop sign, and go your merry way, God is watching you. When I can’t get your license plate number, God has got YOUR number, bub.

And whosoever shall offend one of [these] little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. – Mark 9:42 KJV

Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. … Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish. – Matthew 18:10, 14 KJV

You should stop and think a moment. Every time you flagrantly drive through a bus stop, you put children ask risk. You make your priorities more important than the lives of little children. Do you think that for one moment Heaven is on your side of the argument? Do you think that risking running over one of “these little ones” is any different than “despising” them? Do you believe in God? Keep running those stop signs and you will learn the lesson of the day…

Life Lesson

You will eventually reap what you sow (what goes around, comes around).

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. – Galatians 6:7 KJV

Sometimes children are told to “sow their wild oats while they’re young.” I can’t think of a more stupid piece of advice to give anyone! That is like saying, “Do everything wrong while you can, but don’t worry, it will never come back to bite you in the rear end.” God says, “Don’t be decieved by these idiots, because you will reap a harvest from the seeds you plant.”

The same can be said about those who run bus stop signs. Just keep it up, but one day you are going to get what is coming to you, especially if you hit one of those children.

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Life Lessons from the School Bus (#5)

“It’s Not About the Journey…”

When I am driving a school bus, I am always trying to watch my surroundings. There are always dangers on the road; everything from potholes, to crazy drivers. It is also important to watch my gauges. By watching things like my temperature, fuel, and air-pressure indicators I can tell if my bus is operating correctly. The last thing I want to do is wreck, but neither do I want to run out of fuel or break down with a bus load of kids.

But the thing that I have to know, if nothing else, to make my job a success, is where the heck I am going.

Now, I am not talking about simple directions. The “rights and lefts” are the supposedly simple directions that tell a driver where a kid lives and how to get there. However, knowing where the children live and picking them up is only part of the job. Getting them to the right school is the ultimate goal.

That’s the part that’s most important, you know.  You can pick up all the kids in town, but you need to get them to the right destination. The safest driver in the world would still be harming the young skulls full of mush if the last stop he made was at the mall, the wrong school, a playground, or the city dump.  The last stop has to be the school the kids attend. Otherwise, the whole trip was in vain. If I don’t get the kids to where they are supposed to go, I haven’t done my job. My journey has ended in failure.

Life Lesson

It’s not so much about the journey, but more about where the journey ends.

2 Timothy 4:7-8 NIV – I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that dayand not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Proverbs 14:12 NLT – There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.

Miley Cyrus sang a song in one of her movies that said, “It ain’t about how fast I get there. It ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side…it’s the climb.” The problem with that logic is this: what if you’re climbing the wrong mountain? All that hiking up the side of the rocks may earn you a few bragging rights, but what’s the point if your not getting anywhere, or worse, you’re going the wrong way?

There are lessons to be learned along the road of life, but roads do lead places. A journey, by definition, needs to have a destination, or you’re just walking in circles. Sadly, many on the road of life are content with the journey, never caring that the “rights and lefts” they are following are flawed. The final, last stop leaves them without joy; without purpose; without hope; alone and empty without God.

For the Apostle Paul, there was something to look forward to at the end of his race. He realized that there was a reason for the “fight” and a purpose for “keeping the faith.” He saw at the end of his journey a reward that made the hard travel, the bumpy and bruising roads, and the “climbing” worth it all.

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Life Lessons from the School Bus (#4)

Till the Storm Passes Over”

Yesterday a strong storm front moved through our area around 2:25 p.m., EST. I was in the bus. NOT a good idea.

On a normal day, schools get out at 2:15. Yesterday, because of the coming storm, school dismissal was delayed until 2:30. That was a smart move. It would have been really dangerous to be on the road with a bunch of children and a tornado coming.

Because I knew that rain and high winds was on the way, I went outside of the school building and onto my bus to put up the windows. That was at 2:15……2:17, it was still calm……2:18, the storm hit like a bull catching a matador.

The following is what I posted on Facebook from my iPhone:

  • 2:18 pm “Storm is on us at lookout valley. In bus. Not good. Think was a bad idea.”
  • 2:21 pm “Laying on floor.”
  • 2:21 pm “Just a little scared.”
  • 2:23 pm “Hail.”
  • 2:24 pm “Hope somebody is praying.”
  • 2:30 pm “Whew! Bad stuff is over. Kids will be getting on bus soon. They held them in the school until the storm passed. Was scary.”

The reason I got down in the floor, as opposed to sitting in my seat, was because I was afraid that broken glass might start flying around. I also thought that I might be safer on the floor if a tree came looking for my head. Who knows? All I know is that while I was on the floor – while the bus rocked and the wind roared – I prayed.

I didn’t get off the bus because the wind was so intense, and opening the door would have been difficult, if not impossible. Not to mention, I had no idea if I would have been blown away or hit by a head-seeking oak branch. At least in the bus there was some metal protecting me. But on the other hand, it would have been a lot safer in the building. The bus was a bad idea.

As a result of the storm, there were hundreds of calls to the police for help. Trees were down everywhere, blocking roads, taking down power lines, and even crushing cars and damaging houses. As a matter of fact, I had to wait for nearly an hour for a power line to be cleared, just so my bus to get down a little back road. It was a mess.

Life Lesson

Sometimes storms come when you least expect them, even when you expect they will come. When they do, it is best to find shelter in a place that can weather the storm.

The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. – Psalms 18:2

When the storms of life hit, the best place to be is within our Saviour’s protective hand. The flimsy philosophies of this world are no better than a school bus in gale force winds. Till the storm passes over, resting safe within His arms is the best place to be.

“Sheltered in the Arms of God”

I feel the touch of hands so kind and tender.
They’re leading me in the paths that I must trod.
I’ll have no fear for Jesus walks beside me
For I’m sheltered in the arms of God.

So let the storm clouds rage high,
The dark clouds rise,
They don’t bother me;
For I’m sheltered in the arms of God.
He walks with me,
And naught of earth shall harm me,
For I’m sheltered in the arms of God.

– Dottie Rambo

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