A Year on the Bus
by Dan Close (Ethiopia 1966-68)
Warren, VT: Tamarac Press
Reviewed by Don Messerschmidt (Nepal 1963-65)
THIS IS A SMALL BOOK THAT DESERVES a short, but positive review. In the space of 131 small pages, with a slightly larger than usual font, the author convinced me that this is a good book for a lot of folks. Have you ever been “caught” behind a school bus when you have to get somewhere fast? he asks. Are you, or have you ever been, a school bus driver? Are you the parent of a kid on a school bus? Were you ever a kid on a bus? If any of these questions are you, then, this book is for you. And, I’ll add, if you know a school bus driver, give him or her a copy. If only for laughs, because this is a funny, fast and wise little read.
It’s serious, too, at informing us how school bus drivers are chosen and trained, how their buses are driven, maintained and kept safe, and how the driver deals with mechanical and kid (passenger) problems. He also describes what he sees from the bus, the common and uncommon happenings in the small mountain towns of northern Vermont . . . and, what he does (or doesn’t) do with the bus. Like the time he (didn’t) hit the mail box. The home owner said he did, and wanted it paid for. But the bus driver was innocent, though it took some doing to prove it.
Dan writes about driving a bus during the school year of 2008–2009, month by month. He expresses great respect for the students he carried to and from school. “I like the kids,” he says. It’s a good start, for if he didn’t like kids his bus driving days would have been miserable. “I like seeing them every morning,” he goes on. “I like seeing them change and grow. I like their silliness and their grand funks and their interactions. I like watching them form bonds, form society. Society is being forged on this bus every day. The afternoon run home is like a decompression chamber for them. They get to interact in a way that they cannot during the school day or when they get home. And since spring is in the air [it was March], they do interact. Oh, yes . . .” and a lot more.
He also expresses great respect for the team in the school district that supports school bus operations and keeps the schools functioning overall. He calls them Bedrock. “Over the year,” he writes, “I met extraordinary people: drivers, mechanics, cafeteria workers, custodians, road crews, firemen, police, teachers aides — all of them the bedrock upon which this nation operates. They do their jobs quietly for the most part, out of the limelight. They do those jobs well . . .”
“And the bus rolled on.” It’s a fast read, and when you’re done, pass it on to a bus driver near you to enjoy.
Don Messerschmidt, PhD, is an anthropologist, rural development consultant, writer and editor, with several books (non-fiction) to his credit. He is past editor of ECS Nepal magazine (Kathmandu), and now serves as contributing editor and part-time mentor to young Nepalese writers. He makes his home near Portland, Oregon when he’s not off leading treks in the Himalayas.
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