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03/04/2003

Forced Bussing

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Every afternoon I meet Jake at his bus stop. Jake is one of three kids from the neighborhood who use this bus stop. I usually walk up the street a couple minutes before the bus is supposed to come and wait for him. Today I was a little bit late and I heard the bus coming up behind me as I'm walking up the street. Sometimes that happens and then Jake just runs down the street to meet me, no big deal. So I watch the bus pass me and continue on towards the bus stop. The fact that the regular bus driver wasn't driving today should have been my first clue that something might be wacky today. I watch the bus slow down and then.... just keep going. The bus didn't stop. Hmmmm. Well, that's okay I guess. I have two other kids - I probably won't miss Jake all that much. No, I changed my mind, I better do something to get him back. But what? Do I hop in the truck and chase after the bus? I'm the only one home though so if I leave the house, Jake can't get in. Do I stay home and do... nothing. Just hope that they realize that they have a couple of extra kids on the bus at the end of the route? It was kind of a weird feeling. I knew he would be okay but it still felt strange watching my kid drive away from me.

I do get in my truck and drive around the block (but I do leave the garage door open so Jake can at least get in somewhere). I pass the house of one of the other kids that get on the bus with Jake. She's waiting at her door for her son to walk home. I tell her that the bus came and went without stopping. I didn't mention that I thought the bus driver looked like a wanted child slavery recuiter. I'm nice that way. She told me that she would call the school - no wait, that she'd call the transportation department. Ok, I go back home to wait. I get on the phone myself and call the school. Which promptly refers me to the transporation department. I tell the woman ansering the phone my situation and she transfers me to the dispatcher. The dispatcher puts me on hold and calls the bus on the radio. She gets back on the phone and tells me that Jake IS on the bus and he must have been daydreaming because he didn't get off at his regular stop. I said, "that's funny the bus didn't actually stop at his regular stop so I think it would have been a little difficult for Jake to get off the bus, what with the not slowing down and the not opening of the bus doors." She said "Oh". After a pause, she told me that the bus would be back in 5 to 7 minutes. I just know that daydreaming part came straight from the bus driver to try and shift the blame from her to Jake.

I hang up the phone and there is a message waiting. It's the woman from down the street. She said that the transporation department told her that Jake was on the bus and that HER son had gotten scared and gotten off at a few stops later with one of his friends. So she had to go collect her son while I waited the aforementioned 5 to 7 minutes in my truck across from the bus stop. The 5 to 7 minutes was, of course, a total lie. About 15 minutes later the bus comes by and drops Jake off. I stayed in the truck and watched from behind my sunglasses as the bus driver tried to make eye contact, waving and mouthing an apology. Ha! I would have none of it.

Jake got off the bus and didn't seem too worse the wear. He had a bit of a shock when he realized that the bus had passed his stop. He was sitting way in the back so the driver didn't hear him yelling for her to stop. Some other kids further up the bus told the driver what was going on. Jake wasn't clear on what exactly her response was to that news. We complained about her as we went back to the house. Fifteen minutes later he was back to normal. Not me. I've started exploring both civil and criminal charges against the bus driver, the bus company, the school district, the board of education, the county, the bus itself, the guy who invented the bus, the makers of the bus, the school where the driver got school bus driver training, the company that prints the diplomas for that school, the company who supplies the paper for the company that prints the diplomas for the school that gives this bus driver school bus driving training, and finally my wife for having Jake in the first place. I figure there's money to be made somewhere along this line.