Saturday, July 12, 2008

Law of the bus is worth preserving

Since they started kindergarten, my children have ridden on county school buses. At first, I assumed they would prefer to be driven by me. Molly set me straight in a hurry when she said, "I'd rather ride with Miss Diane, mom. She doesn't listen to National Public Radio."
So there it was. My girls spent about an hour each school day on buses.
I soon learned there was a method to all the early morning and late afternoon madness. Little kids were required to sit up front near the driver. The seat directly behind the driver was reserved for the rowdy kids who weren't yet considered trustworthy enough to behave at the back. It was a badge of honor and maturity to be allowed to sit in a seat of one's own choosing.
I've always had a problem with the whole "gold star" concept of rewards for kids. My girls would often come home bearing work plastered with stars and smiley stickers. There were exhortations of "well done!" and "good try!" penned all over even the sloppiest of efforts.
Rachel once proudly displayed a sheet covered in happy stickers and "good try" even though she'd missed most of the questions. When I asked her teacher about it, I was informed that children were rewarded for their efforts, even if the resulting answers were wrong.
Hmmm ... maybe it's just me, but I can't recall the last time I received an "atta-girl" for effort alone. In the world I live in, it's mostly results that matter.
That's how it is in school bus world, too. Some of the drivers reward good bus etiquette with a Friday afternoon prize. It's usually just a piece of hard candy or a small trinket, but it's hard-won and proudly displayed.
Molly's driver had an unerring memory for who was loud on Wednesday and who stood while the bus was moving on Monday. No amount of whining and pleading produced a prize for those offenders. They were just encouraged to try harder next week. Now that's how the real world works.
For the past 20 years, I've operated a resale clothing store. On many occasions, I've had bus drivers come in looking for warm coats or sturdy sneakers for some of their needy charges.
The most touching incident occurred on an icy January day. A driver noticed a stoic little third-grader trudging off to school in his big sister's puffy lavender jacket. It was the only coat available to him. Thanks to his driver, he was soon the proud owner of a like-new Spiderman jacket complete with a hood and those most prized of all embellishments: lots of pockets and zippers.
The recent vandalism at the county bus shop was especially disturbing to me. Windows were smashed, electronics destroyed, scores of seats slashed and graffiti (probably misspelled) sprayed throughout. What a slap in the face to the kind people who work so hard to keep our children safe.
The cost of repairs and the resulting rise in insurance rates will have to come from somewhere. I resent seeing my tax dollars go toward correcting damage propagated by a bunch of pea-brained losers.
There's a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of these reprobates. Anyone stupid enough to commit an offense like this is also stupid enough to brag about it. Someone knows who did this. Come on, drop a dime and collect $1,000. It's easier than a scratch ticket.
In the meantime, if the county decides to have a work day to help clean up this mess, just let me know when and where. I'll be there with a bucket and a Brillo pad.

(Originally published Monday, June 25, 2007 in the Gainesville Times)

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