- Our Town
School bus driver says “goodbye”
On the last day of school before Christmas, Karen Hughes said goodbye to her ‘homies.’
Her homies are the kids she gets to school and back every day, and when she told them she was leaving some broke down and cried.
“Then I cried too, and cried the whole way driving back from the school,” says Hughes.
She says she loves the kids and she loves the job, but her circumstances have changed. When she started the job three years ago, a part-time gig with a summer holidays was perfect. Now, the steadier employment and higher pay that goes with driving Bowen’s transit bus is what she needs.
She’ll keep driving the school bus two afternoons and one full day a week until a replacement is found, but she’s leaving big shoes to fill.
“You need to be a good driver, of course, but also you need to know that when you get that bus full of kids it’s a whole other story.”
Hughes said she learned quickly that, for her at least, threatening the kids was not the answer.
“I remember one rainy afternoon early-on when the homies were particularly wild. I pulled the bus over to the side of the road, turned around and looked at them and said, ‘Who wants to walk!’ They all shut-up, and calmed down. Then this one little kindergarten getting off the bus at his stop asked me when he was going to get to walk. I had to explain to him that actually he’s not allowed to walk… when you make a threat, you’ve got to be willing to follow through on it.”
Hughes says knowing the kids according to their ages and stages helps, but knowing them all as individuals is even better.
“I know if they’ve got siblings and if so who they are. Sometimes I even know if they’ve got cousins around.”
“I try to learn what sets them off, what their likes and dislikes are. Eavesdropping helps. And I know where they all sit, its like a map in my head by now.”
Hughes says the High School students are a whole other story.
“They’re angels,” she says. “I know there are people working this job in Vancouver who’d tell you horror stories about the high school kids they drive, but not here. In the morning they’re zombies, and in the afternoon, well they just want to get home. But seriously, those kids are so good I’d drive them to Mexico.”
Hughes says that once they manage to find someone to fill the driver’s seat at the school bus, she might act as a fill-in driver when necessary. For now, though, the search for a driver continues.
Below, is a goodbye letter Karen Hughes sent home with her passengers on December 20th.
Merry Christmas Everyone!
As many of you already know, on December 1st, I began a new job driving for Bowen Transit. The school bus company hasn’t hired a driver to replace me yet, so a temporary driver has been coming from town and I continued to drive the school bus on my days and afternoons off from my new job.
In the New Year, I will leave my job as your School Bus driver with a heavy heart. After driving the school bus for over three years now, it is very important for me to tell you that I have come to love and respect each and every one of you. You are my “Little Homies”!
When I first started driving, looking in the big rear-view mirror terrified me. I thought of the movie, Pirates of the Caribbean. I was afraid that a smaller version of the main characters had dropped anchor in Snug Cove and had decided to plunder their way around Bowen on my school bus. But since then we have all gotten to know each other quite well haven’t we?
You have taught me many things. I now know a lot more about hockey and soccer. And fish and fishing. And the Civil War, which wasn’t very civil. I have learned how to tell the difference between a frog and a toad. AND how to create a habitat using household items for either creature should I decide to keep it (unanimously advised). I have learned some very interesting “re-mixed” versions of old songs, and many silly jokes and hilarious tongue twisters. I know the answer to the question: “What Does the Fox Say?”
I can`t begin to name names but I know that you all know who you are; I love knowing I can count on you for anything, from finding and taking forgotten items to the “ lost and found” to finding a missing passenger. And the fountain of information that flows when I ask a simple question is always very helpful. The best part by far has been for me to see that “something special” brewing; the uniqueness in each of you emerge as I have gotten to know you.
Please continue to keep your parents and your teachers on their toes. Take care of each other, and above all, please try not to scare the new bus driver, whoever he or she will be. If you ever want to make my day, just come and say hello, or even better, take a ride with me on the Transit Bus.
Happy Holidays to you all, my Homies!