Monday, December 29, 2008

Bus driving for fun and profit

Johnnie is a school bus driver and has been for the past couple years. He retired three years ago from a big corporation after 30 years of cubbie farm enjoyment. After about a year of hanging out (and distracting me from my scheduled, ordered existence), I told him I needed more structure in my life so he should find a job. He interviewed at a local school district, got his commercial driver's license and began driving a school bus.

Johnnie never had children of his own but rather inherited my two girls when the youngest was in her teens so he is a relative newbie to children's behavior and has been rapidly learning kids antics on the bus and now with our granddaughters. So it's been interesting. However, he has a very even keel and the patience of Job that works in his favor when dealing with the little darlings every day. I couldn't do it. I'd have been tried for murder or mayhem by now.

Besides being a lot of responsibility in carrying over 100 children to and from school each day, the job was about what he (and I) expected. We established a new daily schedule of arising at o-dark-thirty each morning, him off to work, me up to the office to work and so on. Nice. Funny and frustrating instances of kids not behaving or one kid telling another, "I'm not a pest, I'm just annoying." The stuff that makes the world go around.

What we didn't expect was the unbelievable largesse he would receive at Christmas and the end of school as thank you presents from happy parents whose children were picked up promptly and delivered to their expected destinations -- either home, school or latch key daycare -- every day. Whoa. Last year at Christmas time he received about 12 Starbucks gift cards, several to Dunkin Donuts, Bruegger's Coffee, Home Depot, Wegmans (groceries), Hess, Barnes & Noble plus plates or bowls of cookies, about $40 in cash, a pound of Starbucks coffee, candy, hot chocolate mix -- you name it. Who knew bus driving could be so lucrative?

Same thing at the end of the year last June.

He began bringing gifts and gift cards home for the Christmas holidays a week or so ago - starting with a tower of goodies from Harry & David. We've been snacking on the cookies and candy for days. I never made any cookies at all this year but in some ways that's good because we have so many things from his kids. He's received a $25 gift certificate to Home Depot, several cards to Wegmans (always popular), many to Starbucks, Tim Hortons, Bruegger's, Wendy's, another pound of coffee, two pounds of Dove chocolates and lots more.

Since we don't frequent most of those places much, we often give the cards to our kids or sometimes as gifts to other people -- I guess it's really re-gifting but otherwise they will go completely to waste if we keep them to ourselves. We think of it more as sharing than re-gifting. I carry them around with me in a big rubber band in my purse so if we get someplace and want to use them, we're all set and not forgetting them at home.

He drives in a relatively affluent district but we're still amazed at the plenitude of gifts. Interestingly this year there have been fewer gift cards but many more homemade treats. Probably a sign of the uncertain economy.

When our kids were growing up and taking the school bus, I literally never even knew their bus drivers' names much less think to give them something for Christmas and the end of the school year. It has tuned my awareness to make sure we thank our service providers such as our postal carrier and our paper delivery person which I never would have thought to do before.

Happy New Year!

1 comment:

Karen said...

Let's meet at Starbucks for a drink! I don't recall my parents ever having gifts for the bus driver though the mail carrier and garbage collector received a gift each Christmas. When SRD was 3 and going to the special preschool program, she took a bus. We did give the bus driver and the bus monitor a gift at the end of the school year. We don't buy anything for the waste management company, we give them enough money in my opinion. And I thought it was against the law or something to give a gift to a gov't employee. So the mail carrier didn't get anything either. Dom (the mail carrier) is very pleasant, I spoke to him a lot when I was out of work.
Hope you had a great visit with Holly and that she (and her husband) eventually got out of the airport!