Stick Figure Family

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Friday, January 30, 2009

The Wheels on the Bus go Round and Round.....

My work at the high school includes taking daily transit bus rides with my one-on-one student. He's handicapped and non-verbal. Another aide takes her student out as well. He likes to clap. Last year there were three of us with students. The rides take about two hours and are often entertaining; depending on who's driving and who our fellow passengers are. (There are more of the latter since the price of gas went up to $4/gallon last summer.) We often see the Knitting Guy who has knitted us hats in our school's colors. There is the woman who is on the library route who wears a tall, bouffant hairdo and boisterous clothing. There are the immigrants who go to the training center and learn English and how to navigate through society. The cute little kids with parents in tow. And the old lady who openly expresses her dislike for our students.

Usually we get kind, patient drivers. It takes us a bit to get the students on and off as they aren't eager to change buses or return to the classroom. Mine also likes to howl when he's uncomfortable (a lot!) or stand up at inopportune times. We bring bribes with us to help out. The best ones are gummy bears and cheez-it crackers. But, we're not supposed to eat on the bus, so we keep these to a minimum and make sure we don't leave a mess. (Chocolate crackers are NOT a good idea!) Bus Driver Kimmie was so nice - she brought surprise treats for our boys at the end of one school year. Other drivers are grouchy, including one who, ironically, is the spitting image of Santa Claus. He inspects our transfers thoroughly to make sure they haven't expired. And some drivers wear shorts in the middle of winter and then keep the heat turned up so high that we start sweating! What's with that?

The other aide, Sherry, knows the routes inside and out. She remembers the arrival times, the bus numbers and basically keeps us on schedule. Though I've been doing this for almost three years and have got the basics down, I managed to get us on the wrong bus once when she was absent. After traveling around for our standard hour, we hopped on the 120West. Just as the driver was about to leave the transfer center, she announced that we were headed to West Richland. Oops! Wrong bus. We got off, but missed the 120East and had to wait a half hour for the next one.

My student was NOT happy. He won't sit and wait and it was extremely cold and windy. We walked back and forth around the empty center. We shivered. The other aide saw us near a Dial-A-Ride bus that pulled up and figured we were going to get to sit inside that bus for a while. When she and her student came over, I knocked on the bus door. The driver opened for us and we chatted. Jokingly, we asked if he was for hire and told him of our plight. When no offer was forthcoming, I point-blank asked if we could sit on his bus until ours came in 20 minutes. I had to beg - "pleeeeeeeeease!" He finally relented and the four of us jumped aboard. Stevie liked the seat belts. We all loved the warmth and conversation. The next east-bound bus arrived on schedule and we thanked the driver for "saving us" and headed back to school. We were late, of course, (and the teacher couldn't believe we were dense enough to make that kind of mistake!)

That wasn't our only memorable trip, however. We usually go to such destinations as Pasco's Farmer's Market, Viera's Bakery, the Library, Target, the Mall (to put quarters into the candy machines!), McDonald's or Pizza Hut. Anything to get the students out and "gain status" in the community. Once we were returning from visiting another high school and the police pulled us over. The driver was instructed not to open the doors or allow anyone off. While two officers stood outside the exits, another entered and walked down the aisle. He stopped beside a young, ordinary-looking fellow and asked him to get off. The bus was required to wait while he was searched and handcuffed. Whew! We surmised that since he'd gotten on at Freddies, he may have shoplifted something. You just never know who might be sitting beside you. Right Stevie? Stevie? He's fallen asleep, so I guess we'll just ride to West Richland and back. No transfers - just lots of scenery.

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