Every school day for three years. Let’s see, that’s more than 540 school days…minus Fridays, of course, because Friday is Donut Day. That’s approximately 400 mornings I’ve just handed my middle schooler over to Mr. Bobby, the bus driver. Don’t know you at all, Sir, but what the hey, here’s my kid. And on more than 500 afternoons Mr. Bobby brought him safely home.
Every day, I watch him from my car as the children climb aboard. He is an older gentleman, with a kind face and a welcoming smile. He’s punctual. And that’s about all I know about him, even after three years. I’ve spoken to him twice, on afterschool occasions when my son forgot he was being picked up. Mr. Bobby knew which boy was mine and was already kicking him off the bus when I got to the door. Always with a smile.
…well, maybe not 400 mornings…I also drive him to school whenever there’s a bulky project to deliver. I, er.., my son works hard on those things and it’d be a shame to see them get trampled. But that’s it. The rest of the days he rides…
About 25 children board at our stop, which is at a Boys and Girls Club at the far end of a large commuter lot. Some give him “high fives” and fist bumps as they climb up. Most just walk by, chattering about whatever it is teenagers find interesting. Then he closes the doors, drives about 40 feet, and parks at the edge of the lot.
“What does he do that for?” I’ve asked my teenager more than once. And in typical teenager fashion, he replies, “Dunno. I think he just likes to make us wait.”
…although some days, if my son has a major test to take, we’ll drive in so I can quiz him one more time—it’s my last-ditch effort to cram one more answer into that teenage brain…
The kids love him. I know this. There was a period of two or three weeks when he didn’t show, and although a perfectly capable substitute ran his route, it wasn’t the same. My son was so concerned I finally contacted the dispatcher to ask if Mr. Bobby was ok. She assured me he was coming back, and said he’d been ill but was feeling much better. If it had been up to him he’d have returned earlier, but she made him wait until he was completely well. Every morning during that time, the children started speculating the moment the bus pulled into the lot.
“Could be him. I don’t know…”
Then, as the bus rounded that last corner, someone would sigh, “Nope, no hat. It’s another substitute.” They’d board quietly. Substitute drivers didn’t wait around. As soon as the doors closed, the bus took off.
Mr. Bobby’s return was a joyous occasion. The children clapped and cheered, and EVERY ONE of them gave him a welcome back fist bump.
…Fine, yes, every once in a while I just plain can’t get moving in the morning. Those days we have to drive in.
One morning, when I was following the bus out of the lot, Mr. Bobby swung that thing around and circled the lot again. I asked my son about it that evening and he said someone had missed the bus so they went around to pick him up.
Yesterday, I was signing my son in (bulky project) at the school’s front desk, and there was Mr. Bobby, making a pit-stop between runs. He called my son by name, let out a booming laugh, and said, “Where were you this morning? I waited for you!”
Then it hit me. After three years. With only two days left of the school year. Mr. Bobby pulls up to wait. Just in case. He knows his sheep. He cares for them. All those times I didn’t show up…he waited.
So, Mr. Bobby, today I dedicate my page to you, and I count you as one of the million points of light in this world. A good and faithful servant. Thank you for being such a positive influence in the lives of our children, and for keeping them safe. Next year’s high school driver has big shoes to fill. I think I owe you some donuts.