I did a radio interview last week, and the DJ ran down my bio before introducing me; a friend who listened asked me later, “What about driving a bus? You forgot that!” I had, indeed.
I’ve held a lot of jobs over the years; nothing I could call a career, but that didn’t really interest me. A career, I mean. I had a lot of entrepreneurial ideas, since I was a teenager at least, but my dad always said the road the security was to get a good job with a good company and stay there. Funny, since he was a farmer/politician. I found out later that he told my sister the exact opposite: work for yourself. Weird.
As a kid, I wanted a job. I knew about work, for sure, but I actually, you know, wanted to get paid. Make some money. Have the freedom that goes along with making that money.
The local bowling alley was hiring, so I talked my mom into taking me up there. I was 15, and I convinced them to hire me—with Mom’s permission, of course, since I was really too young to legally work without it. I ran the snack bar, met some people, even covered for the bartender once—shhh!
It lasted about six months or so. My dad got tired of picking me up at 3:00 a.m.
After that, I exercised racehorses one summer, and after high school graduation, I went to work at Girl Scout camp for a few summers. I dropped out the beginning of my sophomore year, in spite of parental threats, and got a job selling advertising for the Missouri State Troopers’ magazine. That was . . . interesting.
I drove all over Mid-Mo until one day, when I got to the office, no one was there. I mean, no one, nothing, nada. So I got on the phone. Finally found this company in Springfield; they’d packed up and neglected to pay anyone.
What did I do? Why, I offered to drive down to Springfield and work out of the office there—and they agreed to pay me what they already owed. They did, and I kept working there for a couple more months. Drove from Columbia every Monday, stayed in the dorms with a friend all week while I worked the area, and drove back home on Fridays.
You can read the rest of my bio here, but about that bus driving job:
In January 1988, I applied to be a school bus driver. They started me off driving the so-called short bus that carried behaviorally disabled kids to and from elementary school. It was easy enough work, although we had a few icy days that winter and I did get stuck once. At a school; they’d cleaned the front circle, but some of us had pickup in the back. Guess they forgot that little fact.
Anyway, the kids were awful. Awful! They bickered constantly, cursed continuously, and often threatened that “my daddy gonna beat yo ass” if I ever dared to tell them to be quiet. Sitting down wasn’t an issue, surprisingly.
One day, having just picked them up, I was driving down a wide, semi-busy road. Two of the kids got into a fierce argument, and one of them jumped up, ran to the front, and grabbed my two-foot-long-plus ice scraper, screaming that he was going to kill the other kid.
My arm flashed up as he pulled back to let fly, and I grabbed that scraper and hung on. The kid came to a standstill, nearly falling on his face. I pulled over, set the brake, and whipped off my seatbelt, clanging it against the side window.
By this time, the kid had slunk back to his seat. I stood up, waving that scraper and hollered, “Sit down and shut up! All of you! I’ve had enough of this crap—knock off the cussing, knock off the fighting, and no more threats!”
Got back in my seat, pulled into traffic, and had the quietest bus in the fleet for the rest of that route.
They never gave me any more trouble. None. In fact, one day, another driver yelled at me and claimed I’d clipped his mirror when I pulled out of a school. I certainly hadn’t, but my kids heard him and responded:
“My daddy gonna beat yo ass!”