Besides safely transporting our future generation from home to school and back again, we have many opportunities to “connect” with kids in ways that differ from the ways parents and teachers do. We don’t have to “live with” the students night and day and have primary responsibilities for them the way their parents do. And we can have individual interaction on a more casual basis than a crowded classroom may allow. Following are some anecdotes from the past few years of my connections and interactions with students in our bus driver-to-student rider relationship.

There is still hope for the future. As I pull up and drop off the first run at the middle school, one of the girls stops by my driver's seat and steps to the side while the others exit the bus at school one morning.

Girl: "What radio station is that?"

Bus driver: "It's 97.5. It's out of Rochester, comes in pretty good. Mostly classic rock.”

Girl: (nodding) "Hmmm."

BD: "You like it?"

Girl: "Yeah. Thanks. See you later..."

Imaginary voice over announcer: "This is station KBUS, bringing the classic hits to adolescents and changing the world, one listener at a time."

One Monday night, after an apparently exasperating start to the week, one of the out-spoken third grade boys approaches the bus with his open backpack slung over his right arm, two large text books crammed in the corner of his left elbow, and his daily planner grasped loosely in his right hand. He clumsily lifts his knee to take the first step, and then blurts out as he climbs the stairs into the bus juggling all his stuff,

"Don't ask me why I'm carrying my planner in my hands!"

I couldn’t resist this set up, "Why are you carrying your planner in your hands?"

Boy: "I told you not to ask me that!"

Somebody has to play the “straight man.”

On a Friday morning, one of the third grade girls gets on the bus, and plops right down in the first seat. I glanced in the mirror at her, and that was all the prompting she needed.

Girl: "Today is the last day of the first week of school!"

Bus driver: "Yes it is! Happy Friday!"

Girl: "And, my cousins are coming tonight for a sleepover!"

BD: "Cool! Is it just for one night?"

Girl: "No, they get to stay the whole weekend! They're staying with us because their parents have to go to Las Vegas for work."

I thought to myself, going to Las Vegas for “work,” yeah right.

BD: "Well, that sounds like fun," not really sure if I was referring to the sleepover or the trip to Vegas.

On Monday morning, as I pulled up to the girl's stop (she's the only one on at that stop) her mom was with her. I looked at her mom's face, and she raised her eyebrows and kind of smirked. Then I glanced at the girl's face as she boarded the bus, exposing her tonsils with a big, drawn out yawn. Her eyes were drooping, and she seemed like she had been run through the ringer, surviving on maybe four hours of sleep since Friday night.

I silently asked myself, “Who was it that went to Vegas for the weekend?”