Friday, April 11, 2008

a great fall?

We had another jump rope show today at Great Falls, a school in our district. This time it wasn't quite so close by, but in a much more ritzier area of the county (The part of town secretaries of state live). It's a beautiful drive to get there, although we go over narrow, windy roads across a very hilly country-side. We've taken this trip before and it always saddens me a bit to hear the kids wonder what the ridiculously huge buildings are out in the middle of nowhere. My first year with the team a child asked me how many families live in one of those houses. Today I heard, "Are we in DC? Isn't that the White House?" as she pointed to a large white house with columns, that was possibly bigger than the actually White House.

After the last bus incident we weren't taking any chances with directions. We got on the bus and handed the bus driver directions, to which he replied, "I know how to get there." The head coach pushed the directions on him anyway "just in case". And off we went.

Because the winding roads are enough to make anyone car sick on a school bus, we were paying fairly close attention to the road, so when it started to look unfamiliar we got a little nervous. Then we passed signs for the national park in .5 miles and got really nervous. Upon questioning the bus driver we learned he never looked at our directions, or asked us where we were going. He was taking us to the park with the same name as the school.

As I have said before, being a bus driver would be my own personal hell. However, if someone gives me directions I think I will at least look at them and not completely assume I know where I am going. Maybe we should have taken his reading finger and asked him to read the directions. Or asked him to tell us which route he was going to take. Or read the directions to him and insisted he follow ours and not his. Alas, we did none of these, and blindly belived our bus driver knew what he was doing.

So although we had caught the mistake early on we now had the task of turning the bus around on the narrow, winding, hilly roads. Perhaps embarrassed that he had refused to look at our directions he immediately turned the bus into the nearest driveway. (drive way... as in gravel). He pulled up a bit and then started backing up, as though he was thinking the bus would be able to turn left backward onto the narrow road. (I might also add that there was a turn to our left and a hill to our right so traffic from either direction could have come around a bend without expecting to find a bus in the middle of the road.)

I peered out the window and realized that on my side of the bus was a very steep cliff. There was little shoulder (none that I could see from the window of the bus) and many, many rocks at the bottom of the steep hill.

We were going to die. I knew it.

Now, I am one of those people who laughs in times of trauma. I am biting my lip at this point because I cannot believe how ridiculous this is. I mean, we're going to die, with all of these kids, on a school bus in our bright orange t-shirts. I start thinking about the medical kit and how if the bus tips over we can get everyone out safely and wondering if I have cell phone coverage out here.

One of the boys in the row behind me put his head down on the seat and squeezed his eyes shut. The other, obviously a fan of killing tension with humor says, "Well, you said we were going to great falls. this looks like its going to be a great fall". hahaha.

So the head coach stops the bus driver and points out that we did not stand a chance at making this turn without turning our front wheels off the road, and therefore plummeting the bus down the hill. Unlike when she gave him the directions, he listened, and pulled the bus forward, up the steep driveway.

So, now we're on what appears to be private property. There is room to turn around, but barely. We're on some one's ridiculously expensive land and now turning our bus around on their well-manicured lawn. As he backs the bus up I run to the back of the bus, because it appears we are planning on driving the bus through the kitchen windows of the house behind us.

Apparently the man who lives in the house believes this is our plan as well, as he rushes out and attempts to direct us so that we might hit him before we take out his house. I think we only hit a few beautiful rhododendron bushes, but we managed to spare the man and the house. *whew*

So, back down the steep driveway. You could hear the prayers of the children on the bus, the gasps as we got close to the edge, and the mutterings of "mrs. lipstick, i'm really scared". (What could I say, I know, I am too.)

But we made it out onto the main road and eventually to our destination.

Throughout the day I heard tales from the kids of their experiences. One rather serious girl declared to her seatmates to make sure her shirts went to the homeless children in DC when she died.

Next time I take my GPS system and force the bus driver to use it.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps you should consider filing a complaint against the idiot bus driver and requesting a different driver the next time. Why take any more chances?

organized chaos said...

we are planning on filing a complaint because of the safety issue. Sadly, we have different bus drivers every time. This is not the same bus drivre as the 'hole in the ground' driver. This happens over and over again. I think its more of an issue with who gets hired as a bus driver (and there are some good ones) but they are paid very little and nobody really wants the job. So we end up with many, many drivers who don't make 'good choices'. :(