Waseca County Pioneer 111 W. Elm Ave.

Waseca, MN (507) 837-6767


GIVING IT A TRY - Waseca County Pioneer writer Deb Bently at the wheel of a school bus.    

Behind the wheel

I would like to extend my thanks to the six folks from the Palmer Bus Service who put up with me this past Saturday. 
First, I walked up and started asking all sorts of invasive questions: How many buses do you have? How many bus routes? What do you do when the regular driver can’t make it?
Then I asked to drive a school bus…even though I have no expectation of ever becoming a bus driver. Having now logged all of 8 to 10 minutes behind the wheel, I can agree with bus driver Nicole Olson: “It’s not so hard.”
Certainly I can’t brag about my prowess–some traffic cones were saved when my “supervisor” Audra Veroeven suggested I just stop trying to back in between them all. I kept reaching in the wrong direction whenever I was supposed to shift between gears. And, although I never actually looked at the speedometer–too busy looking at the road ahead of me–I’m guessing I did not exceed 20 mph. At any time during the drive. I would say Audra has the patience of a saint, but she’s a bus driver, so it’s obvious she’s patient and strong.
Did you know school buses don’t have a “Park” setting? You just put them in neutral and set the parking brake.
Oh, and the bus I drove is powered by propane. The drivers told me it’s as carbon neutral as an electric vehicle of the same size while costing one-fourth as much. They also mentioned that its engine is much quieter than one powered with diesel, and is not at all vulnerable to cold weather.
One more thing: the bus drivers talked about some of their experiences. Nicole said, “It’s really powerful to know that you can parallel park a bus.” Yikes, I bet it is.
Audra commented about the role bus drivers play in students’ lives, about how they are a source of stability and reliability. She made me think of the friendly greetings and authoritative manner of the bus drivers I have worked with as a teacher and even long, long ago, as a student.  I couldn’t help thinking that she’s right. There’s nobility in being the adult, the voice of reason, authority, and, when necessary, compassion.
There is no way to measure the value of a friendly greeting and a trusted presence.
So I want to take a moment to thank the people who drive our children places, who get up early or stay up late as necessary, who brave slippery roads or busy traffic behind the wheel of a giant orange vehicle. The stories shared at the “drive a bus” event gave me the sense that the drivers there recognize their value and feel appreciated; I hope that’s the case for all of you.
I hope your days and your drives bring you memorable gems, and I hope you find the strength to laugh about some of those…other…moments.
In any case, I thank you. Blessings upon you.


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