The Working Waterfront

The school bus driver is king

Quest for license offered teaching moment

By Phil Crossman
Posted 2022-12-19
Last Modified 2022-12-19

It’s a wonder I have a school bus driver’s license at all. On the appointed day, my permit in hand, accompanied by Tiny, a fully licensed driver, I drove the bus to a public works depot for my driving test.

The man in charge there couldn’t have been a greater disappointment. The fact that he was employed at all spoke to organized labor run amok. Clearly tenured in some way, his world, where he was in charge, was this DOT lot, circumscribed by a cyclone fence that contained his similarly forbidding attitude. This and his disregard for those hapless individuals who came to him seeking approval was breathtakingly offensive.

He wore a uniform of sorts, a DOT hat, and assumed a wildly excessive ownership of his position. The contempt he had for me and for my prospects as a bus driver was undisguised.

Because Tiny was a licensed bus driver, this fellow assumed a sort of kinship with him, as if they’d seen combat together.

Because Tiny was a licensed bus driver, an equal, this fellow assumed a sort of kinship with him, as if they’d seen combat together. He began talking immediately, speaking not to me but only about me, directing his comments to Tiny.

He spoke disparagingly of me, of my intentions that day, of my diminished capabilities, of my probable character and of my likely failure. He used only the crudest language all the while making truly awful comparisons between the bus and a woman and between various of the bus’s components and controls and body parts.

As he talked, I drifted, as I’m inclined to do when nothing of interest is holding my attention, and began to imagine what life must be like for whomever it was who shared his life, for I noticed a wedding ring.

By now, I was resigned to this sad encounter ending in failure and my resolve to make the best of it had waned. Thus it was that when he told me to get in the bus and behind the wheel, pretend he was a student, drive down Route 17, take a right on Lakeview, discharge him at a designated stop, proceed on to a turnaround, pick him up on the return leg and deliver him to the point of beginning, I found myself in a less than compliant frame of mind.

Tiny came along. When I reached the designated stop I engaged my flashers, did all the other things correctly and let my make-believe student off. Waiting till he had safely removed himself to the shoulder behind the bus and resisting the urge then to back over him, I drove off, turned around up the road apiece and drove back.

There he was, hands on hips, disapproving, a mighty disappointing imitation of a kid waiting to get on the bus. His eyes met mine, from a hundred feet away, and I watched his face as it became apparent to him I was not going to stop. Keeping an eye on the road with my peripheral vision I maintained eye contact till abreast of him, long enough to memorialize his expression.

Tiny was chuckling but did so with less enthusiasm as we got farther from the instructor. When we got back to the lot I got out and let Tiny in the driver’s seat suggesting that if he thought we ought to retrieve him, he could drive.

The instructor was walking, clearly not something he did often. Tiny let him on board. He was fuming, sat down behind me and said nothing as we drove back to the lot. There he got out and stood just outside the door at the foot of the steps.

After a few moments he turned and looked up at me and asked with unexpected poignancy, “Why’d you do that for?”

“Because you were behaving like an asshole and I didn’t want you on my bus,” I replied.

He looked as though he might cry. He turned and walked away so sadly that my anger melted away as did my satisfaction in having humiliated him.

A week later I was mailed my license.

Phil Crossman lives on Vinalhaven where he owns the Tidewater Motel. He may be reached at