Daddy Talk: Bus Riders
It’s taken awhile, but our family may have finally settled into the school routine for the fall semester. One of the trickier elements of getting back to school is figuring out transportation. We have three kids, all of whom attend different schools. And even though we’re used to sorting out their schedules each year, fall 2021 has presented some new challenges. Up until this year, it has worked out pretty well for us to drop our kids off at school in the mornings and to let them ride the bus home in the afternoons. But this semester’s routine immediately threw a wrench into those plans.
First off, our oldest child’s school is located across town from the schools of the younger two, so the geography itself immediately extended our morning commutes to work. Second, for reasons that no one has quite figured out, the drop-off traffic was far worse this year than we’ve ever seen it. I’m experienced enough to remember that the first week or so of the semester is the most hectic as everyone in town is trying to figure out the routine, but even given this knowledge, the length of the lines and the wait time for drop-off were unreal. We considered pitching to the schools the idea of “fast passes,” like the ones they have at Disney World, but wagered that even we wouldn’t want to pay the price increase to buy one.
One speculation about the school traffic was that since the district was no longer offering “virtual school” for COVID, we simply had about two million more vehicles on the streets than we had in town last year. Another suggestion was that the crossing guards near the school grounds were still getting accustomed to the traffic flow. While both of these answers made some sense to me, we figured there had to be more to the traffic story than these ideas. One other theory we heard in the murmurings was the suggestion that a lot of families were keeping their kids off of school buses because of COVID concerns. I have no idea if parents were actually doing this or not, but when my wife and I heard it, light bulbs came on as we remembered, “We have morning buses!” I’ve never actually seen the Clinton School District’s bus barn, but the size of the fleet that rolls out of there every day must surely rival the number of vessels that approached Normandy on D-Day. They also have pleasant people who answer the phones.
We immediately called to get our kids booked onto the morning bus routes, and that decision has spared us so much morning road rage. The stress of waiting in 45-minute car lines and of getting to work late was immediately alleviated. Apparently the crossing guards let those buses right on through the lines—you know, like a “fast pass”—so my kids are now to school earlier than they ever have been and actually have enough time to get bored while waiting for class to start. A few of them have even taken up reading. And I get to enjoy a croissant at home while avoiding that obstacle course, er, drop-off line. If it were possible to catch a public bus or subway to Raymond for work, I would really have it made.
The mornings are still not completely without drama, of course. The two younger children have to walk several houses down the street, on time, to catch their bus, and they love waiting until the very last minute. Even if we manage to kick them out of the house early, I always watch them walking down the street at the slowest pace imaginable. Walking is probably not even the right word—maybe meandering or toddling. And every day I yell out to them to go faster; they look back at me and speed up, ever so slightly, to a saunter. Our older child, whose bus doesn’t come until 45 minutes later, ends up sleeping so long that we nearly forget he’s there as we’re enjoying our croissants. By the time we remember to wake him up, he still has enough time to stumble out of bed and almost directly out the door because he takes no time to get ready. Completely spoiled, he is picked up by the bus IN HIS VERY OWN DRIVEWAY as he shoots basketball.