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Bus drivers

Last year I had the pleasure of visiting with Darrel Lind and doing a story on his 50 years of driving school bus in the Rib Lake School District.

I was thinking about Darrel this week while reading a release from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation about how the worker shortage is making it next to impossible to find drivers for school buses.

Despite driving big yellow vehicles with flashing lights on them, school bus drivers are in many ways a very anonymous profession. They quietly go about their jobs bringing students safety to and from school and actives day in and day out through all sorts of weather conditions.

The closest I have come to driving a school bus, was in driving a car loaded with rambunctious nieces and nephews while visiting home several years ago. We were driving back from a visit to a children’s museum and I remember not only threatening to pull over several times, but actually pulling over in order to read them the riot act for misbehaving.

This is one of the ways I got the reputation of being the “mean uncle” or the “cranky uncle” as opposed to being a “fun uncle.”

When it comes to self reflection, most people — myself included — need a new pair of glasses. We all have this highly-colored views of ourselves, either to the good or to the bad. There are those who see themselves as heroes in their own and everyone else’s stories. There are just as many who tend to focus on their failures, exaggerating their own ineptness.

The experience of driving my nieces and nephews years ago gave me an important clarity in my own abilities and firmly brought home the fact that I have neither the temperament nor the driving skills to be a school bus driver.

I have a great deal of respect for the drivers who transport their precious cargo day in and day out in weather that makes me glad I live within snowshoeing distance to my office.

It occurs to me as I read back over the past few paragraphs that I am doing a pretty lousy job at talking up why people should go out and become a bus driver.

I should be talking about how the interaction with children excited to go to school helps keep people young and how kids may soon forget what they learned about the parts of a cell, but they will remember all the times their bus driver was there for them. For some children, their bus driver is the most stable person in their lives.

The challenge is that with so many job opportunities and with the challenges of the job, there is a severe shortage of people willing to become a bus driver. For many, being a bus driver is a great part-time job opportunity, one that allows you to make some extra money to do the fun things you like to do.

Beyond that, bus driver fulfill an essential role in connecting kids, especially in rural areas, with educational opportunities. For many students the only way they could get to school each day is on a school bus. This does not mention the importance of getting students to sporting events, class trips and other activities.

People who live in rural areas are used to having to wear several hats and filling different jobs based on whatever the needs may be. As you look at your collection of hats, give some thought to adding another one and becoming a bus driver.

Brian Wilson is News Editor at The Star News.