In my version of “The Sixth Sense,” the tortured little boy played by Haley Joel Osment whispers a slightly different terrible secret: “I see deadlines.” OK, dead people are spookier, but deadlines have their moments. Those of you who procrastinate know of what I speak.
As a magazine editor, deadlines are what keep me up at night, both figuratively and literally. (I have been known to pop out of bed at 2:30 a.m. to finish writing an article like this one.) And when I’m lucky enough to sleep soundly, I often dream of uncompleted assignments — sitting frozen at my computer and staring helplessly into the unnatural glow of the monitor.
For journalists, deadlines are an occupational hazard. We need them the way a bullfighter needs a bull. They force us to move quickly at the right moment (as the deadline nears), even as they simultaneously imperil our peace of mind. Without deadlines, our lives would be less stressful, but less fulfilling.
And your ‘sixth sense’?
As a school bus professional, you have your own sixth sense. What is it you see when you stare into the darkness? With children’s lives at stake, it’s hard to imagine that you don’t conjure some terrifying images and suffer through some fretful nights.
To gain some insight into your fears, worries and general angst, we posted the following question in our Website Forum (www.schoolbusfleet.com/forum) as February’s Question of the Month: “What major safety concerns keep you up at night?”
Here’s a sampling of the responses:
“I worry about inattentive drivers and students who don’t look before entering the roadway.”
“As an instructor and supervisor, my major safety concern is creating an attitude among drivers, old and new, that all of the regulations they struggle with need to be adhered to all the time. Following the rules is a major part of school busing, and if people do not follow them, children are going to become victims. I often wonder at night if tomorrow will be ‘our day.’”
“A bus accident of any kind. I’ve been in this industry for 28 years. Our school had never had an accident until Sept. 11, 2001. Yes, the same day the World Trade Center was destroyed, we had our first accident. A semi-truck going too fast came up behind one of our buses that had pulled out on the highway and was not up to speed yet. The semi hit the back of the bus and knocked it on its side in the ditch. I will never forget arriving on the accident, not knowing how many or how badly the students were injured.”
“I think about bus security. It would be so easy for a bus hijacker or terrorist to get on our school buses.”
“One of my concerns is when I approach the bus stop and the kids try to approach my bus while it is still moving. I am afraid that one of these days they might slip under the bus.”
For more industry responses, see “Question of the Month” in the Industry News on pg. 20.
It’s not all gloom
It would be misleading to suggest that we spend all our lives worrying. For every moment of concern and doubt, there are hundreds of moments of comfort and satisfaction. School transportation, especially, is filled with incredible achievement by hundreds of thousands of highly motivated, well-trained and right-thinking individuals.
But we can never let our success turn into complacency. A little zealous doubt now and then is probably good for the soul.
All of us face work-related uncertainties every day. We learn to live with them or we change what we do. It’s a constant fight against unnamed enemies, both real and imaginary. In the end, the occasional sleepless nights are worth the price of what we accomplish.