Have you ever thought that your experiences in pupil transportation would make for great reading material? Tom Brandon did, and he turned that thought into a collection of lively stories that reveal the important connection between school bus driver and passengers.
Brandon, now retired, worked in education for more than three decades, mostly at a rural school in northern Alabama. Along with driving a school bus, he served as a teacher and a coach.
It was his time behind the wheel that inspired Brandon to launch a blog, where he chronicled his many amusing encounters with the students he shuttled to and from Walnut Grove Elementary School in New Market, Alabama. Now Brandon’s engaging observations are available in print, in a book called Mr. Brandon’s School Bus: What I Heard on the Way to School (NewSouth Books).
Brandon was kind enough to send me a copy of his book, which I’ve been reading during breaks at the office over the past few weeks. Picking up the small, school bus yellow paperback, I’ve found myself easily drawn into the colorful world of Brandon’s bus and the community of country folk whose houses he pulls up to twice a day.
This is a neck of the woods where, as Brandon deadpans in the preface, “Camouflage is considered proper attire, for men and women, for any occasion.”
Part of the book’s appeal is the hilarious antics of the students. There are the two similar-looking sisters, ages 4 and 5, who give a stern warning for anyone who would call them twins. There’s the boy who shares a revelation: “manure and poop are the same thing.” Then there’s the kid who shows off his sunglasses — before the sun comes up.
The book is broken up into brief anecdotes, each one offering up insightful and humorous gems. The result is something like the old TV program Kids Say the Darndest Things if it were hosted by Jeff Foxworthy and set on a school bus.
There are recurring characters, some with telling nicknames, like Hot Pickle Boy and Mr. Mucus. In one story, Hot Pickle Boy, “being the refined redneck that he is,” explains to Mr. Mucus that even if you use a gun for fishing, it’s still called fishing.
Brandon proves to be a compelling storyteller. He brings his bus and his passengers to life, building each tale at a brisk pace and capping it with a witty conclusion.
Although he makes no attempt to toot his own horn, it’s clear that Brandon — like countless other school bus drivers — has had a positive impact on many children. A few examples from the book:
• He cheers up a grumpy student.
• He compliments kindergartners who are dressed up for graduation.
• He delivers discipline when needed — for instance, stopping a passenger from discussing the details of puberty.
• He passes a whole box of tissues to Mr. Mucus (you can guess why).
• Frequently, he fields a wide variety of inquiries. As Brandon writes, in the eyes of youngsters, the school bus driver is “an authority and can be called on to answer any question.”
Throughout the book, Brandon’s anecdotes unassumingly show that being a school bus driver means much more than just driving a bus. It means taking the helm of a classroom on wheels, with the potential to help shape each passenger’s education.
Mr. Brandon’s School Bus: What I Heard on the Way to School is available through local and online retailers, or from the publisher.
What’s the funniest thing that you or one of your drivers has heard on the school bus? Post a comment below.