MR. BUS DRIVER
By Andy Weddington
Friday, 26 December 2008
It’s the day after Christmas and too soon to think about penning anything all that serious. As such, something on the lighter side. A good, wholesome tale—recycled from twenty-five years ago—for the entire family. Enjoy!
An old retired United States Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant by the name of McDonald--known as "Big Mac" when on active duty--ever-so-slowly rocks away one morning on the front porch of his humble home. Admiring his squared-away lawn, vintage pickup truck, and enjoying the peace and quiet, he takes an occasional sip of black coffee while leisurely thumbing through the paper. As he finishes the classifieds, he spots a small block ad in the employment section: “Wanted: Responsible person with clean driving record to operate elementary school bus. Monday-Friday mornings and afternoons. Contact Ron at Sesame Street Elementary.”
For months “The Gunny” had been thinking about doing something to fill part of his day. He was not much of a shopper, went to the barber shop once a week and only for a regulation haircut, didn't hang out at the diner, and could care less about watching Regis and Oprah. Frankly, he was restless and sitting around all day was not helping his attitude or waistline. To date, nothing seemed very appealing to him. But, driving a bus—though he’d not thought about it—seemed perfect. After all, he spent his entire Marine career in Motor Transport. After batting the idea around with his wife, Gunny phoned Ron to learn more about the duties. Intrigued, he concluded the call by scheduling an appointment to meet with Ron later that day. During their visit Ron explained the bus was small, there were only a dozen or so special children who rode the bus, but the route was spread throughout town and would take a couple of hours each morning and afternoon. Ron was impressed with the Gunny’s experience and attitude and offered him the job. “Perfect,” said Gunny and since he was to begin the next morning, he agreed to ride the route that afternoon with Ron to familiarize himself with the roads and confirm the stops.
Gunny returned home excited about his new job and confident he knew the route—exactly. The following morning, as he walked through the front door, Gunny’s adoring wife snapped to attention (yeah, right) and handed him his favorite coffee mug—emblazoned with the Corps’ distinctive emblem on one side and his rank and “Because Gunny Said So” on the other side. With a farewell peck on the cheek from the Mrs., Gunny stepped smartly off the porch and strode briskly toward his bus to begin the morning route.
The bus was a stubby one that seated no more than 15 passengers. It was bright yellow with “Sesame Street” stenciled in big, bold red on the sides. Coincidently and much to the Gunny’s liking, the seats were upholstered in Marine green and the metal work was highly polished. In fact, the bus was immaculate and he thought almost up to Marine standards. But one thing was missing. He made a mental note to get a Marine Corps decal for the rear window.
Rumbling along the route and having made a few stops, Gunny approached his fourth stop and noticed two little plump girls dressed in identical skirts holding their books and lunch pails. They appeared to be a happy pair but definitely on the heavy side. As he opened the door one of the girls jumped on the first step and introduced herself, “Hi, my name is Patti. And my friend’s name is Patti. Sometimes people think we are twins but we’re not. We’re not even sisters. We are just two girls named Patti. We are best friends. We go everywhere together.” Gunny listened attentively, approvingly nodded his head and smiled, and welcomed the two Patties aboard. He proceeded to his next stop.
Now nearing his seventh stop, Gunny spotted a tall, thin woman wearing a long skirt but did not see any children. As he slowed and brought his bus to a stop he noticed a young boy who appeared to be hiding behind the woman. After he opened the door, the woman stepped onto the bus, introduced herself, and explained to him the young man cowering behind her was her son, Ross. She repeated several times Ross is an only child and quite shy. She went on to tell Gunny that she and her husband always referred to their son as “Special Ross” and that he warms up quickly to anyone who calls him by his pet name. So, wanting to be as accommodating as possible, Gunny invited Special Ross aboard the bus and assured his mother he would be just fine. With Special Ross seated in the last row of the bus, Gunny eased back into traffic and proceeded to his next stop.
Slowing and stopping at the corner of Main and Fry, his twelfth and final stop, Gunny spotted a tall, gangly kid who seemed to be all arms and legs—he was draped over a mailbox. Opening the bus door Gunny asked “And who might you be?” To which the young man somewhat goofily replied, “My name is Lester—Lester Reese. Everyone calls me Lester Reese. It’s not just Lester and it’s not just Reese—it’s my full name, Lester Reese. So, please Mr. Bus Driver, call me Lester Reese.” With that Gunny happily obliged and said, “Well welcome aboard, Lester Reese. Let’s go to school.” In one awkward movement Lester Reese plopped down in the seat right behind the Gunny, removed his socks and shoes, dangled his feet on the metal bar behind the driver’s seat and began to pick at his toes. The Gunny could not help but wonder about this character “Lester Reese.”
With a nearly full bus, Gunny made his way toward the school house to drop his charges. The eager children hurried off the bus—with some holding hands, they ran and skipped toward their school. His first morning run complete, Gunny headed for home to relax before returning to the school later in the day to retrace his circuit. Eager to hear about his first day on the job, Gunny’s wife was standing—at attention, of course (yeah, right)—on the porch to greet him, “Well, Gunny, how was your first day as a bus driver?” Gunny paused for a moment to think and with a sly smile offered a single sentence reply, “Well dear, it was great. I suppose you could say it was two all-beef Patties, Special Ross, Lester Reese picking his bunions on a Sesame Street bus.”
PostScript: Yes, Marc, I remembered and seasoned it a bit.