Dallas has been driving the high school bus for as long as anyone can remember.
He’s an old man, and he’s fat. He has that bizarre incomprehensible accent unique to our area of the Blue Ridge Mountains, mixed with a distinctly Sling Blade style of speaking. He has worn the same farmer jeans and plaid shirt and trucker hat every day since at least my first day of high school in 1993. I have never, ever seen him standing up. I’ve never seen him anywhere but in the driver’s seat of the bus, although rumor has it that he has a wife and a house somewhere.
Other county bus drivers have told us how Dallas spends his days:
- Sitting on his ass;
- Bitching about driving the bus;
- Driving the bus;
- Bitching about driving the bus;
- Driving the bus;
- Sitting on his ass.
In his defense, our bus is probably the worst of all the buses in the county except for the bus that has to pick up the kids who live on the Ridge. I have never been to the Ridge, and I’m not entirely sure where it is, but kids at our high school used to talk about the Ridge as if it were a guerrilla warfare zone. Since the few kids I knew from the Ridge always had that wartorn shellshocked look going on, I was inclined to believe all the stories I heard.
Our bus has been 25% normal kids and 75% insane juvenile delinquent redneck kids since before I was in high school. Dallas hates the 25% who are normal just as much as he hates the delinquent 75%, and he’s certainly always been consistent with his bizarre disciplinary tactics.
When kids misbehave on his bus, Dallas employs exactly two methods of discipline:
- Assigning a seat (done on a per-bad-kid basis rather than throughout the bus), or
- Taking the bus back to school.
Driving home from the high school takes about fifteen minutes, depending on traffic. Riding home on the bus takes about forty-five minutes, assuming you make it home on the first try.
When the passengers on Dallas’s bus get out of control on the way home – and the definition of “out of control” varies depending on the day – Dallas turns the bus around and drives everyone on it back to school. It doesn’t matter how late in the afternoon it is. It doesn’t matter how close you are to your bus stop. When Dallas decides he’s going back to the school, he’s going back to the school, and by God if he has to turn around at one of the actual bus stops to do it, he will, and he’ll be damned if he’ll open the door and let a single kid off at that stop.
I think Dallas began the “take the bus back to school” routine when I was in high school, because I remember a year or so where he’d just pull the bus off to the side of the road and yell at us for ten or fifteen minutes, threatening that he’d take us back to school if we didn’t shut up. But then he’d run out of steam and get back on the road and carry us home. He blustered and yelled a lot and no one ever believed a word of his threats.
But then one day he actually did take us back to school. We bitched about it the entire way, and we bitched about it while we sat and waited for one of the principals to come on our bus and see what was wrong, and we bitched about it once the principal sent us on our way back home. No one got in even a little bit of trouble, and no one was inclined to behave even a little bit better, but Dallas decided that going back to school was a good way to keep us in line, and he started to do it regularly.
Sammi and Jamie estimate that Dallas has taken the bus back to school at least twice a week since they began riding it.
And the thing is, it’s done nothing whatsoever to make the crazy delinquent kids calm down, and in fact has provoked some totally normal, well-behaved kids to act out. Like my sisters, for example.
Because word on the street is that Sammi stood up and screamed at Dallas a few times when his “take the bus back to school” routine was going to make her an hour or more late to work. I don’t blame her; I’d scream at him, too. I’m sure Jamie’s probably had words with Dallas as well, because Jamie’s never in her life met a person she didn’t try to argue down.
The escalating insanity of the delinquent kids is the best, though. Like the time when Dallas pulled the bus over to threaten to take us back to school if we didn’t settle down, and some kid opened the emergency door and jumped out the back of the bus and took off running down Lover’s Lane (actual street name). Another kid escaped one day by crawling out of one of the windows.
And then there was the time when another kid got pissed off about the round trip and put his head through the bus window. The closed bus window. Somehow he managed to escape serious injury.
One time, someone on the bus brought a handful of little pebbles with him and spent the majority of the bus ride pinging Dallas in the back of the head with them. He turned the bus around about a block from our neighborhood and took it back to school, and when he got there, he tried to convince the administrators to fingerprint the pebbles and everyone on the bus so he could find out who did it.
Keep in mind that whenever Dallas takes the bus back to school, he ends up having lengthy rant sessions with whichever principal was unfortunate enough to snag bus duty, and these rant sessions always occur on the bus in full view of all the passengers, since Dallas never leaves the driver’s seat. Ever.
The crazy kids were the highlight of what was pretty much a universally sucky bus-riding career. As far as I can tell, Dallas never liked anybody who rode his bus, and took pains to make sure every single kid got in trouble at least once. I got in trouble for listening to my Discman once, which was not in any way against the rules. I also got in trouble for looking like I was chewing gum on occasion, and for turning around in my seat. Sammi also got in trouble for turning around in her seat. Ginny got in trouble for bringing her baritone on the bus, because it took too much room. It’s not like she got it out and played it or anything. We’ve gotten in trouble for opening the windows. We’ve gotten in trouble for closing the windows. You could never tell what might set Dallas off on a given day.
He’s nuts. And I bet he keeps driving the bus for another ten years, at least.