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Setting a Few Records
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Today was Driver Appreciation Day. Each year around this time we do something (usually involving food) for our 198 bus drivers to show our appreciation for all they do. This year we decided to have a Pizza Lunch.

We called the pizza kitchen. A very young adolescent voice said, "May I help you?" I said, "Yes, I'd like to order 37 pizzas for lunch, 15 of them pepperoni, 15 sausage and the rest cheese."

His voice squeaked up an octave as he said, "Just a moment. Mr. **** the manager will help you" and over his shoulder I guess I could hear him saying, "Sir, they want 37 of them!"

In a moment, a deep older voice took a phone and asked me who I was and would I mind pizzas that had been previously frozen as part of my order (they make up cheese pizzas ahead of time). I told him I was from the school district and I would be paying the bill in cash (we sell snacks and cold drinks on the honor system all year long for these events). And reheated pizzas were fine with me.

The squeaky voiced one came back on the line, his voice calmer and took the specifics of the order. He wanted to know if we were going to send a school bus to pick them up--he always wanted to see a school bus close up. We told him, no, sorry, rules and regulations and all that, but he could come visit any time and we'd be happy to give him the 10-cent tour.

The 37 pizzas stayed hot all the way from the kitchen to the offices. The temperature today was in the low 100's most of the day. Not likely they were going to have a chance to get cold. It has cooled down to 90 at 6 p.m. now and I'm considering breaking out the wool sweater and the thermal underwear. Brrrrrrh!

I really feel sorry for the school bus drivers, especially the ones who drive the conventionals and vans. They sit right next to the engine compartment. When I drove a bus, I put a thermometer next to my right leg one day when the weather was hot like this and it registered 140 degrees!

I used to take a wet washcloth in a plastic bag and keep it beside my driver's seat. Every stop I'd take it out and wipe my face and arms to cool off. Even though it was against the rules, I'd let my passengers bring plastic bottles of water to drink on the bus. This kind of heat can kill if it's not managed properly.

At the end of my route in the afternoon, after the last child had been dropped off at his stop, on my way back to the yard I'd go past a house where the automatic sprinklers were watering a lawn and its adjacent sidewalk. I always found a reason why I just had to stop there and check the passenger side of my bus.... Once dampened, I was quite comfortable.

Now I'm an important so-and-so and I work in an air conditioned office and drive a computer. I see the drivers come in sweaty, hot and flushed and I sympathize. I hope some day we have a whole fleet of air-conditioned buses. The few that we do have are highly sought after as you can well imagine.

I hope the weather cools down soon and the Catalina eddy rolls back in bringing low clouds and fog typical of this time of year. This heat is torture. Even those of us who can keep cool still have to contend with dust and pollen and difficulties breathing. People with conditions which affect their lungs are being advised to stay indoors and restrict their activities. Bus drivers don't have that luxury.

School bus drivers have the best safety record on the road and they drive our most precious cargo. Wave to and smile at the next one you see.

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