You may recall that although I am technically a substitute school bus driver, I have been driving the same route for the last five months. It is widely regarded by the other drivers as a “difficult” route, student-wise, but I’ve really come to enjoy it. I’ve gotten to know the students and their personalities, and while most days it is still no walk in the park, I recently got to the point where I actually looked forward to taking these kids to and from school.
Then, about a week ago, they decided to let the regular driver of the route go. Letting her go meant that the route could finally go “up for bid,” which means that it is posted for three days, and all the other drivers have the chance to take it if they want it.
Well, two days went by and I was feeling pretty good about being hired on to keep it. It seemed like an ideal situation: I’m the next substitute in line to be hired, and I would be hired to take on the same route that I’ve already been driving for the last five months. Then, on the afternoon of the last full day it was posted, another driver signed up for it.
It was disappointing, but I can understand why. He’s a retired guy, and when he rode along with me yesterday morning to learn the route, he told me that in recent months his retirement has been hit hard by the stock market. Instead of driving the 4-hour route he had taken just to have a little money to support his boating habit, he decided to move up to a 6.5-hour route because he actually needed the money.
So yesterday was my last day. And I got the same feeling that I’ve gotten on other momentous occasions that I recognized as momentous occasions. On the last day of school, or of a job, or living someplace, I become removed from what I’m doing. I always think, “This is the last time I am doing this. An era is coming to an end, for better or worse. Even though I’m looking forward to what is next, I feel like mourning what is going away.” While I do everything for the last time, it feels almost unreal, as if I am floating.
That happened yesterday, especially in the afternoon. I knew that I had to tell the students on both runs that they were getting a new driver, but it took me a while to get up the nerve to say it. When I finally did, there were a lot of questions, and several students seemed genuinely unhappy (though there were many for whom it was hard to say what they were thinking. They could have been sad, or cynical, or they could not have cared). Even though it certainly was a “difficult” route, I will miss taking those kids to and from school every day.