Remember that last day of school when you were a kid? You counted down the days for the last month, and the last week of school was one big wiggle-fest because no one could sit still.
Then the bell would ring on that last day and the roar of excited children could be heard for miles. The poor school bus driver had to bring a load of high-energy kids on one last ride that left his ears ringing for days.
When I was in elementary school, we had a bus driver named Floyd, who would take everyone to Dairy Queen on the last day of school and buy us each a small cone.
No permission slips, no doctor’s notes, no allergy warnings. He just took us there.
He tended to hand out cookies on a regular basis (he had a fondness for Fig Newtons) and always had a joke to tell. He seemed to know if a kid climbed on his bus after a bad day, and a treat would miraculously appear out of his lunch box and land in that kid’s lap, accompanied by a wink and a smile.
He knew our names, knew the name of our dog, knew who our parents were and expected us to know if the neighbor kid wasn’t riding the bus after school or if someone was sick. And we usually did. It was Floyd’s version of No Child Left Behind.
I still remember standing in the driveway and having that big bus pull up with a squeal of brakes and cloud of dust.
Until a family bought out the old farmhouse down the road from us and moved a couple of kids in, we were the first kids on the bus every day. Floyd always said hello to Wendy, our collie mutt who waited for the bus with us. She climbed aboard more than once, which made Floyd laugh. She was always waiting when we got home, like she had sat there all day while we were in school.
“Good morning, Parenteaus,” Floyd would say to the four of us and Wendy. (Parenteau is my maiden name for those of you who think Floyd said something obscene or in French)
“Good morning, Floyd,” we would answer.
What a great guy. To a little kid he seemed huge. To this day I’m not sure if he really was or not. I only remember the little kid perspective. I’m slightly ashamed to say I don’t even know what his last name was. To us, he was just Floyd, our bus driver buddy who always seemed glad to see us.
If someone like Floyd tried to do things like that these days, he’d be accused of grooming children for nefarious purposes and probably be sued by some parent who had a kid catch a cold after eating ice cream on that last day.