THANKS FOR THE RIDE, MR.B.

As another school year draws to a close, it’s high time we salute those often undervalued, but still dedicated, disciplined and loyal personnal in the educational system…the bus driver.

I will do so with fond memories of Mr. Bedrosian, my high school bus driver in Chicago (It’s near Illinois. You can look it up). Although Mr. B. never achieved the educational level of twelfth grade, he was one knowledgeable and entertaining man.

Mr. B. left school in the sixth grade to cut the heads off chickens on his father’s farm, which, I suppose, would account for the reason that the words ‘thighs’ and ‘breasts’ were the only words not allowed to be uttered on his school bus, or ‘classroom,’ as he called it.

We learned more about life from him that some most of our teachers. He was famous for saying things like, “Study hard, play hard and never leave a ballgame before the 7th inning stretch,” and “Stand up to the bully. Punch him in the head and then pull his pants down. Nobody looks tough naked.”

We couldn’t wait for him to pull up and pile on so we could sit up close and get a good whiff of his freshly lit Camel. There was just something about the aroma of tobacco. We hung on every word he said. I remember that just about every morning he would sit idling his school bus and wait on the corner for Sandy and Steve to come out of her house. “Hey, Mr. B., c’mon, we’re going to be late for home room,” we would say. He would take a drag of his cigarette and tell us, “Sandy and Steve are making out in the house. Give ’em a minute. We punish you kids all the time for fighting. We certainly can’t punish you for loving, can we?”

He was a psychologist as well. “Hey Mr. B., I think this guy named Mike is trying to make time with my girlfriend, Sara.” He shook his head and offered, “Wait until gym class and pound his head in the mat.” Sage advice, indeed.He was ax expert on everything.On the Chicago Cubs: “You kids may even live long enough to see them win four in a row.On financial matters: “If you have to borrow money, ask your father. He’s only going to spend it on Playboys and Pabst Blue Ribbon anyway.” On hot cheerleaders: “Look, but don’t touch. They’re either dating a player or too stuck up to mess with.” On life: “Study hard, play hard and never leave a ballgame before the 7th inning stretch.” He would even quiz us on stuff the day of an exam, just to make sure we were doing our part.

Mr. B. knew every student by name and knew all of our interests. On a typical morning, he would open the doors and ask, Hey Glenn, how’s that curve ball working out for you?’ or “Billy, go get ’em tonight at the track meet,” or “Hey, Miller, next time you try and sneak into Wrigley Field, I’m calling the cops.”

Today, of course, Mr. Bedrosian would be arrested for the way he treated kids and maybe that’s where we’ve gone astray. SMOKING ON A SCHOOL BUS? How could he? But that was then, and this is now, yet somehow we all managed to grow up to be responsible citizens…everyone except Jimmy Wolter, who grew up be a White Sox fan. You can lead a horse to water, but…

A kinder, gentler man could not be found and that’s a lot more than we can say about some educational administrators today, who’ve made the wrong kind of headlines for incidents too numerous to name.

So, Mr. B., I know it’s been several years and nary a Christmas card from me, but, trust me, if you were still driving, I’d be the first one on the bus just to hear that next pearl of wisdom fall from your lips. My old classmates tell me that you’re thoroughly enjoying your retirement in Tampa. Hey, by the way, I’ve heard that it’s a law in Florida that everyone must have a pool but nobody can ever actually go in. Is that true? Thanks again for the education and I’m sure you’d agree, “Kids belong ON the bus and IN school…not ON your front lawn! God bless you.

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