Every once in a while, I pull up my tiny little hometown weekly newspaper online. I peruse it, see if I recognize any other names of the people who’ve gotten married ,had babies, received promotions, been arrested, or died. Yeah, it’s that small.
Anyway, I read it today, and in the obituaries, I recognized a name that brought back many fond memories. William Mickens died. He was my bus driver (bus #39) for many years. Let me tell you was not your average bus driver.
William was a big black man. He was jolly and jiggly just like Santa. He was as sweet a man as you’d ever meet and ten times as funny. He delighted on the daily jokes he’d throw at us to make us laugh. I remember him many a time almost banging his head on the steering wheel laughing so hard. Yeah, and he even smoked on the bus, and was known to use a dirty word or two.
William (he would have had a fit if we had called him Mr. Mickens) was precise. He was NEVER late. He was NEVER early. He was EXACT. I’d call that an art. There were only a hand full of times in all those years that he didn’t show up on time, and that was because his bus broke down and he had to wait for a replacement bus. If you were ever going to be broken down, he was the one to be with because he made the time fly by!
He could jam with the best of us. He belted out some Motown. He’d clap his hands and dance in his seat all the while keeping us in the road and entertained at the same time.
Back then, he was the only driver in the county to have ever had a governor placed on his bus. (You know the device that would not allow his bus to go over 55 miles an hour) I think he actually even may have disabled it a few times. Anyway, it mysteriously ceased to work and after being reported again by citizens to the school board , they’d place another one on our bus. I lived way out in the country and we had to go over a mountain. Let’s just say the man could keep it in the road going seventy miles an hour around a winding gravel road. He could turn on a dime. He made the forty-five minute one way trip an adventure. He made the ride FUN! And there was NO ONE I felt safer with driving me over a mountain in a torrential blizzard.
William was not conventional. He got away with things way back then that would be absolutely unheard of these days. And then again, I’ll bet no one had the kind of fun we had on the bus. He didn’t care if we ate or threw balled up paper at each other. The only requirement was that we cleaned up our messes. He would actually even drop us off at the local general store while he went down into one area to drop kids off and pick up back up when he swung back through. Only requirement was that occasionally we’d pick up a soda for him that he gave us money to buy for him. He was known to pick people up at one end of the town and drop them off at the other end. Usually these characters provided us with ample entertainment long after he’d dropped them off at their destinations.
I’m sure that bus #39 kicked the bucket many years ago. I’ll just bet that #39 is entertaining the other buses at the some local junk yard that houses all of the county vehicles and buses. Yes, I’ll bet #39 is the king of that place!
I think that all the other bus drivers were envious of William because the kids loved him so. And frankly, he could handle his bus like no one else could. I know my friends who rode different buses wished he was their driver.
You guys are probably shaking your kids and thinking you’d die if someone was that irresponsible while driving your kids. And I’d have flipped if someone had done that while my children’s safety was in their hands. I went to school in a different era. Dang, I’m old. I graduated in 1981. They had rules and regulations, but nothing like today. As absurd as it sounds, the man did make us feel safe. He would NEVER have let anyone lay a hand on any of us or intentionally put any of us in harm’s way. And what was really weird was that he was in fact only a few years younger than my own parents…and he was the ultimate cool! We surely loved that man.
I only saw William twice after I graduated and moved away from home. He, of course, had a big hug for me and plenty of time to catch up and share a few laughs.
So, here’s to William. Thanks for making that long ride each day not only bearable but fun. Thanks for the memories. I’m sure he’s right up there’s showing everyone the real way to drive a school bus. And I’ll bet those buses aren’t equipped with governors.