Getting the job done
Author’s Note: this story is a little longer than most, but I think you’ll enjoy it.
He drove the 66-passenger church bus because he liked to. There weren’t many things TJ enjoyed doing more in life than that. TJ drove the forest green bus whenever more than a dozen kids needed to be picked up on Sundays and Wednesdays.
This week, however, the youth group was going to Summer camp 120 miles away. It would be the first time TJ would take the bus on a highway with a full bus. At camp, their group would meet up with four other youth groups from across the State.
For 118 miles, the trip went without a hitch. A rain storm muddied the camp two days before. Part of the dirt road leading to the camp were two big ruts. Getting back into the camp required finesse and skilled driving, both of which TJ was not adept at. He could navigate paved roads in his sleep, but dirt roads were a crap shoot.
Youth leaders Craig and Janice unloaded the group and watched as the adult chaperones analyzed the situation. Craig suggested having the kids grab their gear to hike the rest of the way into camp, but the other chaperones talked him out of it.
Mr. Andrews was a youth leader from the group that drove up right behind TJ’s bus. Three van loads full of kids and gear stopped 50 feet from the bus. As TJ talked the situation over with two of his group’s chaperones, Mr. Andrews approached the adults, introduced himself, and asked, “May I make a suggestion?”
TJ said, “By all means.”
“Well, the way I see it…” He paused and sized up the 25-year-old bus driver. “Mind if I take control of this thing? I’m a professional bus driver and have driven these monsters for more than 35 years. It can be hairy getting it around all this mud. It’d be easier for me to just do it rather than explain how I’d do it.”
TJ smiled because Mr. Andrews just got him out of a jam.
“Keys are in the ignition, sir.”
Andrews boarded the bus, closed the door, and started it. Sixty-two kids and 14 adults stood around to watch how Mr. Andrews would maneuver the bus through the mud. He opened the doors and got out, surveying the next thirty feet ahead, and jumped back into the driver’s seat. The crowd of onlookers stepped back from the bus as Andrews inched his way forward in first gear. He gunned the engine and it went twenty feet before the back wheels started spinning in the mud. The mud flew everywhere. The more the tires spun, the bigger hole it was digging itself into.
Mr. Andrews got off the bus and again surveyed his situation. He looked over at TJ, winked, and addressed the audience of onlookers.
“All right, listen up here. Icebreaker time. While I’m talking, Randy, Tim, and Travis, there should be a small shovel in the back of each of the vans. Go grab them.
“Now,” Andrews said, rubbing his hands together. “Where are my kids from Palmetto?”
A few cheered.
“Seriously? That’s the best you can do? I said, ‘Where are my kids from Palmetto?’”
A raucous cheer rang out.
“Better, much better. Now, here’s what we’re gonna do. I want my kids to get behind this beast of a bus and push this as hard as you can. Before you do that, though, I want you to intermingle with these kids from, where’d you say you’re from?”
“Greenville,” Craig said.
“Right, from Greenville. Before I put the bus in gear, my kids are gonna tell the Greenville kids that the man driving the bus is the best youth leader who’s ever lived. Got it?
“Now, Greenville, you will respond with two words. Ready? Yeah, but… that’s all, ‘yeah but.’ And you just keep going back and forth like that. Palmetto, Greenville, Palmetto, Greenville, Great teacher, Yeah but, Great teacher, …yeah but…until we get unstuck.”
“Before I jump on the bus, I need seven girls from Palmetto and seven girls from Greenville to hop on the bus and stand over the rear wheels. 1,2,3, go! Quick, quick, quick.
“Oh, and chaperones, you’re not management now. You’re just bigger workers. We’ve got to get this bus unstuck so we can eat at a reasonable time tonight. Got it? Go. Let’s get this baby unstuck!”
TJ introduced himself to a Palmetto man, “Is he always like this?”
“Very much so. Name’s Joseph by the way. When he got on the bus first, he probably thought he could do it, but then he saw the audience he had. It was an opportunity he just couldn’t pass up. Uniting two groups before they even got to camp. Brilliant actually.”
“Yeah, I’d say so too.”
Seven minutes later with sixty people pushing, getting mud filthy, intermingling, and laughing while doing it, Mr. Andrews drove the bus onto drier ground and parked it so the kids could get on. And that’s what all the kids did, both Greenville and Palmetto hopped on board to go the rest of the way into camp, friends for a week or more.
Mr. Andrews got off, smiled at TJ and said, “I never said I was a good bus driver, now, did I?”