Quiet in the back!

Published 9:50 pm Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Most parents are intimately familiar with the stress involved with even a simple trip in a car with children. Whether they’re fighting about space in the backseat, complaining about feeling sick or repeating the proverbial “Are we there yet?” until it sounds like a youthful mantra, even the most well behaved children are capable of taking the leisure out of a leisurely drive.

Parents with large families lined up noisily along the seats of minivans or minibus-sized SUVs sometimes adopt the sort of thousand-yard stare that used to be associated with veterans who’d had a bad time in the war. Those who aren’t shell-shocked can sometimes seem surly and mean when barking orders for quiet in the rear of the vehicle. The best parents realize how easy it would be to succumb to either of those urges and struggle mightily to keep their calm and their good grace, even through the stress.

Considering how hard it can be to remain calm in the car with one’s own children, the thought of doing so with 60 or so of other people’s children is downright frightening. But that’s what Suffolk’s school bus drivers do every day. And they do it while maneuvering a vehicle the size of a boat into, out of and through traffic; along country roads, city streets and major highways; and through rain or shine and even the occasional flurry.


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On Saturday, they had a break from the noisy kids they ferry back and forth during the school week, but about 20 drivers from Suffolk and Portsmouth got behind the wheel of their big yellow buses to show how well they can handle their vehicles.

They parallel parked, backed into a narrow “chutes” hardly wider than the buses, drove with their dual wheels straddling tennis balls and negotiated a mock railway crossing, among other skills.

The school bus rodeo at King’s Fork High School provided a bit of friendly competition for the participants and gave them all a chance for a family fun day.

But make no mistake: These drivers all took things very seriously when they strapped on their seatbelts. “Anything you do, you want to be on top,” competitor Vernice McMillan said.

Just so. But we’re still betting that none of the drivers was sorry to be competing in the relative quiet of an empty bus.