My Year of Driving the Kids on School Bus 3077
What happens when an out of work writer takes a job driving school bus for a group of special needs students? A lot of things, actually, both good and bad. Craig Davidson chronicles his year in Precious Cargo: My Year of Driving the Kids on School Bus 3077. This story, like Craig’s own life, has it’s highs and lows, some very touching and some very human moments in it.
One morning in 2008, desperate and impoverished and living in a one-room basement apartment while trying unsuccessfully to write, Davidson plucked a flyer out of his mailbox that read, “Bus Drivers Wanted.” That was the first step towards an unlikely new career: driving a school bus full of special-needs kids for a year. Armed only with a sense of humour akin to that of his charges, a creative approach to the challenge of driving a large, awkward vehicle while corralling a rowdy gang of kids, and surprising but unsentimental reserves of empathy, Davidson takes us along for the ride. He shows us how his evolving relationship with the kids on that bus, each of them struggling physically as well as emotionally and socially, slowly but surely changed his life along with the lives of the “precious cargo” in his care. This is the extraordinary story of that year and those relationships. It is also a moving, important and universal story about how we see and treat people with special needs in our society.
Jokes about riding ‘the short bus’ are still very common. Somehow, it automatically conveys the idea of being separate and less than the rest of society. But we often forget that the people, yes people, on that bus are just as human as the rest of us. Their wheelchairs, speech impediments, and seemingly odd social behaviours do not mean that they are not capable of feeling and experiencing the very same things that the rest of us can.
In a very non-confrontational, humanly-fumbling way, Davidson shows us how he his eyes were gradually opened to subtle (and not so subtle) ways that society treats those with special needs as secondary ‘others’, rather than different equals. Without being judgemental or heavy, and openly admitting his own biases and faults, the author takes the reader on a relatively light-hearted ride. With just the right balance of humour and retrospective insight, this book makes for a simple yet enlightening read.