Friday, September 9, 2011

Driving the Church Bus

Yes, you read the title correctly and I actually did this..... once. A few years ago, my church was trying to figure out how to get some folks from their homes or assisted living environments to church on Sunday, so a group of us volunteered to learn to drive the church van and each take one Sunday a month. I thought "how hard can this be?" and jumped on board.

I'm writing about it now, because I recently found the perfect birthday card for my friend Leslee (her birthday is September 10), who is integral to this story. Her card talked about the excitement of riding the church bus. Little did that card writer know that riding with me would be pretty exciting!

My Sunday came. Randy, who was using a walker at the time, and I drove up next to the bus and I opened it up, having gotten the key a day or two before. The first obstacle was a spare tire in the back where wheelchairs would need to go. I couldn't budge the giant tire. Fortunately there was a nice man hanging out nearby and he took care of the tire for me. So, I practiced the lift loading process with Randy and we were off!

I'm not sure of the order I picked people up in, but I believe we picked up my friend Leslee first, as she was closest to the church and that gave me another chance to practice using the lift door on someone using a walker! Next we went to Andover Place where we picked up a great gentleman named Lloyd who was in a wheelchair. Lloyd was loaded in safely and we were off to Pleasant Hills to pick up Priscilla. We couldn't drive up to the door, because of an overhang that was too low (or a church bus that was too tall), so I walked Priscilla down to the bus. She loaded on just fine and found a seat. Then the challenge started. I could not get the lift doors to close completely. I tried every button and combination of buttons and nothing worked. I went to the outside of the doors and pushed, but they just wouldn't close enough to lock. I was very frustrated and about to cry or scream, but was trying to keep my sense of humor. It broke my heart to see the look on Randy's face when he couldn't help me, although I'm pretty sue he made a joke about it (knowing Randy). After a few minutes, a couple of able-bodied, nice ladies walked by and I asked them to push on the outside while I pulled on the inside. Thank the good Lord, that finally worked! So we were off to church.

When we arrived and I dropped off everyone at the church door, I went around back to park the van in its designated spot. However, someone had the audacity to have parked their car in that spot. So I drove back around to the front and parked illegally at the curb. Needless to say I was not very happy. When Randy and I went into church, I tried to talk the policemen who were there drinking coffee (on a break from directing traffic, since church had started) into giving the person a ticket. But since it wasn't a handicapped space, they said they couldn't do much. We actually went to a church service, but I am sad to say I remember nothing about that experience.

As soon as church was over, I headed for the van to pull it up to the church doors. However, people were coming across the parking lot on walkers or wheelchairs and so it was fairly chaotic. That meant opening the lift doors a few extra times, which already had me worried. But, somehow, everyone got loaded onto the bus and we were off. I took Priscilla back to Pleasant Hills first. Since she was on a walker, she just went down the steps, with a little help. Then we headed to Andover. As we turned the corner from Pleasant Valley Drive onto Cantrell, I was, perhaps, going a tad too fast. I could see the back row in my rear view mirror. Randy was next to the window and Leslee was next to him on the bench. Then Mr. Lloyd, in his wheelchair, was next to Leslee. As I turned the corner, I saw Leslee disappear from my view and Randy's head where Leslee's was. I immediately slowed down (a little late) and asked if everyone was ok. They were all laughing, so I took that as a good sign. Leslee had more or less slipped into Mr. Lloyd's lap, although not completely. They righted themselves and we continued on. When we arrived at Andover and I got Mr. Lloyd out of the van, via the lift (which doors were now operating perfectly), I apologized to him for the mishap. He laughed and said "Are you kidding? That's the most fun I'll have all day!" So all was well.

I got back in the driver's seat and we took Leslee home, then back to the church to secure the van and lock it up, return the key and head for home. Randy and I laughed most of the way home at my need to volunteer for things at church, but I knew when I had been bested. I told him I would resign from the van driving team (which I did when we got home). So, I'm sorry in a way that I didn't try again - I'm sure I would have ended up with more ammunition for good stories, but my frustration most likely would have gotten the better of me, so, it's probably like the old saying - all's well that ends well!

1 comment:

  1. Oh my gosh, thank you so much for my laugh this morning! What an adventure. I'm also glad I realized you had a blog. I loved going back to the older posts and catching up. You are a great writer. Keep up the good work!