Cafe Conversations | Working in a Petri Dish. Help!


Germs & More Germy Friends!

Starting a new job is a good thing. Right?  6 fun-filled hours a day in the rain, snow and icy cold wind blowing into, through and around my body. My drafty bus packed to the max with 75+  kids every day. Each a coughing, sneezing, little mucous filled germ carrier. Seems my fate is now sealed. I am working in a Petri Dish.  Help Me!

It was a lovely day. Valentine’s Day to be exact. I started my new job that fateful morning at my local school district. While training I was hired as an aide on the bus route with the “bad kids” no one wanted to be with. Well heck, it can’t be that bad. Or, so I thought.

It has been a couple of years now since I had to be at work at 6am.  Ahh, the butt crack of dawn!  Still looks and smells the same. Rows of buses appear and suddenly I hear the words, “I get on the bus that takes me to you, To my magic bus, Thank you driver, for getting me here, To my magic bus.”  Wierd!   Now, those 70 buses are lined up in a row, humming along in tune.  Walking past in an enormous cloud of diesel exhaust that would make Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore proud.  I love the smell of diesel in the morning. I do?  No!  We now prepare for our early am student pickups. And we are off. We pick up our semi-comatose high schoolers in total darkness. Probably a good thing.  Having been up for some time now, I cheerfully greet them all. In return I do hear a few grunts, “hey how’s it goin” and 1 “morning.”  This is a good day!  My job consists of keeping language in line, hands to yourself, knees and backpacks out of the aisle, pass out kleenex, breath mints, stop food fights and teen meltdowns.  Today I found chunks of gum in my hair.  When did that happen?  Of course there is the occasional boyfriend/girlfriend crisis.  Some days I become parent and/or counselor for a few. The students are dropped 20 feet from the school door, again in total darkness. “Have a great days guys!” Grunts, a couple yeahs and generally pissed off looks are directed at me. Oh, good, they’re awake.

Hi Ho! Hi Ho!

Now, my treat for the day! The elementary students consisting of Young-Fives to 5th graders that are really 9th grader wannabes. Yeah!!  Mostly, these kids are so stinking cute. Daylight breaks on the horizon as we make our way for pick ups. These kids are wide-awake and ready to go. Tiny bodies carrying those enormous backpacks, lunch boxes and favorite things climb up the steps overflowing with shouts of “Hey Miss Barb know what I did? Hey Miss Barb wanna see my picture? And so on. Of course, the 5th graders being 5th graders are their sullen “Don’t even look at me” selves.  Still, all are treated the same regardless of attitude. One student asked me how can I always be so happy? ” Easy, I said, I choose to be happy because I want to be. The student stared at me as if my hair  was on fire!  Breaking the tilted head stare, I stated “We all have choices.  Either we can be happy or not happy.”  So my “little pebble of wisdom” gets tossed  into that Grand Canyon known as the 5th grade mind.  Oh, well.  It’s a start.

So it is now day 5,  the “Strep Monster” comes calling.  Doggone it!  All that coughing, wheezing and hacking came my way. My eyes darted about the bus.  Was it you?  Maybe you?  My mind pointing fingers as I looked up and down the rows. Aha!  It is you isn’t it?  You were out sick for 3 days. I looked at the sweet little face of a first grader.  He smiles at me and waves his little hand.  Oh man!  Why did he have to smile at me.  How can I be mad at that sweet little face?