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Schools

No secret for school bus driver's success

By NICOLE HUTCHESON, Times Staff Writer
Published October 29, 2007


Annie D. Hobson has been driving a Pinellas County Schools bus for 32 years without a ticket or accident in a school bus or her own vehicle.
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[Pinellas County Schools]
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ST. PETERSBURG - Annie D. Hobson has been driving a Pinellas County Schools bus for 32 years. In that time, the 62-year-old has managed to keep a spotless driving record - not a single ticket or accident on the bus or on in her own car.

The way she tells it, it's not as hard as it may sound. And all that recent hoopla about rowdy parents boarding the bus and inciting mischief doesn't faze her either.

Hobson, who was recently honored by the School Board for her good record, sat down with us to talk about how she's lasted this long and offer a few tips on how to become a fellow master of the road.

Why did you become a bus driver?

I was about 28 at the time and I had smaller kids. When you have younger kids, you're on their schedule. I had lost my husband in 1970 about four years before becoming a bus driver. He had a hemorrhage on the brain. We had been married 13 years. I was left with the two kids to raise. I was looking for more income.

What was your first route?

Then it was neighborhood schools, so I did the Gulf Beaches, Seminole, Largo and Belleair Beaches. Now with school choice, we're all over the county.

Do you remember what your first day was like?

Like all the new drivers coming in, I was nervous. You're not aware of what you're going to face. But kids are kids, they greet you. You learn each other's names. You become a family. Daily, you learn to deal with it and you learn to love it actually.

What time do you have to get up in the morning?

I get up at 3 a.m. When you're a bus driver, you go to bed early. You can't be tired. You have to be refreshed. So I go to bed at 8 or 8:30 p.m. When you're a bus driver you don't have much of a life. You can't come to work tired. You have to be focused and watching what's going on around you.

So what's your route like these days?

My route starts at Lakewood High School and ends at Clearwater Intermediate as my last stop.

When I got to my 25th year, I switched into special education and medically needy kids. So, I have about 8 to 10 kids at the most. I was looking for something more quiet and laid back where I could finish my years up. It's easier, but I enjoy it more so. Even if they can't talk, a smile on their face when they look up at you is overwhelming.

There's been so much in the news about violence happening on the school bus, including bullying by parents and fighting. How would you deal with an irate parent trying to get on your bus?

Well, they're not allowed to even step up on the bus. So I'd probably try to get my door closed and get away from them, if I could.

What's the craziest thing you've had to deal with as a bus driver?

I haven't had a lot of problems, because a lot of the kids that I haul, I drove their parents. One time one of my students told me she was going to get her father on me because I made her sit at the front of the bus. The next morning her dad showed up and I realized I used to drive him to school. He just smiled and laughed. It was funny. She had me afraid to show up that next morning!

How have kids changed over the years?

The kids used to keep me laughing and going. The kids nowadays, they are somewhat different. They think they know it all.

What advice would you give to those of us with a more colorful driving record? How have you managed to keep your record so squeaky clean?

Every morning I pray to God first and ask for protection for the day. If I'm running late, I'm late. My kids tell me I should get the record for being the world's slowest driver. It's just that I'm never in a hurry. You've got to realize that you can never make up time. So, it's God, common sense, and the hope that you'll get through the day. That should do it.

Nicole Hutcheson can be reached at nhutcheson@sptimes.com or (727)893-8828.

[Last modified October 28, 2007, 21:16:51]


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