Oh, those many days standing in the cold, waiting for the school bus! While elementary school in Joplin, MO was within walking distance at a couple miles away, I rode the bus for after school bowling league and field trips. In junior high, though, I was at the bus stop every morning. Bus drivers certainly get their share of ribbing about grinding the gears when they shift (doubtful that’s even an issue any more since they likely all have automatic transmissions) and running over curbs. But the drivers I had and have known over the years cared lots more for their students than I realized as a child.
Bus drivers do much more than merely drive. In the snow and ice, they have to get up extra early to make sure the Blue Bird is safe. They calm nerves of upset children (and anxious parents on those first days of school). They help disabled kiddos onboard. They may have to open and close gates in the driving rain. They befriend shy students and provide a friendly smile to start and end the day.
Candy Knapp is one of these kind souls. A driver for Springfield City schools for 40 years, she delivered lots of precious cargo. Along the way, she bore her share of battle scars. She tore her shoulder falling on ice. She jammed her thumb pushing a stuck brake release. She hurt her back lifting heavy coolers full of lunches for latch key students going on a field trip and then aggravated it loading a child into a wheelchair.
Shrugging these off, she kept on keeping on until falling in pot holes on a hill pulling gates together to lock up… during a rainstorm. The resulting knee injury resulted in surgeries, lots of rehab, a tens unit and ultimately a walker. Obviously, the work she’d enjoyed for 40 years was now out of the question. The BWC decided her desire for vocational rehabilitation was not feasible. We filed for permanent total disability. The Industrial Commission doctor thought Candy could so some sit-down work and her application should be denied. When her hearing was scheduled, it was assigned to a hearing officer one of the toughest to win with. (Think of the old Life cereal commercials: He won’t grant it, he hates everything!). Despite the terrible odds, Candy won! I believe the hearing officer saw a woman who had dedicated herself to her students her entire work-life and his heart grew three sizes that day.
I’m glad we could play a part in her story. I thank Candy and all the bus drivers we’ve represented over the years for the unseen work they do. As with most things, it’s a lot more involved than I would’ve thought at first blush.