By Iuliana Petre
Killeen Daily Herald
You'd think that because he spent 22 years in the military before finally retiring, that Tad Hendrickson, a bus driver with the Killeen Independent School District, can handle almost anything. Even kids.
And although, it's true, he can handle almost anything, even kids – a lot of them at one time – it's not to say that the kids on Hendrickson's daily bus route don't test his patience. They do.
For three hours in the morning, beginning each school day at 6 a.m., Hendrickson picks up and drops off more than 120 elementary, middle school and high school-aged students from their homes and drops them off at their respective school.
In the afternoon, it's the same thing but in reverse. Hendrickson begins his three and a half hour afternoon route at 2 p.m., picking up students from school and dropping them off at home. But, all of the age groups don't ride together.
Hendrickson, like all of KISD's other bus drivers, first picks up the elementary-aged students and drops them off. When that part is done, he begins the second part of his route by picking up the middle-schoolers. After they've all been dropped off, Hendrickson then picks up the high-schoolers.
Regardless of the monotony of the job and the manner in which students behave, Hendrickson remains even-keeled and level-headed. He smiles and kindly greets each and every student every time they board his bus.
"Good afternoon, Christian. Are you going to be good on the bus today?" Hendrickson asked one of his elementary-aged riders on Thursday as the child boarded the bus. And although Christian said "yes," that he would be good, the truth was that in the afternoon, Christian and his peers got a little rowdy.
"That's just what kids do," Hendrickson said, adding "I spend 15 to 20 percent of the time telling the elementary kids to sit down in their seats."
"The middle-schoolers and high-schoolers are pretty good," Hendrickson said, adding that with the elementary kids on the bus it's just "organized chaos."
But, Hendrickson's job requires more than driving the streets of Killeen. He is responsible for ensuring that the bus is mechanically ready to perform the daily task, ensuring kids are dropped off with a designated individual or Hendrickson returns the students to the school, and ensuring that nothing and no one was left behind at the end of each route.
"After the Army took many of my Saturdays and Sundays, I decided I wanted a job where if my kids are out of school, I won't be working either," Hendrickson said about the reason why he became a bus driver.
And although the job requires nearly 12 hours of his day, Hendrickson is grateful for the fact that "when I go home, I'm done working. The job doesn't follow me home," Hendrickson said, adding "I've actually enjoyed doing this."
Contact Iuliana Petre at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7469.