The other day my son, who is 7 was compared to a package that went missing. Not directly mind you, but in tone and in actions. It was his first day of a new school year, he was starting the second grade. The night prior was Open House at his school. We attended, like we have every year and noticed that his bus tag had a different bus number than the information sheet that was sent to our home from the District Transportation Department a few weeks earlier. We didn't question it, we just assumed an honest mistake, it was only off by one number. So my wife decided to correct it and I would call the transportation department of our school district to make sure they know what bus he should be on. Sounds simple, but then again I was dealing with “the system”.
We get to the bus stop, and all the parents are there waiting to send the fruit of their loins off to get an education. The obligatory small talk ensues. Did you have a good summer? Who is your teacher? Are you excited? What are you going to do all day now that the kids are in school? And then the conversation ended up on bus routes and time frames.
My son used to go to daycare after school. So he had a different bus number and a different drop off time. All the parents were saying that the drop off time is later than last year, I didn't know, my son was dropped off at a different location for the past two years. I just know what the sheet said. Our transportation sheet said that the drop off time at our location was at 3:50pm. The other parents said theirs said 4pm. We were a bit confused, but I really don't care I'm early to everything so I figured I'll be at the bus stop at 3:47pm. Seriously. I am all about being early, always. I get to the bus with my daughter who starts Kindergarten the following day and we wait for the bus to arrive to drop off my number one son.
All the moms (and some dads too) are waiting for their packages to arrive as well. The big yellow bus finally pulls up at about 3:52pm. The doors swing open and I expect a flood of children to fly out the door. Nope. They are exiting one at a time, getting checked off the list the bus driver is holding. I have a strange feeling that my son is not on the bus, but I wait. One by one the children step down and make way to their parent(s). The final child gets off and it's not my son. Now we have a problem.
I walk up to the bus and ask the driver “is Andrew on the bus?”
She looks scared and she asks “what's the last name?”
I tell her “Monaco, M-O-N-A-C-O.” It's an easy name in my opinion, but then again I've had it all my life. Some people have looked at me and are like, Mon-a-what? And I always respond “like the principality in the south of France” and they have no clue as to what I'm talking about. Then I say “Princess Grace Kelly of ….....” and they still don't get it. So I spell it out and get frustrated at people's lack of pop culture knowledge and geographical ignorance.
She checks her sheet and tell me “he gets off at the next stop.” I know that was a lie. I want to know what makes people think they could use the Jedi Mind Trick on me. This is not the first time people have tried, and it won't be the last, but it never works. What did she expect me to do? Oh why of course, let me run on down to the next stop. Was he going to magically appear? Unless my taxes go toward Criss Angel making my kid appear, he's not going to be on the bus 300 yards down the road.
I was confused, angry and frustrated, so I said “tell him to get off the bus now”. Knowing full well he is not on the bus. Yes I tested her once again.
She gets on the P.A. And say “Andrew Monaco, please come to the front of the bus.......... Andrew Monaco”
I wait for a split second and then tell her to “get her supervisor on the horn”. My son is obviously not on this bus. She does as she is told, calls into dispatch and now we wait. I'm now asking the kids on the bus if they saw my son and do they know what bus he went home on. A few of them, the ones that sit in the front are screaming he's on the bus behind us. OK, I look behind the bus and low and behold there is another bus. Maybe they knew they made a mistake and put him on another bus. I notice that the bus behind me is the short bus. I really hope they did not put my son on the short bus.
The bus driver is now having a back and forth with dispatch. “what's the last name?” “Is he on your list?” “let me check the route.” This is not looking good for the transportation department at this moment. Finally the voice out of the CB Radio state “he was on bus 602 and was dropped off at Rogy's”. Rogy's Learning Place was the daycare we used to send our son to after school. Now I know where my son is and am relieved that he is safe. I take my daughter back to the house grab my car keys and head off to Rogy's.
I get to Rogy's and the Director says she was confused as to why Andrew was on the bus. I told her I was confused as well. We shared a laugh, but then she told me that my daughter was scheduled to be dropped off there tomorrow. Huh? When we registered my daughter earlier in the year we did not fill out a special request transportation form. At the beginning of every year we had to fill this form out for my son or so we were told. My son was waiting in his old class and he looked as if he was almost disappointed to see me. Oh well, at least one of us was happy.
While all this is going on, my wife had been notified by Rogy's and had been trying to call the transportation department. She let the phone ring and ring, no answer it didn't even go to voice mail. When she tells me, my first reaction is, how is there no one there? My second thought is why is there no voicemail. Then immediately my mind starts to race. There must be so many kids that are on the wrong bus their voicemail is full. They are sitting in the transportation office listening to the phone ring and ring and are to scared to pick it up. Knowing that at the other end of the phone are some pissed off parents. So I talk to my wife and she says that she's going to email the Director of Transportation. Great, skip the middlemen and go directly to the top. Surely he'll have some answers.
That night my wife also emailed my children's teachers, to let them know what happened and t make sure that they get on the right bus. The teachers were great, very responsive and apologetic. I felt confident that they would be on the right bus. But I still wanted answers.
At about 8:03am we put our children on the bus and my wife was off to work. I am now waiting for a response from the school district. Nothing. It's just about nine o'clock and the phone rings, and look who it is, School District 158. Finally. The woman on the phone says “your child will be on the correct bus from now on”.
I say “no kidding, but how did this happen?”
She says “I do not know how that happened, I working on it”
Where I respond “Really? How are you working on it? Could you tell me what steps you are taking?”
Again she says “I'm working on it.”
Again I say “How?”
She gets defensive stating “Did you send in a request form? I see he went to Rogy's last year, did you call to change that?”
Now the gloves come off “Are you fucking kidding me?” “You can't be serious” “Seriously what the fuck are you doing to find out who fucked up?”
I can hear the tremble in her voice “You don't have to swear at me........I don't know how this happened.” Then I hear the phone change and I'm now on speakerphone.
I don't give a shit about speakerphone so I tell her emphatically “Fuck you! I have every right to curse at you, you put my kid on the wrong bus and you don't apologize, but rather blame me, Fuck You!”
Then I hear a man in the background say “you want me to talk to him.”
I thought It was the Director of Transportation, sadly it was not. So I ask her to “put that person on the phone, the one that said he wanted to talk to me.” I hear the phone go back to receiver mode.
She says “there is no one else here that wants to talk to you, that was a bus driver talking to another bus driver.”
I ask her “do you think I'm fucking retarded? Do you think I didn't hear that? You really can't be fucking serious.” One of many rhetorical questions I will be asking on this day. I giver her one last “fuck you!” and then I get cold transferred to another line. I'm hoping it would be someone who had some answers. But no. The phone rang and rang and rang. Time to spew off an email to the Director of Transportation.
Here is the actual email correspondence between myself and the Director of Transportation:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org?> ]
Sent: Friday, August 21, 2009 11:03 AM
To: Rossi, Richard
Subject: Andrew & Lauren Monaco
First let me say that your staff is inept, unsympathetic, accusatory & lazy.
Where I come from that is a direct reflection of it's managers and leaders. This
is the second email regarding this problem. Your staff calls to let me know my
child will be on the right bus today, great. But no apology, no reason, just
excuses and blame. The bus driver for 612 tells me that my son is on the bus but
does not get off until the next stop, really? She didn't even know if he was on
the bus or not, inexcusable.
Teach your staff empathy, listening skills and tell them never to lie to a
parent. Learn how to take responsibilities for your mistakes. I'm sure in your
prior career you wouldn't allow your staff to behave like that, so you shouldn't
allow it now.
I will not apologize for my behavior to your staff, considering they lied and
tried to turn the blame on me and my wife, they got exactly what they deserved.
Mr. Steven A. Monaco
And his response:
Fom: Rossi, Richard <RRossi@district158.org>
Sent: Fri, Aug 21, 2009 11:10 am
Subject: RE: Andrew & Lauren Monaco
I understand and unfortunately only got about a half of that discussion. From
what I understand the last two years your child went to Rogy's. Each year we go
through the entire student membership and remove special stops such as Rogy's
and KinderCare etc. and sitter info apparently the Rogy's info carried over.
I have already spoken with our Tech Dept. and will be speaking with our vendor
to find a more solid way of cleaning that data out for next year. We apologize
for any inconvenience this may have caused you and will certainly get it correct
with the driver and the school for this afternoon.
If you have any further issues please email me direct. No excuses but as you can
imagine the first few days is hectic to say the least.
From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Fri 8/21/2009 11:37 AM
To: Rossi, Richard
Subject: Re: Andrew & Lauren Monaco
Hectic? Really? This is not a surprise, this is what happens every year. So
being hectic is an excuse to put children on the wrong bus? You know what, it's
not. Regardless if my son went to Rogys, EVERY year we had to fill out a form to
alert the transportation department for the change. So now you tell me that
doesn't matter, it's a system glitch. A more solid way to fix the "system" would
to not be LAZY. My daughter who has never been in your system was scheduled to
go to Rogys as well, where's the system glitch there? Again, it's called LAZY.
Take ownership of your mistake, it's easy to blame an idiot box, but I'll blame
the idiot using it (or not using it in your case). As for your apology, not
accepted. Inconvenience? Really? You see my child not being on the right bus as
an inconvenience? You should not be holding the position you are in. I will be
contacting the local media to let them know where you stand. Thanks.
Apparently what I stated in my earlier communication is true, the staff is a
direct reflection of its managers and leaders. Good luck keeping this job.
And once again his lame response:
From: Rossi, Richard <RRossi@district158.org>
Sent: Fri, Aug 21, 2009 11:43 am
Subject: RE: Andrew & Lauren Monaco
Like I said in my response, no excuses. We have made the adjustments and thank
you for your feedback.
Director of Transportation
My final words to him on the matter:
Sent: Fri, Aug 21, 2009 12:02 pm
Subject: Re: Andrew & Lauren Monaco
Really? Do you remember what you wrote? : "Each year we go through the entire student membership and remove special stops such as Rogy's and KinderCare etc. and sitter info apparently the Rogy's info carried over." "I have already spoken with our Tech Dept. and will be speaking with our vendor
to find a more solid way of cleaning that data out for next year." Those are excuses, not answers, just because you say no excuses, does not make it true.
Like I said in my response, the media and now the PTA and the School Board will be notified of your lack of caring. I'm sure the rest of the parents and our community would like to know how you treat "inconveniences". Thanks again for your sterile responses.
After I received these emails, I did exactly what I said I was going to do. I emailed the PTA, and all the members of the School Board. The media is on hold for now. But don't worry, because I am one relentless mother fucker. Oh, did you notice the Jedi Mind Trick again? I did and it's pissed me off even more.
A few hours pass and the phone rings again, I'm thinking it's the Director of Transportation looking to verbally get into it with me. And I'm ready. I pick up the phone and look at the caller I.D., it's School District 158. Let's get ready to rumble. I answer with a very snotty “Hello” and the voice on the other end tells me that I am speaking with Mr. Jenkins the Director of Operations for School District 158. Finally someone with authority. Let's hope he's not a giant douche bag.
I keep my cool and his first words are “I'm sorry you had to go through this, this should not have happened”. Well I'm thinking, of course you're sorry, you read the email you'd better tell me that you're sorry or else you'd really be a gaping a-hole.
I comeback with “Thanks for your apology, but your staff is very inept, from the top to the bottom”
He says “I agree with your email saying that his employees are a direct reflection of its management and it's leaders.” Wow, I stood there slightly stunned and was happy that someone was taking ownership of their problems. Apparently he knows his staff or was just placating me to calm me down. Either way I was happy at the moment. But I did not end the conversation there.
I start with “Did you know that my daughter, who has never been in your system, was also going to be out on the wrong bus? The only way that could happen is pure laziness and assumption, two bad qualities to have when you are dealing with the lives of children.” I went on by asking “How long has this man been in the position?”
He responds “about 10 years”.
I say “Do you think it's OK for someone in that position for such a long time to treat this incident as inconvenient? Inconvenient is losing a mitten, not misplacing a child.”
“No, I don't.” he responds timidly.
I slam back with “Apparently he has become so complacent with his job that misplaced children become an inconvenience to the parents and doling out excuses are commonplace to him.”
There was silence. I think I threw him off with the twenty five cent word. I really think he was expecting me to be this brute, with foul language coming from all angles. Finally he responds “I will have a talk with him and make sure this does not happen again.” I thank him for calling and hang up the phone.
Then the phone calls start coming in. The school office calls to tell me the problem has been corrected and they will be on the correct bus. The teaches have emailed and called to let us know that they will make sure that the kids will be on the right bus. I seriously think they had an army of people waiting for my kids to get on the right bus that day. I wish I would have been there to enjoy that sight.