And now, a message from parents in Charleston and Dorchester counties:

School bus drivers, please take this strike threat and shove it up your picket line.

The specter of a work stoppage has lingered here for weeks, and everyone's nerves are about shot. Every day thousands of folks are forced to come up with contingency plans for picking up their children in the event that you walk off the job.

Tuesday was just the latest, and most serious, false alarm. This is getting old.

Look, whispering “strike” may be good for labor negotiations, but it has cost you the public relations war.

Well, that and trying to lobby school kids.

If there is one thing that upsets folks worse than the thought of their children being stranded at school, it is the idea of traffic getting even worse around here. And there is no doubt, if the school buses aren't rolling, traffic won't either.

It would make downtown on cruise-ship day look like the parking lot at Blockbuster.

History lesson

Right now, a lot of people are probably cussing the idea of privatization. This wouldn't be an issue if the school districts just ran their own buses, and didn't put the responsibility of our kids' ride home in the hands of a for-profit company.

Maybe.

What a lot of folks don't remember is that before Charleston County contracted with Durham School Services, all people did was complain about transportation. Former school board member Brian Moody says about 90 percent of the calls he got were complaints about the buses.

Fact is, the district didn't want to give up bus service — the board pushed it. Mainly that was because the buses were always late or they couldn't keep drivers. It was always something. There was some logic in the move: The schools should worry about educating, and let someone else handle taxi service.

So they did.

“We took it out of the bureaucracy, and put it in the private sector,” Moody says.

Things have been better since, but every now and then you have to deal with a little chaos. And a strike would be unmitigated chaos.

It's something to think about the next time people start in with all the “privatize” talk.

You've just got to pick your poison.

Cut and run the buses

Something has got to give here.

No one wins in a strike. Durham either brings in drivers who don't know the routes, or Gov. Nikki Haley declares a state emergency and sends in National Guardsmen — who don't know the routes.

But the hard heads at the negotiating tables aren't trying hard enough. They're just trying our patience.

The bus drivers said Durham walked out of negotiations Tuesday, but the company denied it. Both sides said they wanted to continue talking, but it's pretty clear these people don't play well with others.

Perhaps it's time for some mediation.

It would be no surprise that Durham is not paying its drivers enough, even though their salaries seem to be in line with other districts in the state.

But this is South Carolina, so that's no great shakes.

Depending on whose math you use, the drivers want either an 8 percent or 11 percent raise. Durham has offered 3 percent, maybe more by now.

The idea of drivers leaving kids at school because they can't get a raise better than most folks have had in years is not going to sit well, especially not with parents sitting in a long line to pick up their kids.

So maybe both sides should just smarten up and settle, before bus drivers lose their jobs and Durham loses its contract.

Either way, this thing has gone beyond winners and losers. At this point, it's about cutting your losses.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com or read his blog at blog.postandcourier.com/brians-blog.