Well, a year ago I could never have guessed what I’d be doing today.
Last year I was still bumping along the bottom from a very tough period where my semi-retirement post police didn’t quite go to plan.
Another unexpected and very large expense, coupled with the need to repair the exterior coating of the gable end, which my insurers (Nationwide, as it happens) washed their hands of, meant I was pretty much skint and had to dispose of a lot of models I’d rather have kept.
Now, whilst my little job, doing deliveries on the Solway Plain was enjoyable and was exactly the right thing for me after the police, the pay was poor and there was little chance at that point of more hours so it became evident I was going to need to look for other work. By chance I mentioned this to my neighbours who both drive buses. It turns out that the local operator was looking for more drivers so after briefly mulling it over, I got an application form and gave it a shot.
Some months later, having passed all the selection, medical and background checks, I got a start and after two gruelling initial weeks I’d passed both the theory and practical PCV tests.
So, having passed the bus test, I then embarked upon learning how to actually be a bus driver! After a few initial weeks route learning under the wing of a mentor who initially shared the driving but gradually receded into the background as my skills and confidence developed, I now find myself driving independently and four weeks into that, it’s all becoming second nature.
The first four hours of my first shift were pretty tough as I had a few adverse situations with equipment and traffic conditions to contend with. It was a real baptism of fire and having had all that thrown at me in short order has made me pretty much ready for anything since!
I suppose it’s early days yet but my feelings about this job are far more positive at this stage than anything I’ve previously done. It certainly isn’t a physically hard job but it requires a degree of concentration and multi-tasking that takes some time to come together and makes you quite tired mentally by the end of the day.
The shifts are quite odd and you can do a whole run of shifts with different start times on each but I’m pretty much taken these in my stride which was a pleasant surprise. There are no night shifts which I believe is the significant difference from my previous career and which I believe caused damage to my physical and mental health. True, there are some early starts; the earliest on my roster is 05:50, but the latest you’re generally done is midnight so that’s all within a range I feel comfortable with.
I have found as I settle into the job and the routine normalises, I’m less tired than in the early days where your brain is continually being crammed with new knowledge every day and headspace and energy are once again free for creative activities.
I’m surprised that I’ve taken to the role so well and it appears that every job I’ve done over the past 37 years has contributed an element to the overall skillset that bus driving requires from roadcraft and dealing with the public to a sense of local geographical awareness and cash handling/arithmetic skills. It’s like I’ve sent my entire life in training for this job!
Not bad for a guy who failed his O level arithmetic back in the day when many bus companies still ran Miners’ special services and Trident was a nice looking airliner!
I really am enjoying this new role and though there are occasional frustrations like losing time due to traffic congestion and the odd grumpy customer it’s (here at least) far from a stressful job, particularly in comparison with life in the police and it doesn’t really feel like work. You leave the job parked up with the bus in the depot at night and there’s none of the ‘Sunday Night Doom’ that used to dog me back in the old days.
Yes indeed, this feels like just the right job at just the right time and I’m well happy with it. 😊