I have had many, many previous jobs that I have absolutely adored. Were they particularly great jobs? Well, probably not. But I make things what they are and I can honestly say I have loved each and every one of my jobs throughout the years.
Being a writer is amazing but we all know that sometimes the words don't pay the mortgage...so we have to do other things along with the words to make the meeting of the ends a real thing. Let's see...I have done hiring for a meat packing plant complete with tours of the kill floor. Rocked it. I have been a historical interpreter at one of our most beautiful National Historic Sites. Loved it. I have detailed cars and fixed windshields at an auto body shop (and in that job got to drive some insanely nice cars). Nailed it. And...I have also been a school bus driver.
This is a very small sampling of the list...but I have to say that being a bus driver has been one of my most favourite jobs for various reasons. I love kids, I am really good at it, I liked having rock star parking at my kids' school, AND...I had the very best bus driving partner a girl could ever hope for. A very dear friend of mine knew that I was looking for a job I could manage while being an at home mum, so she suggested I join her on the school bus. Jamie had already been driving for a whole school year before I got my license and she coached me through it all. We became a very famous (or perhaps notorious???) team at the school and were so often taking care of each other's business that at our bus office nobody could tell us apart and called us by each other's names almost 100% of the time. Which is extra hilarious because Jamie is short, I am tall, she wears glasses, I don't, my hair is long and I often wear hats and Jamie never wears hats and has a super cute shoulder length bob cut going on...being mistaken for her is certainly flattering but we would always roll our eyes because we don't look alike. But it only added to the Jamie/Kate team thing and stayed like that for several years until I moved. We just had each other's backs and always put the safety and service of our riders FIRST. Our schools knew that, they appreciated it and we prided ourselves on our reliability.
I feel like I am falling short in describing the camaraderie we share. It's difficult to explain but suffice it to say we took our job seriously, had a lot of fun, pulled off a lot of impossible feats (like two buses driving four runs on a -40 morning making sure all the kids got to school. We just made it happen, baby!) and really solidified a life long friendship in the process.
So fast forward to a typical Thursday afternoon where I was getting ready for a not-so-typical evening. Garth Brooks. Garth. THE Garth. We were getting ready to take our boys to their first ever concert experience and me, the concert collector was finally going to see this icon live. So exciting!!! I get a text from Jamie asking what I was doing that weekend and did I still have my Class 2 license? Well that made me raise an eyebrow, so, chuckling, I called her. Long story short, did I want to come to the city and drive with her for both the Friday and Saturday late shows for the concert? They were running service from all the major malls to the concert. A bus driving adventure with my best bus driving friend? HECK YES. And many, many amazing antics followed. We haven't laughed like that in a while and being that good at something just fuels your blood. Yes, I am tooting our horns. LOUD AND PROUD! We are great bus drivers.
First night I had some unexpected, pressing things to take care of before our 9pm shift so I didn't get a chance to check out the route map but that really shouldn't have been an issue because I wasn't the first bus in the line up and we would just all follow each other nose-to-tail to the concert. No problem. But in my loading process one of the young guys trying to direct people made a small mistake and I had to pause to get people going in the right direction before taking off. When I was ready to go...yes, you guessed it...the buses in front of me were long gone. But no problem, I know the city like the back of my hand, so off we went. I had a really great, very enthusiastic (re: rowdy and talkative) group and handed my route map to the guy behind me while making a turn I would normally take to get to the concert venue. Concert goer reads the map and says I made a wrong turn then read the instructions to me. Well, no problem, I also know that end of the city better than any other...so...I invented my own route which caused us to be able to jump a huge line of traffic and get them to the venue ahead of the other buses from that particular mall. The bus erupted into a crazy series of cheers. It was just a thing of beauty. But not the ultimate in all driving moves.
Ultimate in all driving moves:
I don't know why, but the following night was just completely wonky. There were WAY more cars trying to get to the venue than the previous, very smooth night. The buses were having quite a bit of trouble in the areas prior to a certain street where the police were actually directing traffic. Up until that street we were on our own and trying our best to communicate on the radio and work together. Which has been my and Jamie's MO from the get go. We work together, always. Other drivers always wondered how we managed to drive so smoothly and I just have to say, when you have someone watching your back who you can completely trust, it makes all the difference in the world.
To make matters worse, there was an accident at an important intersection just before the venue turn which was blocking an overpass and rerouting even more buses onto our street. So we are trying to get through miles of traffic to get through one set of lights but things just aren't moving. There are two lanes of traffic but to actually get through the lights, you must be in the left lane. Sigh. So here we are, sitting ducks in huge 72 passenger buses while cars are weaving in and out and preventing us from going through the light.
But, communication is key and Jamie and I were trying to figure a way out of this. So she comes up on my right and I pause to let her in. My bus (another talkative, rowdy, fun bunch) yells "Don't let her in! NO! We need to make this light!" So I had to explain that this was my best bus driving buddy and if anyone could get us out of this mess, it was her. That explanation was met with cheers, Jamie slipped in front of me and we made the next light. But we still hadn't gotten to the intersection where police would direct us through. We yet had to make another light...turning left, no less. We sat through about 8 light cycles not moving one inch with drivers from other bus, cab and limo companies not doing us any favours (perhaps my bus heckled them a bit) and other drivers from our own company getting a bit frazzled and telling us over the radio that no amount of planning will get us out of this. Well, Jamie and I begged to differ on that point and Jamie pulled out into the right lane to turn right at the light instead of left. It was clear, of course, because everyone was trying to get to the venue. They weren't driving away from it. Another driver calls her out on the radio, basically saying she doesn't know what she is doing and I absolutely could not help myself.
"She is just fine. This is not her first rodeo and she knows what she is doing."
My bus absolutely erupted into raucous cheers and I pulled out into the right lane to follow Jamie. It was utter chaos on my bus. They loved it. In turning right, we were able to find an empty parking lot to turn around in, turn left to get going straight through that light instead of having to turn left through the light to get onto the street where police were directing the buses through. It was smooth sailing from there and we got our people to the venue with much cheering, chanting and singing. When we secured our buses in the holding area, Jamie jumped down with a huge smile and told me when I said that over the radio her entire bus cheered. LOL I told her mine did too. And why not? We weren't going to just sit back and wait in that huge line up when we could think ahead, pull a bit of fancy driving and get things done. It might not sound like much, but when a bus load of people are chanting your name and cheering, it feels pretty good no matter who you are.
I got home between 4am and 5am after doing multiple runs both nights. There are more little stories that perhaps only bus drivers would giggle at but I am already writing a novel here. The short version: I HAD A BLAST. A huge shout out to the best bus driver, most fun coffee date, sweetest mama and most inspirational wife. Jamie, you are the bomb and have influenced me in so many ways. I am a better person for having you in my life. Thanks for the adventures and here's to many more. xo
An old photo but a great one. Denise, Jamie and I in the last year I drove for our school. A miserable, cold day but the only photo I have of us all together in front of Big Yellow. Those were the days!