February 15, 2014
I think I have mentioned before that I drive a transit bus for a living. If not, I will tell you now–I drive a transit bus for a living! As of today I have been there for 16 1/2 years. I had a kid the other day ask me how long I had been driving and I glanced over at him and said, rather drily, “Longer than you have been alive”. He had just gotten in trouble with me so thought if he acted like he was interested in me I would forgive him–hence the inquiry about my years of service–so I just shut him down quickly to save us both some time. He was still in trouble and he wasn’t that interested after all!
I drove a commuter run for over 13 of those 16 1/2 years. The stress of all the traffic between here and the Bay Area has probably taken a few years off of my life, but I never realized how bad it was until I finally stepped down from that position and decided to just drive a regular city bus. I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to know that when I get up in the morning I am NOT going to have to sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic for an hour and a half and listen to people moan and gripe about how they were going to be late for work, as if it was MY fault that everyone has to cram onto the freeway at the same time to get to the same places!
I have had a lot of jobs in my life. As a kid I gathered eggs on an egg ranch. Then I got a job as a floater at our local nursing home. I helped feed patients dinner and get ready for bed five nights a week. In college I cleaned a church once a week and for special occasions. I worked in the Art department, cleaning the offices, putting away slides and art materials. I helped paint a mural in a brownstone down on Dearborn in downtown Chicago one Thanksgiving break. I worked in the kitchen as a dish washer and in the evenings as a short-order cook for our snack bar. I spent a summer at a kids camp in Wisconsin as a counselor, kitchen staff, and horse wrangler. I was a show groom in a large stable in Morton Grove, IL and worked for the Chicago Horse Mafia (that’s another story in itself!). I sold cleaning products door-to-door. I sold vacuum cleaners door-to-door I was a nanny. A group home counselor. A foster parent. The list goes on.
But one of the things I did the most was drive. I became a courier somewhere along the line and realized I loved to drive and talk to people. As a courier I had a fixed route or I had clients that I had to deliver to on a semi-regular basis, but either way I got to know people. After I had my daughters I realized I needed to go back to work but wanted something that would be flexible, fun, and would hopefully allow me to spend as much time with my family as possible. So I took a class and got my school bus license and went to work in my old home town for the public school system there. It was challenging but I really enjoyed getting to know the children on my bus and interacting with them on a daily basis. Oh believe me, there were a few that I had difficulties with, but for the most part it was a good experience. During the summer I took the job with the city bus system, thinking I would just work for the summer months and go back to the school bus in the fall, but when I realized I was getting full-time hours with the city and benefits I decided to stay and the rest is history.
Being a bus driver was not my dream job. It wasn’t even on the list of jobs I wanted to do when I was looking at careers while still in high school. But all of the jobs I had before this were all just preparation for what I do now. Without my experience selling door-to-door I wouldn’t be able to talk to total strangers with such ease. If I hadn’t worked in group homes with SED teens I wouldn’t be able to handle the various psychosis of the mentally challenged or deal with the gang bangers that think they are going to be tough and disrespectful when they board my bus. Handling children on the school bus taught me the value of listening and evaluating the situation before deciding whether or not I needed to step in and deal with it. Every day behind the wheel is different and I never know where my day will take me. The fact that I am logging the stories down for an eventual book is just a bonus! As I tell people all the time “I don’t have that good of an imagination–believe me, I can’t make this stuff up!”!
Do you like your job? Is it the job you trained for, or did it just sort of happen like mine did? Would you change if you could? I really do love my job. I am outside all day driving. I meet interesting people every day. I get to talk and laugh with those people and have fun. Some days are better than others, granted, but for the most part I enjoy myself despite all of the other stuff. And I get paid pretty well while doing it, so it’s a win-win for me! I know many of us here are writers, but did you start out to be a writer or did you figure that out later? What led up to that choice? And if you write full-time, how hard was it to step away from that 9-to-5 job and take that risk? I’m sure I’m not the only one who wants to know!
I have a three-day weekend and I’m going to spend part of it–driving! Even on our off-time my husband and I love to drive somewhere! Have a great weekend and I’ll see you when I get back!