In the beginning, there was a bus.
With the recent addition of the newest pillar, "Career Smart," I began to think of my own driving career. I started on my journey to becoming a professional driver, in 1979, when I obtained my first driver's license to operate an automobile. I liked to drive. Later on, I got to drive my parent's pickup truck pulling a snowmobile trailer. Back then it was a big deal to be trusted with this trailer.
Thinking about this some more, I realized that my longing for the highway, in reality, started long before that. You see, I used to have a small little tractor that my parents bought at a yard sale, which the neighboring farmer let me drive along the parameter of his fields. I eventually added a trailer I could pull behind my little tractor. Later, I made this small trailer into a tiny sleeper of sorts. Oh the memories of sleeping under the stars in my homemade sleeper. As I drove my small tractor, I imagined myself out on the open highway driving off into the sunset. I even had a walky-talky which I used to communicate with my friends like a CB Radio. I practiced backing up and turning around and I had a very satisfied feeling when I could back that trailer into a spot without having to pull forward and correct. I knew at that young age that I wanted to become a professional truck driver.
As I moved from being 18 years old to 21, which was too young to drive a truck across state lines, I looked into other ventures such as delivering campers with a pickup truck. Back in this time period, all of the local trucking companies would not hire you unless you were 23 years old with 3 years of driving experience. I desperately wanted to drive and at the same time, do something that showed I had experience driving something larger than a pickup truck. As it turned out, my local school district was hiring school bus drivers, I immediately applied and was hired. I still remember the day I arrived at the state police barracks to take my class B school bus drivers test on a hot sultry summer afternoon where pop-up summer thunderstorms happen quickly. I went out for my test with the state trooper after completing the pre-trip inspection. During the final part of my driving test, a violent thunderstorm erupted as we made our way back to the police barracks. Upon turning on the windshield wipers so I could see the highway I was in for a surprise. The windshield wipers made two strokes across the windshield, the shaft holding the windshield wiper snapped, and the whole wiper assembly left the bus. I still remember slowing the bus, turning on the 4-way flashers and squinting to see the highway and making my way to the next exit ramp where I could get myself, the bus, and the state trooper out of harm's way. At this point, I wondered if I was going to pass or fail my driver's examination. The driver's test examiner said to me, "You handled that very well by not panicking”. We sat there for about fifteen minutes while we waited for the rain to subside and then drove back to the barracks where I was issued my first commercial driver's license.
What I will say about school bus driving is it taught me how to keep the bus between the lanes and to stop at the proper stops while keeping law and order on the bus. My time driving a school bus was excellent training for being able to make sure my focus was on driving. Another cool fact while working on my resume was that this bus was the very last manual transmission in the school districts fleet. Every time I shifted the gear selection lever, I realized that this move was a shift towards me driving a semi-truck.