The second installment in an intermittent series of powerful, ignorant insights into the daily grind of some of the heroes that hold our lives together. A few months ago we had the drug cartel member and now, following almost no research, we have the life of someone who drives a coach; arguably one of the least healthy jobs out there. It was a toss up between that and a lorry driver but the coach edges it because lorry drivers can manage to get away with being sociopaths whereas coach drivers, although still almost all sociopathic, autistic spectrum dwellers, are forced to endure interaction with others every working day of their lives. A quick question for you to fiddle with – who on earth would choose to be a coach driver?
1. Wake up. It is 2.30am and you are quite hungover. You struggle to get your bearings but eventually establish you are in the same Travelodge room off the M25 that you passed out in only 4 hours ago. You shower, shave badly and pull on a sequence of polyester garments which smell off-fresh at best. You have an exciting day ahead and first port of call is a school pick up. They’re off on a trip to New York and need taking to Heathrow airport, Terminal 5. You’ve never been to New York. Come to think of it you’ve never been in Terminal 5. Jammy bastards.
2. Having chewed your way through the strongest cup of coffee available you arrive at the school site only to find it is a pub and you have been given the wrong postcode. You phone the contact number your boss rambled off to you yesterday morning but this too is wrong and you have just woken up his wife. Using what little initiative you can muster you prance around on your phone for a bit longer until you realise you do have the right postcode after all and you’ve just not read it right. You arrive at the school 15 minutes late and the expedition leader is clearly very stressed. Like you’d care.
3. You spend the next 20 minutes sweating whisky bullets as a crowd of ungrateful, uncaring 14 year old’s dump their indescribably heavy luggage at your feet and you load them methodically under the bus. It occurs to you that the contents of just one suitcase is quite possibly worth more than you earn in 6 months but this isn’t a time to be bitter; just breathe deeply and drive too fast over a few speed bumps. That’ll learn ‘em.
4. If there’s one thing worse that being responsible for driving a coach it’s being responsible for driving a coach full of screaming kids and obnoxious teachers at 4.00am on a cold Tuesday morning. It is you that must decide what terrible radio station to play and how loudly you should play it (a teacher will always ask you to alter the volume but it’s 50:50 which way). It is you who must decide how many terrified commuters you ruthlessly cut up on the motorway. It is you who decides if your passengers can use the broken toilet and it is you who decides whether or not to explain that the TV hasn’t worked. Ever. With all this stress and barrel scraping decisions to make it’s no wonder you have 3 stents in your chest.
5. Once you’ve dropped that load of wankers off with every last piece of their sodding luggage you have a quick fag break and then give every seat a quick once over to see how many wallets and iPods you can gather up and sell on at the pub tonight. It’s often a vital bit of supplementary income and doesn’t seem to interfere with your moral fibre. Then it’s off on a couple of secondary school runs during which your fragile temper is constantly teased by a barrage of noise and litter. This isn’t helped when the radio gets stuck on Chris Evans. Because he’s a cock.
6. Your main job for today is taking a feral pack of 7 years old’s to Lego Land and you can feel in your bones that it won’t be much fun. Your bones also remind you that you haven’t had fun for a very long time and that if job satisfaction was a meal it would be the Ginsters pasty you had for lunch yesterday. Once they’re all loaded on you have to sit in traffic on the M4 for over an hour. It starts to rain. Then it really starts to really rain. You’ve been around the block far too many times. Little kids and rain and coaches are never a good idea for a threesome.
7. A day’s work as a coach driver is usually about one third driving and two thirds sitting around doing fuck all. Once the kids have piled off and disappeared for the next 4 hours the world is your oyster. You skim-read the Daily Mirror for half an hour and then slip into a deeply unsatisfying sleep for a while. Your stomach soon wakes you and you’re off to find something for lunch. One Ginsters pasty later and it’s time to socialise with the other dissatisfied coach drivers. You chat for a while about the traffic and the contents of the Daily Mirror but your interest (and theirs) soon wanes because you’re ultimately all very insular and essentially hate most other human beings. Almost as much as you hate yourself when you look in the bathroom mirror.
8. You’re off again, with the hiss of the door and the grind of the gears. By the time you get this lot of little shits back to school there’ll be 3 bin liners full of discarded sweet wrappers, half eaten sandwiches and empty Lucozade bottles lying around. And you know that the only person who’s going to clean all that up is you. To make up for it you deliberately botch your reversing and knock over 2 bollards in the school car park.
9. That’s it for the day; according to the union you’ve done far more driving than is legally safe and you’re now in danger of working hard for a living. That said your spine aches, you have a thumping headache and you’re covered in a thin gloss of sweat. Tonight you’ll go home to a partner and children that barely see you and promptly hit the scotch to kill the pain. You’re up early again tomorrow to drive a bunch of incontinent pensioners to Durham. You’re up early again to get people on the move. You’re up early again to keep this country going and it’ll probably be the death of you. Brrrm brrrm, the wheels on the bus go round and round.
G B Hewitt. 29.03.2018