Canada Reads author shares how driving a school bus made him 'happier'
Craig Davidson, author of Precious Cargo, will discuss memoir with Thunder Bay audience March 5
"I was a big failure at the time," says author Craig Davidson, of the months he writes about in his memoir Precious Cargo: My Year of Driving the Kids on School Bus 3077.
The book, one of the five to be debated later in March during Canada Reads, chronicles Davidson's time driving students with special needs in Calgary.
The job came at a low point in Davidson's life. He had already published two books, but sales of the second had been very disappointing.
"I was just scuffling for work where I could find it, and not in the best emotional head space," he said. "I came home one day and I found a flyer sitting in my mailbox that was soliciting school bus drivers."
'The kids ... were just kids'
He passed the training course, fully expecting to drive a large school bus and remain largely anonymous to its passengers.
"I thought that would suit my outlook at the time, which was 'I don't really want to be involved with people, I don't want to have conversations with people, I don't want to make friends,'" he said. "That's what I expected I would get."
Instead, Davidson got something entirely different — a small bus with just five students, all with special needs of some kind.
He was originally reluctant to take the assignment because "in my my life, how many times had I really dealt with, or interacted with, children or adults who had anything that might be considered a special need?"
"None, basically almost zero."
Amazed at the conversations, the closeness
Davidson was concerned his lack of awareness and education in the area of disability and special needs would cause him to be "accidentally hurtful, based on my inability to understand what their lives might be like."
But when he met the students, "those preconceptions, they were really quickly dispelled because the kids, despite some very obvious differences, were just kids."
The ensemble of driver and students quickly bonded and were soon sharing stories and developing friendships.
"I was completely amazed by just how well we got along and the conversations that we had and the closeness that I think really developed on that bus."
As the days, weeks and months went on, Davidson realized something had returned to his life.
'A magical year'
"I just became happier," he said, adding "they got me out of my own melancholy skin."
Driving the bus had given Davidson's life a purpose again.
"I think so much of getting yourself out of a funk is doing small, meaningful things everyday and recognizing these are valuable things and being thankful."
With a return to optimism, Davidson's writing career was also back on track. He has since published literary fiction, and bestselling genre novels under the pseudonym Nick Cutter.
Looking back on that year on the bus, Davidson said it's "cliche to say, but it felt like a rather magical year."
Davidson is speaking at 7 p.m. Monday March 5 at the Waverley Resource Library Auditorium in Thunder Bay, Ont.
He'll be joined by Dylynn Kempton, a local school bus driver and student Kendal-Lynn Douglas to discuss some of the themes from his book.
The free event will be hosted by CBC Thunder Bay's Cathy Alex.