3 lessons Canada Reads finalist Craig Davidson learned by being a bus driver

The author of Precious Cargo shares how his experience driving a school bus for students with special needs changed his life.
Craig Davidson's memoir Precious Cargo will be defended by Greg Johnson on Canada Reads 2018. (CBC)

Craig Davidson knows readers aren't the only ones learning life lessons from stories. Writing a memoir about the year he drove a school bus for children with special needs illuminated parts of Davidson's own life and taught him a few very important lessons. 

The memoir is called Precious Cargo and it is being defended by tornado hunter Greg Johnson during Canada Reads 2018. The debates, which will be hosted by Ali Hassan, take place March 26-29, 2018.

The author of Precious Cargo spoke to CBC Mainstreet Cape Breton's Wendy Bergfeldt about his life before and after he became a bus driver.

1. It's OK to be wrong

"I had a brief dalliance with writing before I became a bus driver. I had a couple of books and the second one of these was a disastrous failure, as happens sometimes. In my case it happened because I didn't listen to my agent and editor at the time. With the hubris that only a 29-year-old person can have, I felt that I was right and they were wrong; we'd see when the book came out just who was right. We did see — they were all right and I was very wrong. There I was, basically jobless. Nobody wanted to buy the next book, nor should they." 

2. Kids are kids

"I was living in Calgary and scuffling for work. There was a flyer saying 'School Bus Drivers Wanted' — here was a company that was clearly desperate for applicants and I was desperate for a job, so it felt like a match made in heaven. I figured I was going to drive a big bus with 50 kids — I wouldn't know who they are and they wouldn't know who I was and that suited me just fine as a potential job. But when I sat down with the route assignment coordinator, she said it was going to be a Busette and it would involve five children with special needs. I was hesitant because I had nobody in my life at that time that could be construed as someone with a special need. I was worried I might do something that was ignorant or inconsiderate out of purely not knowing. But that hesitation was unwarranted — those interactions were the same I had before as a librarian because, ultimately, the kids were kids."

3. You're the right type of person for the job

"People shouldn't feel embarrassed for feeling that trepidation I was talking about. But ultimately I said, 'Listen Craig — try this for as long as you need to discover if you're the right type of person; if you're not, go drive a big bus route.' I felt something really special was happening fairly quickly. We've all had those kind of experiences in our lives where a group comes together and everything meshes. I discovered that our enthusiasms were the same — they loved telling stories and I loved listening to their stories. The greatest navigation was the fact that Precious Cargo was going to be a memoir and these are real kids. There are sensitivities involved in dealing with real people."

Craig Davidson's comments have been edited and condensed.

Novelist Craig Davidson reflects on the experience that inspired his Canada Reads shortlisted memoir, Precious Cargo. 7:50

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