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