Friday, October 13, 2006

Nerves of Steel

Well, maybe not.

Somewhere, whether in my profile or some other post, I am sure I mentioned the fact that I am a BTW trainer. BTW is just bus-speak for a Behind The Wheel trainer. What that means is that I get to take regular folks just like you and throw them behind the wheel of a 40 foot bus and teach them how to maneuver the thing down city streets without killing themselves, me, or any innocent bystanders along the way.

Right now we have a class of five people who need hours behind the wheel so that they can go pass their DMV test and get out there and start earning a real living drivinig a bus for our system. What that means for me personally is that I have been putting in almost 14 hour days for the past week! I get to work at 420 AM and drive my commuter bus to the Bay Area and back. I take a shrot break and at 9AM I take a trainee or two and spend the next 8 hours trying to teach them everything I know about driving a bus.

It is exhausting, exhilerating, frustrating, and scary as hell some days!! Each day is a challenge, and each day I never know what is going to happen when I put them behind the wheel. Are we going to have a good day or are we going to crash and burn? The other day I took a trainee out in a 40 foot bus for the first time and we went down the freeway. As we are cruising along at 60 MPH I suddenly have this moment where I realize that I could die doing this! I mean, here we are--he's never driven anything this big, we are on the freaking FREEWAY, and if he panics or loses control I am going to be tumbling all over this big ol' bus as we careen off of the highway and burst into flames...... I almost lost my nerve. Almost.

A lot of fellow drivers ask me why I do it. Why do I put myself through the stress and fear and craziness? It's not like I am getting paid a lot of money to do it--I think we make $.50 more an hour when we are training--so why do it?

I do it because I love it. Simple as that. Yes, it is stressful and it can be downright terrifying some days. But it is also immensely gratifying when I show somehow how to do a maneuver and they go out and try it and finally nail it. The look on their face when they accomplish something they are convinced they can't do--it is the most amazing feeling in the world! It's that "aha" moment when a concept you have been trying to get across for three days suddenly resonates with them and you see the light come on and they just "get it". I live for that!

I know this sounds crazy, but my favorite part of training is when I get to be the trainer who takes a newbie out for the first time. That first time that the rubber hits the pavement and they FINALLY are actually driving the bus down the road--it is SO awesome! Probably the scariest day also, but it is so much fun! It's the day I watch them and get to know them and figure out how I am going to train them. Some are scared to death and grip the steering wheel so tightly that their knuckles are white. Some just go down the road and I can see that driving something so large is like a second nature to them--they aren't intimidated at all by the size of the vehicle, even if they have never driven something so big before. I watch and observe and give minimal instruction as I let them settle into the whole experience, and I find out what kind of person they are. Each person is different and learns differently so I have to adjust MY training agenda to fit their personality.

I guess mostly I just love to take these newbies and help them become a professional driver that is safe, confident, courteous, and responsible. I want them to feel that they can come to me, even after training is over and they are out on their own, if they have a question or a concern. I feel like they are my children and I have to raise them right! When one fails--and it does happen--I feel as if I let them down somehow and so I just have to work harder with the next one. We invest a lot of ourselves into each trainee--it is hard on the whole team if someone we put so much time and effort into ends up doing something stupid and loses their job because of it.

Being a bus driver is a great job. I wish everyone could have the opportunity to go through a professional driver's class. I guarantee you there would be a LOT less accidents on the road if they did. Maybe DMV should start requirinig ongoing education for ALL drivers as a requirment to maintain a drivers license of ANY class. It'll never happen, but it's a nice idea!

Anyway. So that has been my life for the past week--14 hour days, driving my commuter bus in the early mornings and coming back and training for 8 hours the rest of the day. My mind is kind of mush right now--I'm fighting off a cold also so I have hardly any voice--it's been interesting! Today I get a break and just get to drive a bus all day. Sweet! Then tomorrow it's back to training, and I hear that we have another clas of about SEVEN people starting up next week! No rest for the weary, eh?! But it's all good... Gotta go make a living now, drivng people in cirlces.


Chari-Dee said...

Sending hugs your way that the cold doesn't progress any and you are back to full voice fast.

Also sending lots of hugs that you get a day off where you get to sit in a hottub, sipping bubbly, and being massaged by an incredibly good looking man.

On the bus training, I'm sending lots of prayers that the newbies spare your life. You are one brave woman, is all I can say. Just thank your lucky stars I'M not in your class. When I got the mini-van it took me forever to get used to driving that! LOL I'm one of those drivers that is so bad I'm actually outstanding. I'm so nervous on the road I'm always checking the speed and making sure I'm driving safely.



Chari-Dee said...

I just wanted to give you heads up, I'm not sure if your girls like to read, but we are running a YA Paranormal contest this month, MaryJanice Davidson and hubby Anthony Alongi are giving away signed copies of BOTH their Jennifer Scales books (they are such good books!) Gena Showalter is giving away a signed copy of her YA book, and Serena Robar is giving away a signed copy of Braced2Bite.

I thought maybe the girls would like to enter.

Loves and stay safe with those newbie drivers!!!

dee said...

I just LOVED this post. It is so refreshing to know people that really enjoy their jobs, and that really like training people.
I work in the food biz, and I'm also a trainer. Honestly, this is the first place that I've ever worked that has a corporate training program, and can I just tell you that it is AMAZING what a difference it makes!! I agree that it's the look on that newbies face when they finally "get it" that makes it all worth it. For me, training new people is better than any other aspect of the job. As a trainer, you have the power to really set the tone for that new person. It's up to you, really, to teach them not just about the basics of the job, but how to love the job and make the most of it. I try to tell my people not only the company stuff, but how to be a great server. I feel like if they understand how important attitue is, the rest will fall into place.
This is in large part because I've been trained by some really awful people, and by some really great people. There is a huge difference in the way those people influenced my attitude about the company and the job. I noticed it. I want to be a good influence for my company. I want new people to enjoy coming to work. If they can see me happy and satisfied while I'm training, I'm hoping they will adopt that same attitude.

Sheri said...

Dee--you hit the nail right on the head!! That's how I feel also--I want people to enjoy their job and feel good about it and thenselves. Driving a bus is a huge responsibility and requires a lot of skills that can't be taught. You have to be a good listener, firm without being nasty, friendly without being a doormat, psychologist, counselor, teacher, aide, bouncer--we do it all AND maneuver a 40 foot people mover on top of it! I want the people I train to have the best start possible and to learn how to do it right the first time so that they succeed...

And Charity--I'm still waiting for that day off with a massage and bubbles!! (sigh) Maybe in my next lifetime....