I Learner Driver

A couple of bus drivers had left US Motors. This did not affect the normal passenger buses but more drivers were needed morning and night for school bus runs. So the big chiefs decided to ask me if I would like to drive school buses morning and night. Now this I thought was a wonderful idea. I loved driving and driving a school bus was something different. I could start in the workshop at about nine a.m. After the morning run, I would have enough time to finish all my work, clean up and then be at Upwey High School at around four fifteen. That should be OK.

So it was arranged for the next eight weeks, two hours every afternoon, I was to be tutored by Doug Smale, one of the oldest and most experienced drivers at US motors. The very first thing that Doug insisted on was seating position. If you are going to drive competently, seating position must be first, comfortable second, have good vision all round and rear view mirrors right. None can drive anything if firstly they are not comfortable. It is very important.

So the first two weeks were taken up by starting on hills. Hand brake starts first, then riding the clutch. Doug put a piece of chalk behind a wheel and if I rolled back and crushed the chalk on a takeoff, Doug got really red in the face and nearly had a tantrum. After I got the hang of starting Doug’s way, it was onto gear changing. To get the engine revs right for the smoothest changes, you had to listen to the engine. The engine revs will tell you when to change up or down. That was very good advice, so I listened. Now where to change gear, where not to and why? It was hard for me to do it all Doug’s way because I was young and over confident. Doug knew this, so we kept at it until Doug was happy with whatever I was doing. Then a few weeks on back roads, where Doug would space out match boxes, cigarette packets, etc. on different sides of the road, and I had to run over these. This is a great way to learn exactly where your wheels are. The roads throughout the hills were very narrow and the buses had to run the left hand wheels on the gravel between the tar and the white posts to keep the bus on the right side of the white line. It was a tight fit on some of the roads.

Don Cameron was the man that made up the bus rosters. What bus went where and why? Also, who drove what bus. I was talking to Don one day and he was telling me about Doug, and how thorough he was.
“You are very lucky, Rob to have Doug passing on some of his knowledge. He is one of the best and safest drivers we have, so take note of all he says.”
I thought that was a good idea, so I tried to. After my last lesson, Doug could see I was a little bit edgy, really up tight, because tomorrow was the big licence test. If it was anything like Doug’s lessons, it was going to be tough.
“Son, just keep in mind what you have learned, and you will have no trouble. Sometimes there may be difficulties, but remember what you have been taught. You can handle anything that comes up. Don’t get over confident. You must build on what you have learned, only then will you be a good driver.”

The next day the butterflies were really jumping around in my stomach. Don Cameron as a licensed driver came with me. He was quite relaxed and laughing. No trouble to him. I was sweating. My palms were clammy. The new police station was only one hundred yards up the road, opposite O’Donohue and Taylor’s hardware. I stopped outside the police station and Senior Jones got on. I knew Senior Jones well; we serviced all the cars owned by the local police.
“Good day Don. Hi Rob.” Said Senior Jones.
“Now, first drive down the main street. I have got to get a paper.”
So off I started.
“How many gears has this bus got?” Said Senior Jones.
“Four forwards and one reverse.” I said.
Senior Jones looked at Don, and he nodded.
“Excellent.” Said Senior Jones.

I only had to drive two hundred yards to the news agency. I stopped, being very careful giving all the right signals. Senior Jones hopped off and got his paper. When he got on again, I said.
“Where too now, Senior?”
He thought for a moment and then said.
“We better go back to the station, unless either of you has anywhere else to go?”
“No we are all right.” Said Don.
I pulled up at the police station again and Senior Jones got off. He was walking into the station.
“Are we going to finish the test?” I said.
Senior Jones stopped and half turned and said in an off handed way.
“Oh yes. You have finished the test and you have past with flying colours. Well done and you had better come in and we will fill out all the paper work.”