Andrew Church has been driving a bus since he was eight years old.
“I would pull my little red wagon around the farm pretending to be on a school bus route picking and dropping kids off. I was always fascinated by being a bus driver,” said Church.
It wasn’t until after a 38-year career in agriculture finance that he finally got his chance to do it for real.
“I always joked when I had a bad day at work that I was going to quit and go drive a bus. Six years ago, almost to this day, I did just that,” said Church, who retired and got his air brake licence and now drives a school bus for Berry & Smith in the Okanagan Skaha School District and works for BC Transit on the city route.
Responsible for shuttling kids from Naramata and the West Bench to and from school and getting behind the wheel to connect people to the community is the exact reason why BC Transit is saluting their drivers this Saturday, March 18, for International Transit Driver Appreciation Day.
For Church, there is nothing better than getting behind the wheel of the bus, except his other dream of being a train conductor, and interacting with others.
“It’s just is the perfect job for me. I really love driving and meeting people. It was over the top for me when I got on with BC Transit filling in and working the summer and holidays. You strike up a relationship with the people you drive over the years. It is to the point now that even if I am behind the wheel of the school bus the people I would pick up on my city route recognize me from the street and wave. And, with the kids, you get to know all about them and their families, or you might see something in the newspaper that they have accomplished and you get to talk to them about it,” he said. “I can hardly wait to get out there every day.”
Helping others get to and from their daily tasks fills Church with pride. He said it still strikes a chord with him every single time someone thanks him as they get off the bus.
“It all brings back that same kind of spirit I had as a kid on my little red wagon route. That same kind of joy and happiness is just there when I am driving and it takes me back to my childhood,” said Church. “My wife always says I’m out there living my dream. It really is like living the dream for sure.”
Rain or shine, snow or hail, transit drivers are responsible for the safe transportation of hundreds of thousands of people. BC Transit president and CEO Manuel Achadinha asks those riding the bus to join them in thanking the operators.
“They get us where we need to be, and I am proud to join BC Transit, and commuters across the province, in celebrating this important event,” said Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure.
For those who want to thank an operator personally they are encouraged to visit transitdriverday.org. There, you’ll find thank you cards which you can print off and give to your favourite operators. You can also use the hashtag #TDAD on social media to show your appreciation, and thank them in person as you exit the bus.