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29 October 2014

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Voices: This Norfolk Life

John Waller's bus now stops for passengers
John's bus now stops for passengers

This Norfolk Life: At Your Service

"This is just one of the nightmare stories during my 12 months as a bus driver," said John Waller of his story.

It was time for a career change and I joined Eastern Counties Bus Company as a trainee driver.

On my first morning I reported to the training department and was told to wait in the canteen for the instructor.

Entering the canteen was quite a culture shock as I was confronted by large men eating enormous portions of chips with everything and drinking tea from huge mugs.

It was quite a change from my sales office environment but appearances were deceptive as I was made welcome and soon discovered that they were a friendly bunch of men.

The buses in use were mainly double deckers and rather antiquated. They lacked power steering and syncromesh gearboxes and the technique required to drive one of these vehicles was difficult to master. But after some intensive training I passed my test and received my PSV licence and badge.

My first trip on service was an early morning departure from Norwich bus station to King's Lynn. I asked the foreman for a route map and was told they didn't exist as it was a straight forward trip and my conductor would know the way.

This sounded acceptable until the conductor arrived. He was newly trained and had only arrived from Glasgow three weeks earlier. He had never heard of King's Lynn and definitely couldn't help with directions.

I asked another driver who was running late and he only had time to shout,

"Chapelfield and Dereham Road!"

We got under way but as we approached a place called Narborough the conductor started ringing the bell like a man possessed.

Assuming that something was wrong I stopped the bus, jumped from the cab and ran to the rear door to find the conductor babbling on in what sounded like a foreign language but was his Scottish accent that became broader when excited.

He had looked at a timetable and had discovered that we were running an hour early and this explained why we hadn't picked up any passengers. I hid the bus off the main road and waited for the official departure time.

As we were about to leave a passenger boarded the bus and seemed amazed that it was empty, as he used it everyday and it was always full. The game was up and I knew I had to confess.

Initially he was angry but my persuasive sales skills soon won him over and the villains became the bus company for not supplying maps to new crews.

He then explained that we should have picked up passengers and parcels from the neighbouring villages.

As we resumed our journey it was comforting to have the passenger behind my cab, tapping on the glass partition and pointing directions.

We completed our mission in text book fashion.

Story laureate Sue Welfare writes: Another lovely story, well told with a nice sense of place and pace.

last updated: 30/09/05
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I have never heard so much rubbish in all my years, to get an hour early at Narborough! To be sent to K/ as a new driver! Dream on...

Great website! Bookmarked! I am impressed at your work!

Ros Rice
Nicely told tale, would love to read some more from this author, sounds like he had an interesting career as a bus driver.

Rob, Norwich
Great story - felt as though I was on the journey! Keep them coming John.

Michelle McCaskill
Lovely story - hope to hear more from John Waller.

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