‘Downtime away from running coaches: It’s imperative’

Downtime away from running coaches is important, says operator

I don’t profess to be the sharpest knife in the drawer, or even the best strategic thinker in the world, but like many coach operators, one thing I have always been good at is absorbing lots of pressure and remaining relatively calm in the line of fire, so to speak.

So it was much to my surprise recently when I found myself hurling my mobile phone against my office wall in sheer frustration. Luckily, I only broke the charging adaptor, so no real damage was done. While I might not be the sharpest knife, I am like Billy the Kid when it comes to picking up my mobile to solve a problem, so disabling it would have been a major pain.

Different problems during the pandemic – but still problems

When I got home, I told my wife about the phone incident. She delicately pointed out that for the past two years, I wasn’t under the same type of pressure as I had been for the previous 10. During lockdowns, coaches didn’t run late or break down, drivers didn’t fall ill and customers weren’t unreasonable. There were different problems, of course, but nothing that required sorting out immediately while trying to juggle 15 different balls in the air.

Fortunately, our business is returning to normal quickly, and absorbing the stress is something that I am going to have to get used to again.

Running coaches: An all-consuming job at times

Post-pandemic, we began conducting informal chats with our staff to see how they were doing, and how lockdowns and the general uncertainty had affected them. Mental health is something that 10 years ago we never considered, let along understood, but in 2022, two of our staff went for counselling. It did them a lot of good. From a business point of view, I suspect it also saved us a lot in sick pay and the stress of scheduling with two fewer drivers.

I have never really suffered from stress, or been overly concerned about my own mental health. But throwing my own phone against the wall was out of character, and it made me think a bit. I try to and hope that I look after our staff to the best of my ability, but when looking after everyone else we must make sure that we don’t neglect ourselves.

If you are not careful, this thing of ours (as Tony Soprano used to put it) can be all-consuming, seven days per week and often at a cost to ourselves and those nearest to us. We all need to let off steam somewhere; parking the coaches and buses up both physically and within our heads.

‘The coaches will still be there tomorrow’

I am lucky. I have a supportive family and some good friends who I can gave a laugh and a drink with. The WhatsApp group of me and my mates is as far away from the job as you can imagine, and from their respective lines of work as well. I also support a very mediocre football team that I can take my frustration out on.

So look after yourselves. Do something that takes you away from engines and drivers whenever you can. Whether that be clad in Lycra riding your bike, a few drinks and a meal out with your partner, a 10k run, a spot of ornithology, or writing an amusing and thought-provoking article for a magazine: I promise you, the coaches and their associated problems will still be there in the morning.

A donation to charity has been made for this column.