It’s lucky Coffs Harbour bus driver Catherine McIntyre doesn’t have a microphone on her bus – otherwise her students would be getting a tour of local landmarks on their way to school.
“Buses are great for geography,” she joked.
Up until three years ago when she joined the Forest Coach Lines team, Ms McIntyre was a high school geography and business teacher.
She said she first considered joining the team after discovering one of her student’s father worked at the company’s depot.
“One of my students had told me that if I wanted to be a bus driver her dad (who worked for CDC as an area manager at the time) could teach me,” she said.
Ms McIntyre kept his email but it was only after someone at her grey nomads’ program mentioned the job was great for retirees who wanted a bit of time on their hands that she reached out.
The decision to take up bus driving was one with multiple pros – more time on her hands meant she could slow down and enjoy life to the fullest.
That meant working split shifts every weekday during the school term as a bus driver, still connected to the school community, spending more time with her family and friends, new dog (which is getting a lot of attention) and carving out time for hobbies.
The one hobby in particular Ms McIntyre was delighted to have more time for was playing her trumpet.
“I’ve been playing trumpet since I was a child and while I kept up with my music while working as a teacher, I didn’t have enough time,” she said.
“I joined the Coffs Harbour City Orchestra about 22 years ago, playing the trumpet as well as the flugelhorn and cornet on Anzac Day.
“I’ve been playing since I was 12-years-old and took about 20 years off. But now it takes up a lot of my life and I’ve had a long time to get better at it.”
Ms McIntyre isn’t the only one from Forest Coach Lines team on the orchestra though – Mart Meulenbooks, a driver at the Sawtell depot, plays clarinet in the same orchestra.
But with this huge lifestyle change, does she miss her old life?
“I do, so I’m also doing some voluntary teaching at a primary school which is also helping me relate to the kids on the bus. If you’ve got a kindy kid for an hour you must know how to handle them and that teaching background really helps me stay connected,” she said.
Ms McIntyre said starting out as a bus driver was scary when she started, driving a huge bus, but she learnt very quickly how to be a safe driver.
“There’s never any room for complacency, it’s too important and you must take it seriously. But it’s a good job and I like doing it,” she said.
“I drive through some beautiful spots around a few estates where people live on acreage and see wildlife and the beautiful headlands. It’s a very nice way to start the day.”
“After being a teacher, being able to help the kids have a good start to their day and get home safely is important to me. Some kids get on and you can see their clearly upset before they go to school so you have a chance to lift them up a bit,” she said.
“It’s a nice job being outside and not stuck in a classroom. As you age you need to keep yourself occupied, otherwise you age quickly but changing careers can be good for you.
CDC gave me the opportunity to do that, and I’d definitely recommend for others to do the same.”