When Brian Carr retired at 64 from Bloomberg Bureau of National Affairs (now Bloomberg Industry Group) in Washington D.C., he had no plans to drive a school bus. Originally, Brian wanted to concentrate on his music. An accomplished guitarist, Brian planned to focus on playing, singing and writing music, but he missed a daily routine and decided it was time to go back to work. “I got antsy and missed structure in my life,” Brian said.
But driving a bus was not his first job after retirement. Instead, he took a sales job at Bill’s Music in Catonsville, MD. Brian was able to talk to other musicians, help them find what they needed and still find time to play the guitar. “After years of playing in bands, I knew a lot about sound systems, microphones and other musical things,” Brian said.
It was a very different job than his one in Washington D.C. where he spent his days writing and editing legal publications, but it was a perfect fit for his retirement. He loved demonstrating the different guitars and working with the customers and the Bill’s team.
Brian worked there for four and a half years until COVID hit. Then, Bill’s music, like many other businesses, shut down and Brian and his wife Dottie, who also worked at Bill’s scheduling lessons, were laid off. When Bill’s began opening again with limited hours, Brian was not one of the employees brought back and he knew he had to find something different. “I didn’t like being unemployed, it was like being retired again,” Brian said.
He started looking at the Woodlawn Motor Coach because it was close to his house and they were always advertising for drivers. He put in an application and was hired.
So why bus driving? “I don’t know. I like to drive. I just thought it was something I would like to try,” Brian said. “For a post retirement part-time job, it pays $22.50 and hour and is going up in September to $25.”
The bus company put Brian through a four-week training program. Before he finished his training, he had to take and pass the permit test at the Department of Motor Vehicles. It was a three-part test. Brian passed and was ready to hit the road.
Brian had a choice between school bus driving and charter driving. He decided to take the school bus driving because it was more consistent, but he will still sometimes pick up charter work such as taking high school athletic teams to events.
Brian begins his day at 5:30 a.m. when he arrives at the bus yard. He isn’t expected until 5:45 a.m., but he likes to get there early to get a jump on the day and to make sure no kids are left standing outside too long.
However, when he first started, he arrived early because he was concerned about getting lost.
“The first time I went to Lansdowne I drove right by the high school,” Brian said. “Then to find a place to turn around you have to go a couple miles. It’s not like driving a car.”
His bus is 35 feet long and weighs over 12 tons. “It’s a very nice bus, with good equipment,” Brian said. There’s power steering, cruise control and a powerful braking system “There are seven very large mirrors so you can not only see behind the bus, in front of the bus, the sides of the bus as well the full interior,” Brian said.
There’s also a PA system. “So, you can tell your passengers to quiet down or not eat on the bus,” Brian said.
He starts the day on the beltway going up to a local high school and transports those students to a magnet school. Then he picks up another group there and transports them to a technical high school.
After the initial “shuttle bus” runs, he begins transporting kids from their neighborhood stops to a middle school and then he delivers children to two separate elementary schools. “Those little kids are so adorable,” Brian said.
He’s back home by 9:30 a.m. and then starts afternoon pick up by reporting back to the bus lot at 1:45 p.m. for his first pick up at 2:20 p.m. Then he’s back at the lot at 4:30 p.m., cleans the bus, completes some paperwork and heads home.
In between his morning and afternoon runs, Brian runs errands and takes care of doctor’s appointments. He also makes sure to walk his dog. “He needs it and so do I,” Brian said.
“I was pleased with my assignment because I know this area very well,” Brian said.
Now that he’s finished his first year, he’s ready to go back for a second year. This summer he volunteered to drive for a local summer camp. He said it’s much different than driving during the school year. One big difference is that during the summer there are counselors on the bus that help with bus management. During the school year, Brian is not only responsible for driving, but also for maintaining discipline on the bus.
At 71, Brian has no issues with health care. He is not only covered by Medicare, but also has great supplemental insurance from his previous employer, Bloomberg.
But that doesn’t mean that Brian has been taking his health for granted. Driving the bus has made Brian much more aware of his health. Commercial drivers must pass a Department of Transportation annual physical. There are rigorous standards that drivers have to meet.
For example, if a driver’s neck measurement is more than 17 inches, he/she must be tested for possible sleep apnea. If you have sleep apnea then you have to get on a CPAP machine.
Knowing that his neck was larger than that, Brian decided it was time to lose weight and get in better shape. He has lost approximately 50 pounds through intermittent fasting and maintaining a low carb diet. He’s also become more active and is riding his bike to work. “My A1C went down from 7.3 to 5.4,” Brian said.
His bike riding has the added benefit of saving on gas and allowing he and his wife to become a one car family.
Brian and his wife Dottie are enjoying spending time together and she has even started working at the bus company as well. She isn’t a driver, but instead works in the front office doing contract work. However, they have always worked at the same company Dottie worked for Bloomberg as well as Bill’s music.
Brian has not given up on his music. Brian practices at least an hour a day. He plays with the band Blues State who has local gigs and also performs at the Catonsville Sunday Farmer’s Market with Marcus Austin.
Brian has found that he really likes driving. “I love it. I wish I had started doing it sooner.”
“I’ll probably drive for the next ten years,” Brian said. However, he may not keep up his current rigorous schedule for that long. The bus company also has options for drivers to choose daily charter trips to offer more flexibility. “Working just makes me feel better,” Brian said.
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