The wheels on the bus go round and round all through the town. But who is in the drivers seat of those big yellow school buses seen every morning and afternoon?
Greg Whynot is one man behind the wheel, bringing Queens County children to and from school each day. He is a father, a supervisor, a mentor, a friend.
Greg has been doing this job full-time for 15 years, but he didn’t always want to be a school bus driver.
The thought never crossed Greg’s mind in his 13 and a half years working for Pepsi Cola, or his brief time working for Coca Cola after that.
It wasn’t until he was offered a job as a school janitor, did the opportunity arise.
“I had no work at the time, so I went up and started being a janitor,” says Greg. “This afternoon bus run came up, and my boss at the time asked me if I wanted to be a bus driver. I said I would give it a try.”
From 1991 to 1995 Greg worked both his eight-hour janitor shift, and the three-hour afternoon bus run. When a full-time bus run came up, Greg told his wife he liked driving the bus much better than being a janitor.
“I told her this way I can be home nights with our kids,” says Greg. “Then I went into driving the full time run, and the rest is history.”
Greg begins his day at 5:30 a.m. The first thing he needs to do before anything else, is check to ensure the bus is safe to drive children around.
Once the bus has been checked over, Greg leaves at 7:15 a.m to do a junior senior run, followed by another run to Milton Centennial and Dr. John C. Wickwire Academy. He usually gets home around 9:00 a.m, and is on call in case of situations such as school cancelations.
After lunch is the reverse route, picking up the students from school and dropping them at home.
Greg says his run is usually around 150 to 160 kilometers a day, “so there's a lot of mileage put on the buses.”
Being a bus driver is not as simple as driving from point A to point B. Greg says the job comes with great responsibility, which is not surprising coming from someone in charge of 40 or more children in an enclosed space.
“You've got to have eyes in the back of your head. Do you expect 40 kids to be sitting in their seats being good?” Laughs Greg. “You have to watch them, I try and do a mirror check every five to seven seconds. You check your mirrors behind you and beside you, to make sure they're sitting down.”
"Nobody else, I don't care if it's an 18 wheeler or what it is, they don't have anything more precious than what you have on the bus. And that’s human life. If it takes me four hours to get to school because of the weather, so be it. The kids will be home safe." - Greg Whynot
Although knowing what is going on inside the bus is important, Greg says the big thing is when he lets a child off.
“Not so much in the morning, but in the afternoon when you drop them off and they have to cross the road and stuff like that,” he says. “We have people who don't see a big yellow bus with red lights flashing, and they have a tendency to just go through. I always tell the kids, 'You look at me before you cross the road.'”
Getting the children to and from school in the safest way possible is the main priority for every bus driver, which is all to clear in the bus driver motto: you drive to arrive.
“Whether you're going 20 kilometers or 80 kilometers, you adapt to the weather and you drive to arrive, because you have the safest cargo in the world on your bus,” says Greg. “Nobody else, I don't care if it's an 18 wheeler or what it is, they don't have anything more precious than what you have on the bus. And that’s human life. If it takes me four hours to get to school because of the weather, so be it. The kids will be home safe.”
Greg is also someone who doesn’t stop his involvement with the students once they get off the bus. He has attended events like graduations, and basketball and hockey games to show support for students he thinks don’t have enough. He has even been asked, after watching her grow up through grade primary to 12, to be a best man at a wedding for a young woman who lost her father through suicide. It is easy to see his support is greatly appreciated.
“I can walk in a store and I'll have grade twos and threes come up and tell me they love me,” laughs Greg. “I've been asked to go to birthday parties for kids that are six and seven years old.”
Greg has gone from getting a job he likes, to having a job he loves. There are many parts of being a bus driver he says he enjoys, but one thing stands out as the most rewarding.
“The smiling faces. The smiles on a kids face is worth a million dollars, you can't buy that,” says Greg. “I'll never be a millionaire and I'm not worried about it. If I see a smiling face I'm happy.”