For Myles Teagle, driving has proven to be a cure-all, literally. By merely getting behind the wheel of a vehicle, he can make a migraine headache go away. Not surprisingly, therefore, he looks forward to every shift as a tour bus driver in downtown Vancouver.
Teagle initially planned on becoming a carpenter, and had been working toward that goal for five years, ever since Grade 10. However, a domestic fall that left him unable to swing a hammer without pain forced him to change career directions. With a long-standing love for driving, he spent $6,500 at a driving school in Nanaimo, BC, earning his Class 1 licence so he could drive tractor-trailers.
Despite his newly-minted credentials and his passion for the work, cracking the trucking business at the age of 22 was an exercise in frustration. “It’s hard to get into Class 1 driving when you don’t know anybody,” he says. Understanding that either a Class 1 or Class 2 licence would qualify him for bus driving, he started applying to bus companies. This strategy led him to the Burnaby-based tour company, Big Bus, in 2011, where Teagle got a job navigating the busy streets of Vancouver on old-fashioned British double-deckers and customized open-air Bluebird buses.
Teagle currently works four days per week, Monday through Thursday. Shifts in the winter run from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., and in the summers, from 7:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. He usually works on his own, although “in the summer, we have a few ‘live guides,’ as we call them, who come on and interact with the passengers. Without them, I have a recorded commentary I can play, or I can grab the mike and say things.” Generally, however, he prefers playing the tape while he drives. “It takes concentration to drive a bus in downtown Vancouver,” he says.
Each tour begins and ends at the Gastown Steam Clock, and lasts 90 minutes, so he will typically perform five circuits during a winter shift, and six during the summer. Big Bus offers customers a “hop-on, hop-off” service, so Teagle stops frequently. In addition to his regular driving duties, he collects fares from passengers, using a wireless transaction device to process debit and credit transactions, as well as accepting cash payments and assorted vouchers from hotels and tourist brochures. On the final tour of each day, when there’s no scheduling pressure to start a new circuit, he will often drop passengers off at nearby hotels before heading back to the company yard.
So far, the work has been enjoyable, just as he expected. “It was a challenge at first, but when I got into the groove it became easy to do. You have to be dedicated and focused.” He has had to adjust to eating on the run and scheduling bathroom breaks for the longer stops at Canada Place and Stanley Park; however, for the most part, his customers have more than compensated for such minor inconveniences. “They’re on vacation, so they’re fairly mellow. They’re enjoying what they’re doing. I have a great time conversing with the people on my bus.” Even so, he still feels shy about displaying a tip jar, and definitely doesn’t prime it with money, or “plant the seed,” as he calls it, with a wry laugh. “The worst part is, I’ll forget to put it out entirely, and then I don’t want to put it out in front of people. I’ll wait until there’s no one on the bus.”
Now that he has his foot on the gas, the sky’s the limit. While Teagle loves his current job — “It doesn’t even feel much like work” — his long-term goal is to become an airplane pilot.