My 2021 Summary
Have you ever had a traumatic event in your life when you felt like someone kicked you in the gut and knocked the wind out of you? Have you wandered aimlessly for a time, disoriented and not sure where to go or what to do next?
I’m sure it’s happened to many of us at one time or another, and probably more than once. Life can be like that.
For me, most recently, it was the unlucky 13th day of October 2020, at 2:48 PM, when I got the phone call that knocked my train off the tracks. Or, more literally, my bus off the interstate.
As many of my readers may remember, I had a job I loved. For the past 18 years, I drove motorcoaches across the US and Canada. I saw things and got to do things I’d never otherwise likely have seen or done. I met so many wonderful people enjoying their tours on my tour bus. My friends list on Facebook grew regularly, and to this day, I’m still in touch with many of them.
But in the second week of March 2020, the rapidly growing pandemic shut the world down. I and my fellow drivers — not just from my company but across the US — were all laid off, we hoped for just a couple of weeks, but we know how that turned out. Our destinations all began shutting down, passengers stayed home, and there was nowhere to drive to and no one to drive for. It would get much worse before it got better.
At least we had unemployment to fall back on, and, eventually, government stimulus checks to help, so financially we thought we could make it. But many of our fellow citizens did not make it; as of today, more than 800,000 people just in the United States have lost their lives, plus many more have suffered devastating long-term physical and emotional effects.
Perhaps in that perspective, the phone call on October 13th shouldn’t have been so devastating. Perhaps my life was too closely defined by my job.
The phone call was from my boss. COVID-19 had claimed the company I had worked for since 2002, a company in business since 1936, a company that was well managed financially, a company I thought would never succumb to COVID-19. But nevertheless, the company was dying and would not recover. Not only was I laid off, I was now terminated permanently. The company would forever close its doors before the end of November 2020.
I was grateful the news came directly by phone call, rather than secondhand or some other means. I received a letter in the mail the next day as confirmation that, yes, my job was gone, and the company would soon be gone, too. Even though I hadn’t worked since March, it was devastating news knowing there was nothing to go back to, nothing to look forward to as far as working for my long-term employer. I felt like I had been kicked in the gut.
For months, I wandered kind of aimlessly. I stopped writing for my blog (now you know why), and I put my podcasts on standby (I’m working on getting them restarted again). Even though I’m old enough to retire, I had wanted to retire on my terms, not someone else’s. I loved my job, and I wasn’t ready to stop driving yet.
The one activity I did keep up with was my participation on Facebook. Besides my personal page there, I’d been active in several groups for motorcoach operators. We were all in much the same position — laid off with slim prospects in sight. My company was not the only one swallowed by COVID-19 — there were many others. We shared our experiences, past and present, and hopes for future recovery.
With the vaccines in early 2021 came hope. Companies who had survived to this point started to get ready to roll again. Drivers got vaccinated and prepared to go back to work. But I had no company to go back to. I assumed I was retired involuntarily.
But in early May I was contacted by a man I didn’t know at the time, who told me that not only had he heard of my employment situation, but that he had a seat for me — behind the steering wheel, a job driving motorcoach — and if I was interested, I should come talk to him.
That man was Pete Borowsky, the president of Starr Tours, a large motorcoach company in Trenton, NJ. Starr was surviving with some creative financial and business management, and, now, with some excellent marketing including social media, was among the first in the country to get their coaches back on the road and their drivers back to work.
Bottom line, I was interviewed, hired, and back to work with my first trip by the last week in May 2021.
Instead of a 10-minute drive to work pre-pandemic, I now have an hour drive each way. But most of my trips are multi-day trips so that minimizes the unpleasant drives to and from work. I’ve had trips to Washington, DC, and NYC (my favorite cities), Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh, Nashville, Memphis, Maine, and more. I’m seeing the country again and meeting a lot of very nice people, as happy to be on the road again as I am.
I love my job.
That brings us to 2022 and this New Year’s Day. Who knows what the new year holds for any of us. None of us could have possibly predicted what happened these past two years. And 2022 could prove just as unpredictable. But I’m an optimist. I believe, after what we’ve survived the past two years, we’ll be able to handle whatever 2022 brings us. I’m ready.
Happy New Year!
Bob…..Great job, well written and you DO love your job. I know that first hand. It was a pleasure working with you on our Maine and Nashville/Memphis tours. Thanks for getting us to our destinations and returning home safely.
I wish a happy and a healthy New Year to you. Here’s to a good 2022. May we all be safe.
Bob Bergey says
Thank you, Penny — always a pleasure working with you, too. I’m looking forward to our next tour together!
Bette Barr says
Hey, Bob…..it was great working with you last year, on our West Point trip. I hope this year will bring more trips for all of us.
Happy New Year.
Bob Bergey says
Thanks, Bette, same to you!
Nick Gibbon says
Bob — We met over the summer while you were parked up near Ikea. Glad things are working out well for you at Starr. (I mean, your name’s Bob, so how could they not?!)
Since we met, I have moved out to central PA where I attend Penn State and moonlight for Fullington. With some reluctance, I have learned how to handle a J! (Being ex-Hagey, I imagine you’re fond of them, but the H will always be #1 for me)
Take care and see you on the road,
Bob Bergey says
Nice to hear from you, Nick! It took me a little while to adjust to driving Prevost instead of the MCI J’s, which I loved, but I’ve made the move pretty successfully, I think. There are some things I miss but overall I do really like the Prevost H3-45. Stay in touch!