Love is in the air – well it certainly was the day that Stuart Grocock and his wife Sonya Kershaw rolled up for their first training session at CDC Canberra.
Starting their respective roles after initial class-based training, the now couple – Stuart, a retired public serviceman and Sonya, who previously worked as a nurse at the Canberra Hospital – used to chat at the depot between shifts and share their new driving experiences together.
They’d grab coffee or lunch together, enjoying each other’s company while having a break from their busy days.
While they were both employed by CDC Canberra, Stuart’s shifts were based around runs from the Yass depot, and during his breaks he found himself at the Queanbeyan depot, where Sonya was based.
“So, whenever Sonya returned during her breaks, she’d notice me just sitting there reading books or generally with a bit of time on my hands, and would start conversations with me,” Stuart recalled, remembering how their relationship evolved.
But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing – Stuart was in a bad accident and broke his spine, spending 37 days in hospital.
Sonya said CDC was supportive during the ordeal, organising her shifts so she’d maximise her time at the hospital with Stuart.
“It was a very trying situation, he’s a very independent person so I felt the need to be there as much as I could,” she said.
“Work was absolutely fantastic, negotiating different shifts for me.”
Sonya said it was an incredibly trying time for the pair, who had also been trying to organise a wedding at the time but kept having to put it off due to the pandemic.
They’d organised for their celebrant to come to their home to perform the ceremony, but Covid-19 kept getting in the way.
“Our celebrant rang us and said she couldn’t do it – so I asked if she could do it at the hospital and she said yes,” Sonya said.
“So, we had a hospital wedding. I worked in the morning and had just enough time to race over to the hospital to get married.”
Despite being in her work uniform, it was a very special moment for the pair and Stuart, who had been working hard during his recovery, was able to stand for the ceremony.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of their troubles – during a routine check-up with her cardiologist as a requirement for her driver’s licence, doctors picked up on a heart condition Sonya hadn’t known about, which needed immediate surgery.
“It was just one catastrophe after another, but we’ve made it through together again with the help of operations being accommodating with Stuart’s shifts and the need to visit me in ICU,” she said.
And it’s not just each other they love – both Stuart and Sonya love their jobs as bus drivers.
Stuart said the best part about the job was having a mobile office with a new view each day/hour and a different challenge each time a shift was assigned.
“You never know what’s around the next corner,” he said.
He said he’d considered bus driving after his retirement because he was “extremely bored”.
He’d already tackled a new career – stepping aside from public service life to be a newsagent owner/operator – but wanted something different.
“I was observing Transport Canberra buses driving around in circles for hours on end at very low speeds and I thought, ‘I could do that, how hard can it be?’ so I looked for jobs driving buses, found Qcity (CDC Canberra’s previous brand) and applied immediately. The rest is history,” he said.
Sonya said she loved the camaraderie amongst drivers, the support from and engagement with operational staff and management.
Do you remember the first thing you said to each other?
STUART: Sonya was at the course applying to be a bus driver and obtaining her MR licence qualification. I recall asking Sonya a question during a break in our training course which was spurred by a comment she made during the course about the various types of heavy vehicles she had already driven. I stupidly asked why she was applying for an MR licence if she had all that previous experience. Sonya responded that she had driven all those vehicles on a farm….
Who asked who out first?
SONYA: Stuart was doing a school run in from Yass at the time, so his car remained parked at the Yass depot all day, which is an hour away. I used to see him sitting around reading a book or eating his lunch, so I’d sit and chat with him. I was living locally at the time, and I ended up suggesting that we go and grab a coffee. I think he was glad to have a break from the busy depot environment.
STUART: Definitely Sonya! She was always asking me out to coffee and lunch during her breaks to try and get me away from the depot through the days
What drew you to each other?
SONYA: After the initial class-based training finished and we started our shifts, we used to chat at the depot and share our new driving experiences together. It all grew out of what we now had in common.
STUART: We generally share the same interests, sharing a nice meal and a coffee plus a mutual love for good, dark beer.
What is your favourite thing about each other?
SONYA: Definitely his sense of humour and his dedication to his work.
STUART: I love Sonya’s creativity, wicked sense of humour and get up and go attitude. I also love how her smile lights up the room when she enters. She is extremely driven and a far better person than anyone else I have ever met in my life.