Years ago, I was a school bus driver. The safety of the students was my primary concern, and I was well trained to conduct safety inspections of my bus before every route.
On one particular trip, I would be transporting 50 high schoolers to a student government conference, 8 hours away. I had been doing this trip for years. We loaded on Thursday at 5pm so we could arrive at the hotel by 2am. The conference began at 9 am.
I settled into the routine of driving. Most of the students were asleep. Traffic on the highway was light, typical at 11 pm.
I hit an unexpected bump – unusual for a big loaded rig. The bus was handling fine, so I thought nothing of it.
A moment later, one of the students walked up the aisle to me and said, “I think I just saw something fly past my window outside when we hit that bump.” I told him thanks, I will handle it, and to return to his seat.
Within a few minutes, two semi-trailer trucks pulled alongside my bus and honked their air horns. I looked and waved – and kept driving. These two rigs honked again and again. I kept driving.
The trucks then manoeuvred in front of me to slow me down. With lights flashing, the trucks carefully guided me and my bus to the side of the road.
Confused, I got out and asked what was wrong. The drivers walked me to my left rear axle and shined a flashlight on the inner dual rim. That inner tire had burst, leaving just the sidewalls on the rim. That was the bump I felt. And, it was the torn away tire that the student had seen flying past the window.
The rim was aglow with the heat generated by the shredded tire. If I would have kept driving, the heat would have caused a fire, putting the lives of those students at risk.
The trucks guided my bus slowly to an all-night truck stop where mechanics replaced the tire. The rest of the trip was uneventful.
I spent the whole weekend chastising myself for not paying more attention, and I remain grateful to this day for those truck drivers.
Do you ever find yourself not “being present” in your day to day life? Perhaps it’s while you drive the same commute every day or when you are on the phone with someone you talk to a lot.
How about at work? Are you present with your colleagues and customers, or distracted by your phone or the people who are walking around you?
When we are in our own world, we do not notice others. When we are not in tune with them, we are less able to respond nimbly to the opportunities around us. We also send a subtle message, “You’re not as important as this (distraction).”
While much of the time we are not putting others in danger with our lack of presence (though that IS a possibility), our tendency to “go through the motions” robs us, and others, of meaningful, enlightening, and productive interaction.
Which one of your team members would admit privately, “Yes, he doesn’t hear me when I tell him something” or “I wish she would notice all the work we’ve been putting into this…can’t she put her phone down for one minute?”
Show up, every day. Be observant. Be present. Pay attention. Engage. The distractions will still be there when you are done, and you might just have a meaningful interaction–and perhaps, a much safer one, in the meantime.