Mirko Damcevski knows Dion’s Wollongong to Austinmer bus route – and its potholes – better than most.
The 65-year-old bus driver, who has been a much-loved part of the northern suburbs commute for the better part of four decades, has even been told he could make the journey with his eyes closed.
Now, Mr Damcevski will be able to do just that – from a passenger seat – after pulling the handbrake on his career behind the wheel.
The veteran driver visited his final stop on April 21, signalling the end of a job spanning about 36 years.
“The people from Wollongong to Austinmer have been 10/10 for me and that’s what made me stay for so long,” Mr Damcevski told the Mercury.
“I absolutely loved it, every bit of it. I can’t put into words how good it’s been, I’ve loved the job – that’s why you can stay for so many years behind the wheel.”
Mr Damcevski has seen generations of residents grow over the years. He, too, has grown thanks to his daily interactions with customers.
“When I started I didn’t even know where I was going, I’d never been past Woonona,” he said.
“At the time my English was very poor; I grew up with the people and learned a lot ... English and all.”
Mr Damcevski has seen buses change during his time and said the introduction of the cash-less Opal system had made drivers’ jobs safer.
“When I started we didn’t have ticket machines, it was cash in hand, we had to memorise all the fares,” he said.
Having collected countless fares and covered thousands of kilometres, Mr Damcevski can put his feet up. That decision wasn’t made lightly.
“I reached the golden age of 65,” he said. “I didn’t want to retire, it was just a matter of when you reach that age ... I could have stayed for another 10 years and I’m pretty sure Dion’s would have let me stay for another 10 years.”
Dion’s manager Les Dion said Mr Damcevski had “quite a following” among his customers.
“So much so that whenever we swapped his shift around his customers would follow, which is very unusual,” Mr Dion said.
Mr Damcevski’s service was recognised during a farewell gathering at the North Gong Hotel on Sunday.