04 Mar 2021
Romantic Exeter bus driver Chris Oakley proposed to his partner of two years, fellow driver Fiona Smith, on Tuesday 2nd March 2021 with a special bus bearing a ‘Will You Marry Me? display.
Chris and Fiona met driving buses for Stagecoach in Exeter; Chris had joined the company in 2016, whilst Fiona started with Stagecoach in 2019. The couple began their relationship not long after Fiona became a driver at the Exeter depot.
Chris said ‘I knew within 6 months that she was the one!’ He revealed that after a recent health scare he couldn’t wait any longer to propose. When thinking about the event he had imagined that he would take Fiona abroad for the special occasion, however sadly with travel restrictions in place, due to the Covid19 pandemic, he knew this wouldn’t be an option. It was then that he dreamed up the idea of getting down on one knee at the place they’d first met- the Stagecoach bus depot based at Matford in Exeter. The couple shared that this was very special to them, as it marked the start of their relationship, and future married life together.
Chris described the effort and organisation it took to make sure the proposal was kept a under wraps. He firstly spoke to the depot’s Operations Manager James Mooney to make sure the company would be happy for the event to take place onsite. As Chris was set to be on holiday on the morning of the 2nd, and had planned to surprise Fiona when she signed on for her duty, he had to arrange a cover story that would explain why he was going into work in his uniform. He arranged with Exeter controller Adam Jones, to invent a Training Course that required him to attend work that day, so Fiona wouldn’t be suspicious of the plan!
Chris thanked everybody who played a part in the surprise; he revealed that he’d kept the group of people in the know very small, and that it had been very difficult to keep the event under wraps. He mentioned that a couple of his fellow drivers had spotted the display being set up, but did a great job of keeping quiet.
The effort Chris and his friends at Stagecoach went to certainly paid off- Fiona said she is ’on cloud nine’ after the romantic gesture, and had ‘no idea at all’ that Chris was planning the surprise. Despite the happy ending, Chris said that he ‘was petrified’ in the build up to the proposal. With the proposal taking place at work, there were a lot of drivers signing on for their duty and the event got everyone’s attention. Although he was hoping for a yes he was ‘a bit worried that it could’ve been a no!’ which he confessed would not have been great with everyone watching!
The story has put a smile on the faces of staff across Stagecoach, with Chris and Fiona receiving lots of messages of congratulations, and many of their work friends stopping them around the depot to wish them well. Fiona said ’We’re so happy that this has brightened everyone’s spirits, particularly as the pandemic has been so hard on us all.’
The newly engaged couple are already planning their big day, Fiona said ‘we only got engaged yesterday, but we should have the wedding organised by the weekend!’ They shared that they have a special date in mind and that they are currently looking at venues. The excited pair know what they want and are hoping to secure their ideal spot to say ‘I Do’ this weekend.
The couple explained that it’s not only the Matford depot that holds a special place in their hearts, but buses in general have played a big part in their lives. Not only did they meet whilst driving buses, Chris’ Granddad was a bus driver in Plymouth for many years. Chris explained that he decided to become a driver to follow in his footsteps; his Granddad brought him under his wing, and helped him to pursue his career as a professional driver. In honour of their shared passion, the couple are hoping that Stagecoach South West’s vintage Routemaster vehicle will be able to play a part in their special day.