Open Gratitude

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A few weeks ago, I wrote an ode to a CalTrain conductor.

Today, an Ode to a Shuttle Bus driver.

Owing to working in the building farthest away from the main campus, I ride a small bus, with creaky springs and an uncomfortable ride.

It’s not fun. We had a driver for a time who hurtled that thing way too fast up California highways and byways, often popping unsuspecting folks (like me) up out of their seats. Yes, I caught air on more than one occasion.

Between that and CalTrain side sway, I often arrived home a little blue in the gills…

But that was before Jose.

This new driver arrived one day. A quiet, gentle man. And a gentleman as well.

He drives at an acceptable speed. He “hits his marks” without fail. He neither arrives too early (ugh, we had one guy who was perpetually five minutes early…if you missed it, tough nuts) nor too late.

His best point? He waits for us to come off the CalTrain so he can direct us where he’s parked the bus. We never get lost in the morning train station melee anymore! (other drivers wait on the bus, leave before everyone is on board, and tough nuts if you miss it)

And then Jose had a defining moment.

About a month into Jose’s tenure we had a blasting heat wave in the Bay Area. On the first day of this hot spell, Jose waited until we were all seated on the bus, then stood at the front, and quietly addressed the passengers.

“I want to tell you that the air conditioner is broken on this bus. I have put in a work order. I put in a work order every day. I keep copies. I have twenty work orders I can show you. But they won’t listen to me. However, my company, they will listen to you.”

I realized that Jose is on that damn bus for four hours in the morning and four hours in the afternoon. How miserable it had to be with no air conditioning.

But you could tell he felt it was an act of mutiny to speak out against his employer.

I’d recently worked on a project with the guy in Facilities who owns the commuter program. We’d outfitted the shuttles with WiFi access. So that morning I sent an email.

That afternoon, Jose came rolling up in a new bus with both a smoother ride and working A/C.

When I boarded, he thanked me profusely. And every day for about a week.

Upon my return from a recent week’s vacation, I stepped off the CalTrain, and dependably, there was Jose.

“Karen, where have you been? I’ve been so worried about you!” he said as I approached.

This is the kind of customer service you just don’t get anymore.

This morning, as I rode the CalTrain, I began writing this blog entry. I felt the necessity to proclaim my gratitude.

To my surprise, as I boarded the bus, Jose informed me that today is his last run. He’s being promoted to the big shuttle buses that run between San Francisco and work.

It’s a better situation, more pay, more comfortable bus.

I cannot tell you how sad I am.

How can I emerge from CalTrain every morning and not reliably know where my bus waits?

I wish him nothing but the best. We’ve heard rumors of the “new guy” who’ll be driving. “He drives to fast,” is what I hear.

Great. Dramamine and bungee cords all around.

Jose greets everyone on the bus by name. And we respond in kind. It’s a symbiotic relationship. He gets me to work every day, makes sure I get safely on the bus, and gets me back home to The Good Man every night.

Jose, I’m humbled by your dedication and grateful for your tireless service. The employees who now get the benefit of your services have no idea how lucky they truly are.

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