Andrew Wells, a bus driver on the East Campus Shuttle, feels secure with the many safety measures that have been implemented so he can continue driving students where they need to go. “We’re doing all that we can on our end to try to stay safe,” he said, cheerfully. There’s ample hand sanitizer for everyone on the bus, students enter from the rear doors and the seats are marked off to ensure social distancing.
Wells’ driver’s seat is roped off so everyone stays 6 feet away and there’s a plastic partition he can pull down if necessary. And for Wells, that’s the hard part. “I really enjoy conversation with the students and all that’s cut out. Now all the interaction is kind of waving in the rearview mirror or calling over your shoulder ‘Have a good day’ type stuff.”
Without the student interaction, Wells has been using his time in the driver’s seat to think of ways to improve the design of the buses. He was a key player in helping to design the new electric buses, providing suggestions such as an adjustable steering wheel to accommodate smaller drivers, a better positioned window and adding leg room for taller drivers. His inspiration for that last one? “I’m a big guy.”
And while Wells knows that the current mask policy is important for keeping people safe, he thinks it has one big drawback. “People can’t see my smile anymore!” he said.
That smile goes with a frequent hearty laugh and a warm and welcoming personality. He credits his mother for his happy outlook on life. “She was very cheerful, and she also told me that you’re much more approachable if you have a smile on your face.”
Wells has been driving for almost 30 years and loves what he does, not just the interaction but the bus itself. “There was always something about a big commercial vehicle I enjoyed. Maybe it was the roar of the engine. I don’t know.”
That roar is no longer there on the electric buses, but he still loves getting behind the wheel. He keeps his bus extra clean every day and even after a 10-hour shift, he remains as positive as ever. “I’ve always been a cheerful person. Everywhere I go, people say, ‘You always have a smile on your face; what are you smiling for?’” he laughed. “Life, I guess! I’m just a happy person.”