Love them or hate them, pick a favorite or avoid them altogether, any bus traveler has had experiences with them.
The MATBUS drivers of the NDSU campus consist of a wide number of personalities. Some look out for students running to catch a bus in the frigid cold, others are more stern and focused on their schedules.
While drivers bid for certain routes, there are those who are always looking for routes on campus. Chris Condon, who has family on campus on a normal day, looks for NDSU routes as much as he can.
“I like driving a bus on campus way better than other places,” he said. “I like talking to students.”
After retiring from a 20-year career working for a fire department, Condon said his year as a bus driver hasn’t been as exciting. However, one thing he does to liven up his job is say hello or even strike up a conversation.
“I am (interactive), but not everyone is,” Condon said. “This is kind of a boring job for me because of the other jobs I’ve had… I’ve got to do something to deal with boredom, so I figure I may as well talk to people.”
However, those acknowledgements might not come from every student.
“In my experience, I get on and get off,” freshman Ethan Becker said. “I don’t really say anything, they don’t really say anything.”
While this may not be the case with every bus driver, Condon is heavily involved with NDSU students. In fact, he invites some who don’t have anywhere to go to his house for meals.
“We kind of have a fondness for international students, because they’re away from home and they can’t go home on the weekends,” Condon said. “So we’ll sort of adopt them and give them a family away from home.”
However, there are things that get on Condon’s nerves as a driver. He said he worries when students walk in front of buses without giving a second thought to what could be coming right at them.
“It makes them not aware of their environment, which is a safety issue,” Condon said. “We have to be super careful on campus because students are walking out in front of us all of the time.
“They have this idea that ‘Well, all vehicles are supposed to stop for me, so I’ll just walk right in front of a bus’ and (buses) have got to stop. Sometimes I try to educate them or try to get their attention.”
Condon said he also doesn’t like students who are distracted by blaring headphones or cell phones. Even getting their attention by honking his horn sometimes doesn’t work.
“My pet peeve with students is that they’re all plugged in with headphones, so they’re not really aware of their environment,” Condon said. “Even when some will get on the buses, I’ll say ‘Hello,’ and they won’t even hear me.”
Nonetheless, his experience with them is positive.
Though this isn’t the case for every driver, one thing is for certain – a quick “Hello,” “Thank you” or even a wave could go a long ways.
Becker, who takes the bus as often as possible to stay out of the cold, said he doesn’t see much communication between drivers and riders throughout a day.
“Some people will say ‘thank you’ and the bus driver will acknowledge it,” Becker said. “But I don’t hear a lot of people say things.”
So, instead of looking at social media or worrying about other distractors, don’t be afraid to give those men and women behind the wheel a smile or wave.
“I wish more kids would ride the bus,” Condon said. “There’s tremendous benefit to having a bus go around.”