My name is Rita Merlo, and I've been a bus driver for the past ten years. I began by driving for the Arbor High School, and did that for three yeas, but driving for children is like being both nanny and bus driver, so I quit driving for the school. Now, I drive for the Arbor Falls Transit System, or AFTS, and I really enjoy it. It seems like a lot of people think that bus drivers don't enjoy their jobs, or are only doing it as a second job, or because we're low income. But that's not always the case. I love driving adults. Since my husband Eddie passed away, about six years ago, I've really come to enjoy driving. It gives me a sense of control over my life that I didnít have before. Some widows stay at home and become depressed, others travel or move in with their kids. But Eddie wouldnít want to see me moping around the house, or burdening the kids. So I decided that I would work, and driving just puts me in control of everything.
At the time Eddie passed away, I hated my job, and would rather have stayed home. I'm fifty three, so Iím not quite at retiring age, but my husband had a good job and we could have lived comfortably on his income alone. I still live in our house, a nice split level on Easy St. with my two Dobermans, X and Betsy. I have adult children who live elsewhere in the country, but my puppies are like my kids now that Eddie's gone; we're a big family. I would never dream of moving anywhere else. Anyways, I wish more people would take the bus, they get turned off by certain stereotypes, and I wish if they'd just a good try, they'd see how much like they it.
Rita drives the same shift for the AFTS everyday, from 8-5pm. She drives eight hour shifts, with a fifteen minute break every two hours. After feeding her dogs and securing them in the kennel behind her house, Rita leaves for work. She drives to the bus station, although occasionally she also rides the bus to work. Itís about 15 minutes in the car, and 30 to 45 by bus. When Rita gets to work, she walks through her bus, making sure it's clean (she also does this before turning it over to the evening driver), and picking up any trash. Then, she pulls the bus out of the garage and over to the waiting area at the AFTS headquarters. From there, she starts her route.
During breaks, she likes to stretch her legs and get out of the bus. Occasionally, she will run to the corner store near by and pick up something to drink or a snack, but mostly she stays near the bus. After completing her last route, Rita returns the bus to AFTS headquarters, gets in her car, and heads home. At home, she makes dinner, feeds her dogs and curls up with a good book or a television program and generally relaxes for the evening.