Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Profile: Oliver Hook, MARTA Bus Operator

Posted By on Wed, Apr 8, 2009 at 9:24 PM

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If you’ve ever ridden MARTA Route 115, chances are Oliver Hook has been your bus operator. As an operator for 21 years, he is constantly having to adjust to new technology and any problems his riders may have. He has always been ready to meet the challenge, however, and looks to MARTA as a second family.

What is a typical day like for you? 

A typical day for me is to get up in the morning, say a good prayer and be prepared for whatever you may meet. Being a bus operator, you have to be a doctor, a psychiatrist and a counselor. You have to be everything being a bus operator. You have to be prepared for everything physically and mentally.

There have been a lot of times where people will get on with different things. You may have a male or female talking about their divorce. Sometimes, they may be talking about killing themselves. As bus operators, we’re all trained to be able to talk to them and they get off the bus feeling much better.

We are no longer bus drivers; we are bus operators. We like to be called bus operators because we have a unique profession. Anybody can drive. It takes a special type of person to operate the vehicle that we operate and keep up with the constant demand of training and technology.

Have there ever been moments when you’ve had to ask someone to leave, or where you’ve refused to give a ride to someone? 

Well, MARTA policy is that you ask someone to pay. If a person doesn’t pay, you ask them at that time if they would leave the bus. However, it’s at the driver’s discretion. Most drivers know everybody so they’ll say “come on, you’re going to your job” and we let them go ahead and ride. It’s not a constant thing where everybody wants to ride for free.  Sometimes, someone may leave their car at home, and we know this person because they ride regularly. We’ll let them ride.

I have a very close relationship with my regular riders. I know what time they get off work, I know what time they’re going to catch me, sometimes the train may run different from the schedules and I’ll hold back for a little while and wait on them because these are my regular people, especially late night on my last trip. I may sit back five to fifteen minutes waiting on the train because these are my regular people and I’m the last one to leave the station.

Is there anything riders do that bothers you? 

Well that’s a good question. I guess the most annoying thing to me is asking me what time it is. MARTA has a clock at the station, MARTA has a clock on the bus and MARTA has a clock on the rail. MARTA has a clock at the station, MARTA has a clock on the bus and MARTA has a clock on the rail. So the clock is actually right there at the station above your head. But it’s still part of my job and I still have to give them the time.

Can you describe any interesting experiences you may have had? 

Yes, I have had a lot of experiences at MARTA. I guess that’s what makes you live longer. When I first came to the system I was on a route where this lady kept saying she was going to have a baby, and I didn’t know what to do! What I did was I pulled the bus to the side and asked all the gentlemen to get out. There was a lady on the bus who helped me with it, and after that we took her to Grady Hospital. She later came back to say “thank you.”

I recall one time where I called the police when I drove the bus to a DeKalb County jail because I had some young people acting the fool on there. They were just acting up and clowning around, so I’d had it. I got to the jail and found out that out of all 18 young men, 17 of them were wanted for something.

Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share? 

My thoughts are that I’d like to retire sometime soon within the next two or three years. I would recommend that anyone come here and get a job. Most people that come here aren’t in a hurry to leave here. It’s a good job with good benefits. There’s several good things here. You work in an environment with good people. We’re like family up here. We actually look out and care for each other up here. When someone is down, we’ll reach down and try to pick them up.

(Photo by Joeff Davis)

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