Each month we highlight operators and other employees for their exceptional customer service. Maris Stull is April's Operator of the Month for demonstrating his patient and understanding nature while helping a passenger in need during a winter storm. Read the full story below.
I picked up a homeless lady at the beginning address. She paid full fare and was pleasant enough, but due to having no teeth and an unusually deep, scratchy voice, she was very difficult to understand. As we rode along, she sat near the front and talked to herself. At a certain point, she got louder and it grew into sounding like she was screaming. She appeared very upset about something and came up and tried to give me her phone. I initially didn't understand why, was driving and didn't necessarily want to touch a personal item of hers.
When we got to the Colorado light rail station, I tried to help her. Again, she was difficult to understand. But I pieced together that her phone had died, but she needed to use it to set up some kind of access to a voucher that would allow her to stay in a hotel for the night. I asked her if she had a charger and if she would permit me to go and charge it in the station bathroom, while we were on our layover of 15 minutes. She agreed, and that's what I did.
But the phone was old, and I wasn't able to charge it enough in the time available. She mentioned something about Walmart. I thought possibly she wanted to get off there, and to go inside to charge her phone in one of their outlets. But we passed Walmart, and it began to appear that she didn't have a plan B. When I talked to her about it, I couldn't make out what she was trying to say. It must be said that she wasn't intoxicated or combative, just understandably frustrated by her circumstances and inability to properly communicate.
The weather started to turn into a winter storm, so I decided it would be best to get some help. I called RTD and explained the situation. I told them I didn't feel it would be the right choice to ask her off the bus necessarily, because she would be stranded in the snow. RTD seemed very eager to help me out and had two separate supervisors meet me at the Colorado light rail station. One was from the Broadway FT division, and the other one was Chanta from our division. Both came on my bus at different times and tried to talk to her while I attempted to further charge her phone in the bathroom. But when she saw them, she immediately shut down and rocked back and forth. They weren't able to successfully communicate with her.
Since I had other passengers on the bus, I decided to not hold up the service and told Chanta that I would come up with a solution with RTD while I drove with her on my bus. She was so frustrated by her circumstances that a couple of passengers soothed her while we drove. I discussed various options with RTD. They told me they would come up with a solution so this lady would not get stranded in the storm. They told me they would call me back.
On my last trip, they called me back. They had checked around and asked me if I would drive her to the Catholic Charities of Denver women's shelter once my route was done. They arranged for Chanta to supervise the trip to make sure she got to her destination safely. So that's what we did. The shelter is out on Smith Road and Kearney. The roads were getting really bad by this point, so Chanta led the way and I followed in my bus, with her aboard. When we arrived, the lady was afraid they might not let her into the shelter, so Chanta walked with her to the entrance and made sure she got in safely.
It was a really good feeling to see them open their doors and take her in. And none of this would have happened if it were not for RTD's help and Chanta's skills as a supervisor. Although the whole incident went on for a number of hours, I ended up only being 30 minutes late getting back to division.
After receiving the commendation, we wanted to know more about Maris, and he graciously agreed to answer a few of our questions.
- How long have you driven for RTD, and have you always been a bus driver?
- Twenty-seven years and yes.
- What were you in a previous life?
- What do you like best about your job?
- Being trusted with customers’ transportation (he is also a bus passenger).
- If you could listen to music while working, what type?
- New Age.
- If you could deck out your bus, what style?
- Rock Star with lounging chairs.
- If you could change your uniform color, what color?
- Periwinkle Blue.
- What type of service would you drive if given the choice and/or favorite service to drive or operate?
- Boulder Express – beautiful scenery and wonderful passengers.