Left to right: Brian McHale, David Madrid, John Henrie
We recently spoke with three of our dedicated bus operators from our Utah County Timpanogos Business Unit about their experiences at UTA. Our bus and train operators are the “driving force” behind much that we accomplish at UTA, and the stories that these men shared with us reflect that truth.
Brian McHale grew up in California and was previously a general manager for a flourishing company. Due to personal circumstances, he moved with his family to Utah in 2009. He applied to UTA after seeing the bus operator job listing online, and has been working here ever since.
McHale said this job has helped him tremendously as he transitioned to his new life in Utah. “I’ve never felt closer to a group of coworkers,” he said. “On my first day, my boss looked at me and said, ‘Thank you for being here.’ I couldn’t figure out why he said that, and it wasn’t until later that I realized that that’s just how it is here. People are so kind to each other.”
He also said that working for UTA has helped him grow in empathy and understanding for other people. “Everything is an experience. I understand people better now.”
His coworker, David Madrid, also shared his story of how he came to work for UTA. A native of Los Angeles, Madrid was living in Provo when he and his friends decided to take the FrontRunner to Salt Lake City for a day. He started talking with the train host during the trip and decided he would apply for the same position. After interviewing for what he thought was a train host job, he got hired as a bus operator.
“It was a good misunderstanding,” he said, laughing. “I love my job.”
The best part of being a bus operator? According to Madrid, it’s the friendships. “Everyone likes each other a lot here because it’s not like we’re cooped up next to each other in cubicles all day. It’s exciting when we actually get to see each other after a long day of driving our routes.”
To further the friendships he has developed in the business unit, Madrid recently started an office-wide fishing club.
“Every month, we choose a different spot and go fishing together,” he said, gesturing to the pictures hanging on the wall of operators with the biggest catch. “There are prizes, food - everyone has a great time.”
For Brian McHale, being a bus operator helped him through a difficult personal time. For Dave Madrid, it meant having friends and enjoying his career. For John Henrie, the importance of his position was cemented in his first months working here.
“When I first started working for UTA, I had an experience that I’ll never forget,” Henrie said. “I was driving in Salt Lake and I reached the end of line on my route. It was November and winter had already hit hard. There was a woman sitting at the bus stop who was clearly intoxicated. At first, I wasn’t going to let her in the bus, but I had a thought cross my mind that clearly said, ‘She will die if you don’t let her board.’ I followed that instinct and let her on, keeping a close eye on her through my mirror.”
Henrie said he looked back and noticed the rider was consuming alcohol onboard. Normally, he’d remove riders from the bus for violating that rule, but he worried for her safety. He decided to call the police and have them meet his bus at the end of the route.
“When I reached the end of line, two cops got on the bus and approached me, but one of them stopped immediately as he saw the woman sitting behind me,” Henrie said. “He shined his flashlight in her eyes, made a few notes and called an ambulance. It arrived quickly, and once it took her away, the cop turned back to me and said, ‘Sorry, sir, what is it that you needed help with?’ I explained that it was that same woman that was causing me trouble, and the a strange look passed over his face. ‘Did you smell that weird smell on her when she boarded the bus?’ he asked me. I responded that I had, but I thought it was just the alcohol. ‘Well, if you ever smell that smell again, call an ambulance.’ he said. ‘That smell indicates that a person is going into diabetic shock. She would have died if you hadn’t let her board the bus.’”
Henrie was shocked and grateful that his initial instinct about the woman had been correct. A few months later, he said, he saw her again at the bus stop. She approached him, looked him in the eyes, then turned and walked away.
“I think she remembered what had happened that night,” he said.
The experience changed Henrie’s outlook on the job.
“We can have a direct and powerful influence on people because we interact with them so closely,” he said. “I know now that bus drivers can save lives.”
It is clear that the impact and importance that they hold for our company and riders cannot be overstated. Thank you to Brian McHale, David Madrid and John Henrie for your excellent work and service to riders.