Connecting With Riders During COVID-19
Ask anyone — STA Coach Operator Charlene Gresham always goes out of her way to make her customers feel at home.
It’s a quality that endears her to riders. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gresham had to make adjustments to the way she relates to people face-to-face — by wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing and staying behind the onboard barriers produced by STA to protect riders and operators.
It might make daily interactions with customers inconvenient, but it’s a policy Gresham supports.
“In the beginning, a lot of people didn’t want to put their masks on,” she said. “But now I see everybody wears their mask. And I love that. It’s for their safety and my safety too.”
Next month, Gresham will have been with STA for one year. She says she always wanted to drive an STA bus, but raising her children took priority. Once her children grew up, she took the opportunity to work for STA.
“I don’t just drive for a paycheck,” Gresham explained. “I drive because I love driving. And I love driving for STA so much.”
Gresham takes knowing her customers seriously. She previously drove shuttles, limos and other vehicles for a living, and knew many of her current riders before she even got behind the wheel of an STA bus.
“I feel like I’ve known my riders for ten or fifteen years,” she said. “I also know quite a few of them because I ride the bus a lot myself. You know me — I’m a people person.”
The essential nature of Gresham’s job was made clear to her during the coronavirus pandemic. She enjoys the responsibility she has for getting her customers around, and how her service fits into their lives.
“They have to get to their doctors appointments, get to school, get to the grocery store, and I like doing it. I get them to their places, and if I could do it twenty-four-seven, I would. Someone has to do it and I’m glad I’m the one who can transport them to and from their destinations.”
Gresham longs for when the coronavirus emergency is over and she can see her customers faces again — without masks.
“To be honest, it’s like I wish somebody would just slap me and wake me up and say you’re dreaming,” she said. “But that’s not the case.”