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Thursday, June 13, 2024
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wonk bus driver feature pic

Positivity with every drive

AU shuttle operator Ben Bihon shares his love for the job

If American University shuttle operator Binyam “Ben” Bihon could give students any advice, he would tell them to chase the bus and wave their arms. Bihon will always stop to pick up rushing students if he can do so safely. 

“We will wait as long as I’m seeing somebody running. Let the driver know your intention,” said Bihon. “So, we can all be on the same page when it comes to waiting for the student to catch the bus.”

The AU Shuttle, commonly known as the Wonk bus, is critical to many students’ routines. 

Despite its significant role in the AU community, some may forget the person behind the wheel — but Bihon doesn’t find that to be the case. 

On student and faculty shuttle riders, Bihon said, “The manner they talk to us as drivers is very respectful. They’re very engaged and very positive.” 

He said that during scheduled timed stops either at the campus or the Metro station, he often talks with riders about “daily routines and whatnot.” Many know and greet him by his first name. 

Bihon is originally from Ethiopia and immigrated to the United States at 15. After high school, he spent eight years in the Navy, where he started driving larger vehicles. After being honorably discharged, he got his commercial license. Bihon began working for AU in June 2013 after hearing about the positive environment of working with students. 

Bihon lives half an hour away in Franconia, Virginia, with his wife, seven-year-old daughter and six-year-old son. He currently works the second shift, which starts at 2 p.m. and ends at 10:30 p.m.

“Every day I look forward to coming to work because I know it’s going to be fun,” Bihon said.

Before every shift, Bihon completes a “pre-trip inspection” of the shuttle he takes over, checking for cleanliness and safe conditions. He completes a similar “post-trip inspection” at the end of the shift, which concludes with a digital report sent to the maintenance department. 

Bihon sees those who ride the shuttles as an important part of his routine, saying that he and his colleagues often speak of the friendliness of students, especially around the holidays when drivers sometimes receive cards from thankful riders. 

He appreciates when riders stand in the front of the shuttle and strike up a conversation with him. Bihon stresses the importance of communication between students and drivers, especially when students wave the shuttle down when it’s about to leave. 

“I have a job because of the students so we’re here to serve you guys,” said Bihon.

During orientation each year, the shuttle operators have to “educate [freshman] on how we operate,” and help new students understand their flexibility, Bihon said. 

Bihon also has friendships with his coworkers, a camaraderie that includes chatting during shift changes and overlapping shifts. 

“Everyone has everyone’s phone [number]. We communicate all the time,” said Bihon, which is necessary when something unexpected happens on a route and other operators or supervisors need to be notified. 

Bihon emphasized his appreciation for his job, from the students and supportive coworkers.

“When I come to work, I really look forward to gaining that recognition and that positivity,” Bihon said. “I really do enjoy my work every day.”

This article was edited by Samantha Skolnick, Abigail Turner and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks, Isabelle Kravis, Ariana Kavoossi 

Editor’s note: This podcast discusses topics like suicide, sexual abuse and violence.

In this episode of Couch Potatoes, hosts Sydney Hsu and Sara Winick talk about shows that are created to elicit an emotion response from viewers. Listen along as they discuss past and current trends within media, and how they have affected audiences.

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