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Bus Driver Finds Inspiration in Hardworking Passengers Amid Coronavirus

Marcia Woods-Johnson misses seeing her regular riders in Columbus, Ohio

smiling bus driver marcia woods johnson

Maddie McGarvey

Marcia Woods Johnson, 56, is a bus operator in Columbus, Ohio, and vice president of Transport Workers Union Local 208.

En español | Because I'd always enjoyed driving, a friend of mine who worked for the bus company once told me I should apply for a job there. And I said, “No, I don't want to drive a bus!” But I applied, and this is my 21st year behind the wheel. I like the people and being out in the open, with no boss looking over my shoulder.

Everything is different now. There's no fare, so that all the passengers can enter through the rear door. You have to wear a mask or face covering to board, and there's a new standing line, 6 feet behind me. Those are the biggest changes — those, and just being afraid all the time. Kind of an inner fear. I'm 56, so more at risk. I just say a prayer and try and stay positive.


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I have a family that I have to help provide for. My husband is in sanitation, so he is essential, too. We have a 14-year-old that we're concerned about, so we stay away from her as much as we can. She stays in her room with her schoolwork. But I'm also just a firm believer that everybody's job is important. If other people can get up and go out and do their jobs, I should be able to get up and go do mine. They changed my route so I'm mainly catering to essential employees. Most of the ones that I carry work at warehouses — they work for FedEx or at Amazon. I'm needed out here because if I wasn't driving, these people wouldn't be able to get to work.

"I just say a prayer and try to stay positive."

— Marcia Johnson

In the beginning it was a problem getting people to wear masks, but now mostly everybody complies. They can use a scarf, a handkerchief or a homemade mask. If there's someone in a wheelchair without a face covering, we can send someone out to help them put one on.

I hope that things go back to being normal soon. I miss seeing my regulars and having happy passengers who are not so afraid. I want to go inside Starbucks, order my drink and just sit there and enjoy it. That's one thing that I'm looking forward to. And to be able to visit my mom and dad, who I haven't seen since this started. But I also truly hope this new appreciation for essential workers is not just a phase. I hope people will continue to take into consideration how important we are to society.

— As told to Brennen Jensen

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