After leaving the Army in 1978, John Gomez followed his brother-in-law to the University of Minnesota where he studied to become a teacher. After several years commuting to a proofreader job on the bus, he turned his attention to an entirely different line of work: driving a bus. Encouraged by several of his wife’s family members who worked in transit, Gomez applied and began working as a part-time operator at the old Snelling Garage in 1985. While he wasn’t quite sure it was the job he wanted, Gomez eventually settled in and spent 33 years as an operator and instructor.
Reflecting shortly after his retirement, Gomez said he considered his six years as an instructor to be among the greatest accomplishments of his career. “I think it goes back to my aspiration to be a teacher,” he said. “It was an opportunity to pass along knowledge. And, for me, it was also a great confidence builder.” Gomez had other reasons to be confident in his abilities, too, including a nearly-flawless safety record that he says came from having patience and an innate ability to foresee and prevent accidents on the road. “I was prepared to get into an accident every day, so I always thought to myself, ‘What can I do to prevent that from happening?’” he said.
Gomez also found success by learning to put the pressures of the job aside and creating a welcoming atmosphere by taking the time to greet customers as they boarded. “It makes their life easier, it makes your life easier and you gain a friend,” he said. Living in St. Paul, his career was spent almost entirely at old Snelling and later at East Metro; among his favorite routes was Route 84.
Sharing stories and building friendships with his fellow operators helped Gomez throughout his career, too. The camaraderie that developed over the years, he said, is what he’ll miss most in retirement. “We all suffer through the same things,” Gomez said. “It’s a special kind of bond that only drivers can share.”
In retirement, Gomez said he planned to spend more time with his family, including two daughters, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He also looked forward to exercising more, especially swimming and golf, and to volunteering with the Shriners and the group’s drum corp.