When a group of older female passengers began calling Operator Paul King “Goldie,” he thought it had something to do with the rings he wore. Not exactly.
“I asked them where the name came from and they said they were calling me that because I had a personality that was golden,” King said recently.
King’s inviting persona has won over plenty of customers who, like the female passengers that gave him the nickname, are eager to see his face whenever they board.
Just two years after joining Metro Transit, King has received multiple commendations from customers who describe him as friendly, courteous and full of positive energy. King has also won praise for clearly calling stops and landmarks to help riders understand their surroundings.
The affirmations he receives are always appreciated but continue to come as a surprise to King, who says his approach to customer service is about as straightforward as it can get.
“It’s not complicated,” King said from Nicollet Garage, where he has worked since starting at Metro Transit. “You’re not going over the top. You’re just being yourself and putting people at ease.”
It was a desire to put himself and his family at ease that brought King to Metro Transit in the first place.
Growing up in Chicago, King regularly used transit and rode along with a neighbor who worked as a truck driver. The experiences instilled a love for transportation that eventually led him to get behind the wheel himself, first as a furniture delivery driver for Slumberland and later as a semi-truck driver for FedEx.
As a semi-truck driver, King spent almost two decades making 13-hour round-trips between the Twin Cities and Fargo, N.D. His wife suggested he try driving a bus so he could stay closer to home, spend more time with the family and avoid the stresses of long-distance driving.
King was skeptical at first but said the interactions he had with customers quickly convinced him this was a job he could not just be good at but enjoy doing.
“People are getting on the bus and saying they’re happy to see you and you don’t even know who they are,” said King, who lives in North Minneapolis. “I said to myself, ‘This is pretty cool.’ And the more people I got to know the better it got.”
Because he drives five different routes each week, King still sees a lot of unfamiliar faces. But no matter who boards or what situations arise, King says he treats everyone equally and reminds himself to “keep it moving.”
“Keep it moving means no matter what it is, good or bad, you just keep rolling,” King said. “You don’t let it stop you. It’s public transportation – you just have to go with the flow.”
After nearly two years on the job, King has found the comfort he was seeking when he transitioned from driving down the highway to driving down Nicollet Avenue.
He is able to spend more time with his family, looks forward to coming into work each day and is as eager as ever to make someone’s day a little brighter when they board his bus.
“Being from Illinois, I wasn’t used to Minnesota nice,” King said. “But since I’ve been here, I’ve embraced it and I love it.”
Operator at a Glance
Name: Paul King
Hired: April 20, 2013
Employee Number: 73159
Routes: As of early 2015, King was driving a different route each day he worked – the 17, 2, 11, 18 and 21.
Garage: Nicollet Garage
Hobbies: King spent several years as a football coach for De La Salle High School in Minneapolis. Now that his sons have graduated, he is spending more time at his daughters’ dance performances. In addition to time with family, King continues to build his collection of Hot Wheels. King estimates he has more than 30,000 cars, in addition to some small motorcycles and planes.
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