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Rider's Almanac Blog

On Off The Clock

On the Clock/Off the Clock: Stephen Burnes

Posted by John Komarek | Friday, April 24, 2020 8:01:00 PM

Job: Bus operator

Years of Service: 14

How did you come to work at Metro Transit and what do you do?

After high school, I found out that college wasn’t for me. I took a career assessment that told me sales was a good career choice for my personality. So I went to a local technical school to learn sales and marketing, which led to a 19-year career with a pager company. Later, I started doing sales and inventory for vending machines — this is where I first encountered Metro Transit, by stocking the machines at Nicollet Garage. After the company went through massive layoffs, I found myself wondering what to do next. A friend who worked at South Garage said, “Why don’t you drive a bus?” I thought, well, if those guys can drive that big rig, so can I. Fourteen years later, here I am.

What do you enjoy the most about being “On the Clock”?

I really like what I do because I discovered a hidden benefit of this job: the people you serve and opportunities to have an impact on their lives.

About 10 years ago, on Route 2, I drove a little old lady to church every Sunday morning. She'd been playing the organ at that church for 74 years. On my last day on that route, I made an announcement about who she was and why she’s a hero in her community. The riders on the bus clapped and gave her a “sitting ovation.” Another time, I met a single mother on her way to a job interview. She paid her fare, but I heard she was short money to get a sitter for that interview. As a single parent myself, I told her to stop at the front on her way out so I could shake her hand. I gave her some cash to help her out. People who work hard deserve breaks.

I never expected this job to be a place where I could do little acts of kindness, but it’s the best part of my job.

What are your interests when you’re “Off the Clock”?

I love photography, especially landscapes and wildlife. I’m mostly self-taught, but am now taking courses with my good friend from high school who made photography his life. In a few years, I plan on making photography my retirement gig. I already have a list of places I want to shoot. At the top of the list is Alaska, so I can capture a moose in the wild. I’ve tried in Minnesota, but haven’t caught one yet. Cambodia is next. My wife is Cambodian, and I’ve never been there. All the temples there provide a fantastic opportunity for landscape shots. And although I’ve captured the Northern Lights here, I plan to capture them in the best place in the world: Iceland.

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