In the loop
The story of Rice’s inner loop bus drivers
Published: Friday, October 5, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 5, 2012 05:10
Inside the hedges, there are four means of transport: foot, skateboard, bike and bus. If you’re anything like the rest of the undergraduate population, struggling out the door of the servery, paper cup stuffed with bacon in one hand and overflowing mug of coffee in the other, chances are the bus is your most convenient and efficient option. Luckily, there is a team of often-overlooked individuals ready to save you – and your latte – and get you to class on time. These are the Rice University bus drivers, a diverse group of workers from all walks of life dedicated to transporting students across campus. In interviews with the Thresher, they shared their experiences from the Inner Loop and beyond.
Kenneth L. Tezeno
Kenneth Tezeno has called Rice University his employer for the past five years, but he has only worked as a bus driver for the past eight months. Tezeno originally worked in the university mailroom until a series of layoffs left him without a job, but with a choice.
“Actually, it wasn’t my decision; they had budget cuts in the mailroom,” Tezeno said. “It just so happened that I still had my Commercial Driver’s License from when I drove trucks a few years back. They had a position, so they went ahead and switched me over. It’s been good ever since.”
Tezeno now enjoys engaging with students as they board and depart the bus. He said one of the most rewarding aspects of the job is the contact with young individuals from around campus. Typical conversations consist of a variety of topics, ranging anywhere from home life to classes to sports, especially his favorite hometown teams, the Texans and the Astros, which he catches up on while at home with his three children.
“I prefer [the daytime] shift; it’s hard to get any sleep during the day. I was trying to go to school and take care of my family.” Tezeno said. “I just finished my associate’s [degree]; I’m finally trying to take a break for the fall, but hopefully in the spring I can start back up on my bachelor’s degree.”
However, Tezeno hasn’t been held back by the lack of his degree. He’s already started his own business and looks forward to maintaining it.
“It’s a corporation that I’ve started called K&J Entertainment,” Tezeno said. “I’ve gotten into videos and music because I want to encourage the younger generation not to get into adult situations and show them how to get out of them if they do happen to.”
Tezeno described an incident that occurred while he was a driver on the night shift that reveals the perspective adults on campus might have toward Rice’s traditions. While the drivers are an integral part of the Rice University staff, they are not initiated to the university’s traditions the way new students are during O-Week.
“The first few nights I was an escort driver from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., and between Baker [College] and the library stops, there were all these kids with whipped cream all over them, and that was weird” Tezeno said.
While Baker 13 may feel like second nature to runners and observers alike, to someone unfamiliar with the event, it can seem a bizarre ritual. Other strange occurrences Tezeno has witnessed happened at an unusual time, when most students were enjoying their summer vacations.
“Rice is actually very busy during the summer time; you might not know that,” Tezeno said. “We have different classes going on, different seminars going on. The summer is busy throughout the whole, whereas during the regular semester, it’s just in spurts.
Various groups come and stay on campus throughout the harsh Houston summer. Tezeno said that Teach for America was an especially rowdy bunch.
“Friday nights were their night,” Tezeno said. “They partied.”
As a whole, though, Tezeno said he appreciates the student body here.
“Sometimes they need a pep talk, and sometimes they need to pep me up; it goes both ways,” Tezeno said.
Yolanda Wright’s excitement is contagious. Her spirit flows through her laugh and her hearty welcomes as students step onto her bus. She calls herself a bus driver by trade, and 10 months ago, she traded in her seat after 10 years on a yellow school bus filled with screaming elementary children to drive the Inner Loop shuttle at Rice.