Faces of the U: Wheels on the bus

By By Ana Breton

By Ana Breton

For Jason Hatch, life goes around in one big circle. Some days he travels clockwise; other days, counter-clockwise. He never turns around or backs up, but on some occasions–Tuesdays and Thursdays–he drifts away from his continuous circle and voyages to Research Park.

He hears constant “elevator music” in his head, but every 20 feet or so he hears a distinguished ringing in his ears. Sometimes he’s blue; other times, he’s purple, green or black.

“I guess it depends on my mood, but I think I like being green more,” he said.

Hatch is a shuttle driver. And this has been his life for the last two years, circling the U campus an estimated 3,264 times.

But the senior in mechanical engineering doesn’t mind going around in circles. The people Hatch meets while he’s driving the shuttle are what make his day go faster, he said.

“I get to meet a lot of people from different walks of life,” he said. “A lot of people climb on the bus as an outlet to communicate, because maybe they haven’t talked to someone in a really long time.”

His most memorable 10-84, the shuttle driver code word for “passenger,” was an older lady with deep religious views.

“She was not LDS, but we saw eye to eye on a lot of issues,” Hatch said. “It was a really random meeting, but it was the most heated conversation I have ever had.”

Hatch has never seen her again.

But it’s something he’d like to 10-9–10-9 being the code word for “repeat.” What he wouldn’t like to 10-9 in his driving career are the people who speak too loudly while riding the shuttle.

“People that try to include me in their conversations, regardless of whether you want to be involved or not, annoy me,” he said. “But for the most part, I just put up an imaginary wall and block them out.”

Putting up a wall is probably the safest thing Hatch could do, because talking to his passengers is against the law, said Dan Astil, commuter services dispatcher.

“It’s such a distraction that it’s just as dangerous as driving with a cell phone,” Astil said.

People have not always been the most dangerous thing Hatch has worked with. Before he enrolled at the U, the 34-year-old worked for Halliburton, an oil engineering plant. There, he transported toxic chemicals across the United States for eight years.

Working with chemicals was hard, he said. Because Hatch worked with Halliburton before they “encouraged their workers to use respirators,” Hatch had a hard time breathing on the job and at one time developed walking pneumonia.

So he quit the oil field, a job he only applied for because “it was a good way to make money” and because of “a greedy ex-wife.” He went back to school to study mechanical engineering with the dream of working at a foreign car manufacturer.

In the meantime, though, Hatch would like to send a message to his passengers:

“If you’re waiting for the shuttle, show us a sign that you either want to get on or not,” he said. “Because blank stares get me every time and they are very frustrating.”