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When the doors to a Metro bus open at your neighborhood stop, you probably don’t think too much about the person behind the wheel. You might not think he’s a published author, or a stand-up comedian, or a musician. But that’s exactly what you get with Marshall Preston, morning operator of the Number One Inbound.
Preston’s latest children’s book, “Love at First Sight,” is soon to be in print, and his sketch comedy group, Christian Concepts Through Comedy, performs upon request for local churches.
When he’s not driving, writing, hamming it up on stage, or playing the saxophone with his church band, Preston relaxes with his high school sweetheart and wife, Devonn, and their three daughters, Cherish, Chanté, and Cherise, in their Goodyear heights home.
Preston’s 100-watt smile has been lighting up the morning Metro line for ten years, though he and his six siblings practically grew up on the bus their father also drove for many years.
How did you end up behind the wheel for Akron Metro?
MP: I started my driving career at Pyramid delivery, a small trucking company in Barberton. I believe I drove through every city in Ohio. I loved being on the open road. My father worked at Metro and asked if I was interested in working with him. I had never thought about driving for Metro; I was used to over-the-road driving. But I decided to give it a try. He helped me get my foot in the door, and the fact that I had previous experience made the transition easier.
Did you need any special training?
MP: You need a commercial driver's license(CDL), and to complete sensitivity training, several weeks of route training, a course in CPR and ADA laws and regulations, as well as in night driving—everything looks different when the sun goes down.
What is your favorite part of your job?
MP: I would have to say the people. When you're on a bus, you meet people from all walks of life. You never know who you'll meet when you open that door and say hello.
If the people are the best, what’s the worst?
MP: Snow! Our city does a fine job clearing the streets for us, but when we have snow storms, it's hard to keep up with Mother Nature. Winter driving presents a different challenge every day, but our training helps us to deal with winter conditions. Still, there are days when the weather makes it very difficult to press on.
What is one of the most interesting situations you have encountered while driving for Metro?
MP: I find it interesting that we have customers with different disabilities who are able to navigate through our bus system on their own. For example, one of my regular fares is a visually and hearing impaired gentleman who catches the buses like a pro. He knows when to get on and when to ring the bell for his stop to go home. He's very impressive!
How do you keep a smile on your face day in and day out?
MP: I've learned that smiling is contagious. If you smile at someone, it's disarming. When you are dealing with the public, you have to maintain a level of professionalism. I don't know what people are going through, but if a smile or a hello makes them feel better, I've made a difference. We all have days where we wake up on the wrong side of the bed or just have things going on in our life. Sometimes the kindness of a stranger can change your whole day.
What was your dream job as a kid?
MP: When I was younger, I was always into the arts. I sang in choir and was in the drama club. When I attended The University of Akron, I was studying to become a teacher. I love helping people and wanted to pass on my love for the arts with the next generation.
What advice do you have for someone who is considering driving a bus as an occupation?
MP: If you love meeting new people and dealing with new challenges every day, this would be the perfect job for you. You'll meet people from all walks of life, from school children to business owners. Every day is a new adventure and a chance to make a difference in someone's life. Because of this job, I've had the opportunity to travel this country and the world. Life is a highway; join the journey!