In its winter 2014 issue, Rice Magazine introduces readers to Rice shuttle bus driver Robert Ruiz, who has worked at the university for 28 years — the first seven of which he not only drove a shuttle route, but also provided security and wrote parking tickets. Ruiz currently drives the Graduate Apartments shuttle route, which travels to the Rice Graduate Apartments on Bissonnet Street and then back through Founder’s Court and the northern part of campus.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Rice is such a nice place to work. I love this environment. I like the Graduate Apartments because there are so many different cultures and languages. I pick up a little bit from nearly every language of the students: Hindi, Chinese, you name it. And I’m fluent in Spanish.
Do you get to know your “regulars” on the shuttle bus fairly well?
There are some graduate students I have gotten to know pretty well and keep in touch with after they leave Rice. I have some friends I still see from the old Graduate Apartments. Even now and again I travel to see them in Mexico. That group still sees each other even though they live in different cities: Mexico City, Zacatecas, Monterrey. There was also a guy from Brazil in that group. I would love to go there someday.
What is a typical day like for you, and does that change depending on whether or not classes are in session?
The entire year is very busy. I have about 170 riders in a day. The busiest time is when the students get here for the new semester. They don’t know where everything is. I get about 250 students a day during that time of year. In summer, we see people who are here for seminars, summer school and events. There’s always something going on. We have a lot of visitors. I can tell when they’re lost. Some of them stare at you and don’t say anything, but you know they want to take the shuttle bus. You see visitors with a map trying to get directions. I’ll stop and ask them, “Where do you want to go?” Sometimes a VIP rides the bus, like Hakeem Olajuwon.
What do you talk with your riders about?
Sometimes I feel like a priest — or a bartender. Some students come to me and tell me stories. Sometimes I have students who broke up with their boyfriend and talk to me about it. I try to give them suggestions or console them. But I try not to interfere too much with their life. I understand they’re involved in their education and their exams and work.
What do you do outside of your workday at Rice?
I have another “living” — I’m a real estate investor. I own and manage rental properties in Houston, McAllen and Brownsville. My wife and I manage the properties together. She works in accounting for PWC as well. She’s been there for about 20 years.
I have 15 minutes to do this route, then I have to go again. I try to do my best and keep a good attitude. I talk to everybody, and everybody talks to me. I like to make it fun for everyone.
Read other Voices from the Rice Community in the winter 2014 issue of Rice Magazine.