Last Updated 6 days ago

4 minute read

Johanne Benson has been driving STM buses 16 years. "The contact we had with the public before the pandemic isn't there," she says.

Photo by Pierre Obendrauf

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My Pandemic Year: Montreal bus driver misses bond with passengers
My Pandemic Year: Montreal bus driver misses bond with passengers

Montreal Gazette

Everyone has a story to tell. My Pandemic Yearis a series in which Montrealers from all walks of life talk to Brendan Kelly about how the COVID-19 pandemic radically changed their worlds in 2020.

During the first lockdown in the spring, many of us were stuck at home. But not Johanne Benson.

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My Pandemic Year: Montreal bus driver misses bond with passengers
My Pandemic Year: Montreal bus driver misses bond with passengers

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Shes been driving Socit de transport de Montral buses for 16 years, and even with much of the province locked down, the buses had to keep running and Benson had to keep driving.

But all of a sudden the buses emptied out and it was a common to see STM buses rolling down the streets of Montreal with no passengers or maybe one or two, even at rush hour.

Sometimes we felt like we were the only people at work, Benson said. One thing I really noticed is that many of the people on the buses were health-care workers. In the first weeks, when we stopped near hospitals or CHSLDs or CLSCs, we knew the people getting off were going to work in these places.

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My Pandemic Year: Montreal bus driver misses bond with passengers
My Pandemic Year: Montreal bus driver misses bond with passengers

It made me realize that Im here to help essential-service workers who still need to work. That was my raison-dtre. But for sure it was strange to be on the bus with maybe just 10 people.

Of course, public transit, too, is an essential service, but Benson cut in to say: Yes my job is important, but I wasnt saving lives the way a doctor or nurse was.

It was also the period when the passengers were getting on the bus from the back door so she had less direct contact with them. But they made it clear they appreciated her work.

When they got off, theyd give me a thumbs up, to say thank you for be

My Pandemic Year: Montreal bus driver misses bond with passengers
My Pandemic Year: Montreal bus driver misses bond with passengers
My Pandemic Year: Montreal bus driver misses bond with passengers
My Pandemic Year: Montreal bus driver misses bond with passengers
My Pandemic Year: Montreal bus driver misses bond with passengers
My Pandemic Year: Montreal bus driver misses bond with passengers