The Medical Transport Driver
COVID on Campus: Manny Martinez
T here’s no easier job I have ever had in my life. Sometimes it feels like I just get paid to do homework, to chat, to sleep, and then drive. It’s easy money, it’s fun, it’s good people — it’s like a kid Uber.
I love the driving. That’s why I did the job in the first place two years ago. If it was literally anything else, I wouldn’t do it. I only do this because it’s driving, and I love driving.
This semester I had some concerns at first, but then in doing it repeatedly, they started to wane away. At first I was, like, ‘oh okay, I don’t know if I want to do this,’ but then at the same time I thought, ‘who else would, right?’
We had all the protective measures. We have a specific van: the regular vans are Dodge Grand Caravans, this van was one of those Ford Transit vans so it was bigger. The passenger sits all the way in the back, the driver wears an N95 mask, you have to drive with the windows down, you can wear a face shield if you want — but I never wore it — and gloves. And then you have to give them hand sanitizer when they get on, and sanitize the van when they get off.
With the repetitiveness of doing it over the course of the semester, I don’t know, it just wasn’t a concern by the end. I guess I’ve kind of internalized it, just going through the motions.
Sometimes it gets frustrating because there’s just so many to do in a row. For example, let’s say someone is leaving Sky Hall 1 because they had the virus and now they tested negative, well, the state and the county say that they can leave Skyhall 1 and that they’ve ended their isolation, but then sometimes that doesn’t get to the COVID office at school, and sometimes it doesn’t get to the DPS guy that is standing guarding the door. Then we have to wait for them to call and go through the procedure and that can really hold us back.
Sometimes there would be so many of them that you don’t even have time to do anything else. Normally in a shift there’s one run, two runs in an hour, but sometimes, with the volume that we had this fall, it was back and forth, back and forth, so there was no time to eat, no time to do anything.
I would drive the Monday night overnight shift from 11 to 7 — which is awesome because I was really being paid to sleep. But there was a night, about two weeks ago, when I called asking if I could get a ride to work because you get picked up by the driver that you’re replacing, and they were like ‘I don’t know if we can do that, it’s actually really busy with COVID transport.’ We only have one regular van — sometimes when it’s really busy we’ll have a second van. That night it was so busy that I was like ‘If you need a third driver I can start early.’ It was so busy that we used one of the parking and transit services vans as a third van, that’s how many covid runs we had.
They take about 15-20 minutes per, to get there and then you have to call the person, tell them you’re here, then they have to bring all of their stuff down and load it in, then we drive to wherever they’re going — to the Sheraton, to the Skyhalls, at one point South Campus apartments. Then sometimes, this happened to me once, if you’re going to a South Campus apartment, you have to wait for DPS to unlock that apartment, and one time it took DPS an hour and two minutes from the time that we arrived at the apartment to unlock it.
But most people were in good spirits and weren’t too pissed. I would try to be, as well. I would be sarcastic as hell. When we were taking people to the Sheraton, I would be like ‘Enjoy your stay!’ Then, you know, there’s the classic people who ask if they can use the aux. Like…no.
There was one trio from Shaw, there were two girls and a guy, they were going to the Sheraton, and they were like ‘Oh my gosh, they gave us the limousine! We’re riding in a limousine, we’re going to the Met Gala!” They were really funny, they were good people.
I think sometimes you think about all of the things going on and how doom and gloom all the news can be, like all these deaths here, all those deaths there, but then you go outside and it’s still a beautiful day. You have to take advantage of that.
This as-told-to interview is part of COVID on Campus, a series created by students in the Reporting classes at the Newhouse School in Fall 2020. COVID on Campus documents the experiences of students, staff, and faculty living through this extraordinary time.