This September, a group of girls stood outside their dorm in a large cluster waiting for a ride to a party. A salt and pepper-haired older man in a big van pulled over to offer them a ride. "Where y'all headed?" he asked as the girls entered the van without care or worry. "The apartments, thanks Wayne!" one of the girls yelled as they all settled comfortably into the warm seats of the University of Richmond Safety Shuttle.
Shuttle driver Wayne Wright, a retired Richmond city police officer, has been keeping Westhampton students safe through the UR safety shuttle program for eight years now. "I guess I must like it since I've been doing it this long," he said with a laugh. Wright works Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, which are the busiest nights because students seem to be more active on campus, he said.
Wright said he would never forget the time he picked five people up from Lakeview. One of those people was a young man who was wearing high heels, a dress and was carrying a pocketbook. He pretended not to notice and let the young man on the safety shuttle. When the young man got off, Wright leaned over to the student and said, "You did a good job. I'll admit, you look good. But, don't ever do this again."
Boys are always trying to get on the shuttle, Wright said. "I hate to turn them down. They get upset and sometimes bang on the van. Girls also get mad when their boyfriends aren't allowed on the shuttle with them, Wright said.
Some students are visibly intoxicated when they get on the safety shuttle Wright said. "Oh my goodness, people get sick all the time!" he said. Wright described an incident that had happened the night prior in which a girl vomited into his bag where he keeps his newspaper and daily planner. "If they would only tell me, I'd pull over for them, no problem!" Wright said.
Wright said he likes forging friendships with people who regularly ride the shuttle. "I enjoy meeting you girls. You come in as freshman, then the next thing you know you're all graduating," he said. The girls really seem to appreciate the ride to and from where they need to be, he said. Wright keeps the letters he receives from girls thanking him for his kindness. "It means so much to me," he said.
Wright keeps a photo album on the shuttle with him of photos he has taken of the safety shuttle "regulars" who come to show him their crazy Halloween and social costumes. "Just last night there was a girl dressed up like an American flag. I thought it was so creative," he said.
"When I'm not busy, I read the paper, but I also can't forget to feed my ducks. They get mad if I don't," Wright said. Triceragoose, one of UR's infamously aggressive big-beaked geese, used to enjoy when Wright would come to feed him, he said. He recalled coming back to campus one semester only to find that Triceragoose had disappeared. After hearing rumors that a University of Richmond student killed the goose, Wright said he was extremely upset. "I wish I knew who hurt him. He was my favorite pal," he said.
Wright doesn't have much down-time during his Thursday-Saturday shifts, "but I don't mind," he said. Girls shouldn't have to be scared about walking around campus when it is dark, Wright said. One night a girl flagged down the safety shuttle because she thought she was being followed, he said. Wright said he hopes that girls don't feel embarrassed about waving down the shuttle because "that's what we're here for." He said, "My advice to the girls on this campus would be to always walk with someone. Keep your doors locked. Be safe. Ride with Wayne."
Contact staff writer Liz Monahan at firstname.lastname@example.org
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