Like many of Twin Transit’s longtime drivers, Darlene Denman started her career behind the wheel of a yellow school bus. Yet, it’s her affection for the older generations that’s kept her driving bus in the Twin Cities for 24 years.
“It’s a good job,” Darlene says. “I like the people who ride the bus. We have some really cool elderly people who make it very enjoyable.”
The city bus is an important mode of transportation for older people who are living on a restricted income or are no longer able to drive. It gives them freedom and independence – both essential elements of a happy life.
Darlene warmly recalls an elderly rider from the early days of her city bus driving. She grew beautiful rose bushes. She brought Darlene a clipping and told her to put it in soil with a gallon jar over it. It grew so big, Darlene had to take it to her mother’s house to plant, since she lived in an apartment at the time. “It was awesome,” says Darlene. “The rose was in the woman’s family for many, many generations – and she shared it with me.”
With the onset of COVID-19, Darlene was able to interact with older folks around Lewis County while delivering meals to seniors during the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order. “I really enjoyed that,” she says. “It was amazing. There was so much need. There are such nice people everywhere. I would get out just to say hi.”
Darlene understands the importance of this effort, as her parents also received meals. “They enjoyed the meals and it really helped our family a lot to keep them safe,” she says. Now the drivers are back on routes running buses, but Twin Transit vans are still in use for meal deliveries.
Darlene offers reassurance for those considering riding the bus, noting a recent interaction with an elderly first-time rider. The woman was nervous, but Darlene helped her find her way with step-by-step instructions. Everything went off without a hitch and the woman thanked Darlene profusely on her ride back home.
“Come ride the bus,” Darlene says. “Don’t be scared. We are here to help you navigate through it.”