Rod Trask welcomes his passengers onto his bus a bit differently than other drivers do.
He says hello, a pretty typical greeting, but he doesn’t stop there.
He cocks the microphone toward his mouth and closes the doors on his CENTRO bus.
This is when the real fun begins for Trask.
‘Now remember kids,’ he says to his passengers while driving past Shaw on Comstock Avenue, ‘When the bell rings, that means people are gonna wanna get off. You need to be minded of this ’cause if someone needs to get off, you’re gonna have to do a wiggle and giggle’.
Those riding on his South Campus bus route, who aren’t listening to their iPods, laugh. For Trask, the goal is accomplished.
‘I’m not just a bus driver getting people from point A to point B,’ he said, ‘I’m trying to interact with the people and get them to interact with each other.’
His wiggle and giggle routine has made Trask well known to Syracuse students catching the late night ride back from parties.
‘He totally makes it more enjoyable,’ said junior management major TJ Ross, who lives on Small Road. ‘The bus ride could be the worst part of your day, so it makes it more fun. Everyone’s laughing.’
Steve Kaigle, director of marketing communications at the CENTRO bus company said, ‘People certainly enjoy having some of his personality added to the bus ride. It makes it fun. It is certainly great.’
A ‘country boy at heart,’ Trask was born and raised in Pennellville, N.Y., a small town in Oswego County. Trask described its four corners: a church, a fire department, an elementary school and a post office.
He said after attending the State University of New York at Oswego, where he ‘studied partying, women and golf,’ Trask graduated with a major in philosophy and a minor in math. He then moved 5 miles down the road to Phoenix, N.Y.
There, the twice-divorced father of four worked a variety of jobs, finally settling down as a New York State appraiser at a private company for housing auditing and inspecting.
In January 2002, Trask was forced into retirement because, as he explained, computers took over his job.
His retirement lasted about six months.
‘Roddy was not ready for retirement, and the world was not ready for Roddy to be retired,’ Trask said jokingly. ‘I love to work, I don’t know how not to.’
So in the summer of 2002, he started driving buses, because it was something to do.
‘I wanted to fill the hole, so I didn’t have idle time to make a pain in the ass of myself,’ he said.
The job that was originally intended to be part-time soon turned into 60 to 70 hours a week.
‘I’ve always loved to drive vehicles,’ Trask said, remembering the day he got his license.
When he turned 16 years old, Trask said he walked into the motor vehicles office and applied for a learner’s permit. He passed the test and immediately turned around and asked for his license test.
The woman who gave him the permit said she couldn’t do that but Trask recalls telling her, ‘Lady, I’m from the country, by age 12, I was driving a car on the highway.’
Rod’s love of driving took him on many long road trips in his younger days, including multiple drives straight to Florida. After making sure he was well and rested, he could hop in the car, get out 20 hours later and say, ‘We’re here.’
Having just turned 60, Trask plans to retire in two years and devote much of his time to finishing his home in the country.
He loves driving for SU, because he enjoys the setting with the students.
‘I like to tell people about things that happened in my life,’ he said about the stories he tells his riders. ‘I am able to do the things I do and have them respond positively.’
Of course, there are those who prefer a standard bus ride and may not respond positively to Trask’s humor.
‘I can’t hate them for that,’ Trask said. ‘I feel bad that they don’t feel good. Maybe they have a stomachache. I just hope they don’t feel that way every day. They gotta try to have fun. We’re only going to pass this way once, we have to make the most of it.’
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