Retiree Thrives as Shuttle Driver at The Parking Spot
Michael Adamski feels comfortable behind the wheel of the shuttle bus he drives, ferrying travelers back and forth between their parked cars and the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. The retiree had wanted to return to a people-oriented job after delivering mail for the U.S. Postal Service for 32 years.So one day Adamski drove to Genesee Street, looking for a job as a shuttle bus driver. When he stopped at the Parking Spot, this easygoing man was hired - on the spot. This summer marks two years on the job for Adamski, 66, who works 17 hours a week.
People Talk: What question do you get the most as a shuttle driver?
Michael Adamski: "How long does it take to get to the airport?"
PT: How long does it take to get to the airport?
MA: It depends on the lights. If you go down Genesee and you hit the lights, it could take five to seven minutes. Going the other way you don't hit any lights. It's 30 mph all the way through. It takes a minute and a half, two minutes. Total round trip is three miles.
PT: Doesn't it get monotonous?
MA: No, mainly because the traffic volume changes. It does become routine, so after a while you react to it more than think about it. There's a certain point where I'm into the parking area and I'm just about ready to stop. My seat belt comes off, I put the shuttle in park. The doors don't open until I hit the button. If the guests want to grab their luggage, they can. I would rather I do it, just to help them down the stairs.
PT: Are people traveling lighter?
MA: Most of them do. Families still have a lot of luggage. I remember one family with toddler twins and two older children. They had two car seats, the luggage, two buggies. I've had one family with six people and my whole luggage rack was full. So we have a code - 1014 - meaning we're full, and we head right to the airport.
PT: How many people do you transport a day?
MA: It varies. I separate the number of tickets [given each driver to indicate the car location] in packs of 25 - so I can keep track of the number of guests I transport.
PT: How often do people lose their tickets?
MA: Constantly. I say, "Just get me in the vicinity and we'll find it." A lot of them have the clickers, and their vehicles light up. That helps. The lot holds 1,200 cars. We have a lot of Canadians coming down here to travel.
PT: Can you tell anything about a person from his luggage?
MA: I usually can tell what they're involved in when they open their trunk because you can see stuff from their house. Today, a woman opened her trunk to make sure her son's hockey equipment was there. She said he was 11. I had another young lady, and I go to get her luggage and she's got boxing gloves in her trunk.
PT: Some of these people must travel long distances.
MA: Very much. I had a family today; they were going to New Zealand. A woman on my route I used to deliver to - she was a florist - had relatives in Australia. A total of 24 hours in the air from Buffalo to Australia, she would say. Eight-and-a-half hours is enough for me to Frankfurt to visit my son. He's in Afghanistan now [serving in the U.S. Army].
MA: For the fifth time. We're OK now. We talk to him, email and stuff, but every time you hear something on the news you wonder. His wife is in the reserve military visiting her family in Texas. They met in the military. In fact she was his boss for a little while.
PT: How long have you been married?
MA: It will be 39 years in October. We just moved to Lancaster. We moved out of our starter home after 35 years. We finally got it the way we like it and we sold it. And we didn't downsize. We built bigger. She wanted more bathrooms. Our bedroom is 20 x 14, and we have a king bed. By the time we get in bed and meet in the middle like we usually do, it's time to get up.
PT: Do you crack jokes on the job?
MA: It depends what kind of mood people are in. If they're having a good time, yeah. You get the people from Vegas on the later flights, and if they won, they're having a good time. I've had a couple arguing about who had the ticket [to find their parked car]. I said: "Look, don't make me stop the bus and come back there and separate you." Everybody starts laughing.
PT: You are good with people.
MA: I didn't want to be someplace where I was not around people. I was looking for something along the strip here, just to go back and forth to the airport. I didn't want to be a tour guide. I wanted part time and I wanted to drive something. It keeps me busy. It keeps my mind thinking.
PT: What do you think about when you're driving?
MA: Being aware of what's going on around you. There's a lot of traffic coming out of that terminal. People are excited. They're home. They miss the family. They're zipping out of there.
PT: When is the last time you took a day off?
MA: The 27th of June. That was the day I closed on my new house.