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Twists and Turns

Whether it’s raining or snowing, or you’re running late for class, the Garnet Shuttle is a lifesaver. Two of its longtime drivers—who are also good friends—have become well-known on the circuit. Rob Bennett was a sheet metal worker before being trained as a crane operator at Chester’s Sun Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co. Joe McSwiggan, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, drove a truck for 22 years before coming to Swarthmore. The men, both grandfathers, talked with the Bulletin about what their work means to them. A lot can be learned, it turns out, in a 10-minute ride.


Why do you think the students connect with you?

“I meet students when they come in as freshmen, and because I am a grandpop, I can relate to them. I tell them, if you ride my shuttle you’re going to do well, and you’re going to do good. As long as you’re thinking positive, you’re going to be OK.”

You and Joe grew up in same neighborhood. Were you friends back then?

“Joe and I grew up in South Philadelphia around the same time. We didn’t know each other then. It’s a small world and we work together now—that’s the way life is.”

What are some highlights of driving the shuttle?

“I talk with the students and enjoy what I’m doing. A long time ago, I read something that said, ‘Think young, do young things, be around young people,’ and I try to do that with my work as a wrestling coach and with umpiring, too.”

How would you describe your passengers?

“The majority are respectful and focused—they know what they want to do.”

What’s the hardest part of your job?

“Believe it or not, the challenges of the snow when you’re going down Harvard. You’re braking. And last thing I want
to do is go down Yale. With the shuttle, you get used to it. There’s a big hump by facilities—that’s the worst!”


What do the students talk to you about?

“Everything. They talk about their families, or the test they just took, or the test they are about to take. They miss cooking and they miss their family. I think because I’m a grandfather, they know they can talk to me. I listen. I like being around people and the students. It’s really nice, especially getting to know students from all over the world.”

How do you keep the job fun?

“It’s not a drudgery. I play jokes. ... If they ask me if they can run back in the building and get something, I say OK, and then I back the truck out a little
bit and they think I drove away. They laugh, too, especially when they see I’m still there.”

How do they connect with you?

“They want you to meet their parents, they invite you to their home countries. ... I’ve been given maple syrup cookies from Canada, donuts from Dunkin’, candies and coffee from all the over the world. But the nicest thing is the notes and cards they give you. I have a whole collection of them.”

Why is your job important to you?

“When I came back from the war, I didn’t want to talk about it for a long time. But meeting all these nice people has helped me heal. We look out for the students to see if they are OK. It’s been a neat experience, and it’s fun watching them grow. I try to put a helping hand out.”

Any downsides?

“That darn traffic circle!”