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Metro Vancouver bus operator shares her story of working during the COVID-19 pandemic

"I started to miss having standees, having people standing at the red line, having to remind people to back up, or even telling them to hold on to the farebox for safety. "
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Paramjit Grewal will celebrate her second anniversary working for Coast Mountain Bus Company this June--but the past year stood out for her.

Paramjit Grewal will celebrate her second anniversary working for Coast Mountain Bus Company this June--but the past year stood out for her.

"I’m just very tired of COVID now," she says.

At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, Grewal tells Vancouver Is Awesome that she saw a dramatic reduction in ridership and very little traffic on the road. "It slowly started to have an effect on me. How real this virus is and how fast it spreads. 

"I wasn’t worried about myself but was scared to take it home to my family."

While TransLink has implemented several changes to protect its employees as well as the public at large, transit operators and attendants put themselves at risk to provide vital transportation to people across the Lower Mainland.

Grewal, who also works as a health care assistant, had to be very careful between both jobs; she had to follow all the rules and know about all the new policies and procedures at both jobs. "It takes time to keep up with all the changes and rules of the provincial health orders as well.  I took it upon myself that it’s my duty to keep others safe. It also made me appreciate my jobs."

"I always want to set an example for my kids."

Grewal came to Canada when she was 14 with her four siblings.  After she lost her father at age 13, she stepped up to help her mom provide for the rest of the family. "I couldn’t graduate while in high school. However, I went back to adult school in 2010 and graduated.  I also went to college for my diploma to become a health care assistant.

"I always want to set an example for my kids to never give up and teach them that it’s never too late; I have two sons aged 15 and 17."

When asked what she does in her spare time, Grewal joked that if she has any she likes to go to the gym. She also loves dining out with her kids, siblings and friends. She loves a good book and quality time with her boys, too.

While she was concerned about COVID-19 over the past year, she says she chose to do her jobs from her heart since they are both essential services. "I am proud of myself," she adds.

To ensure she was doing everything correctly, Grewal says she kept in touch with both her managers. "I really appreciate my managers and how they have supported and trusted me during the pandemic," she notes, adding that it helped that the buses have shields and masks are mandatory. 

"I felt disconnected."

During the fall and winter, driving stayed consistent--but the atmosphere behind on the buses changed. "My constant thought has been just how this virus took over and changed the whole world, riders were either forced to work from home or some lost their jobs due to the pandemic and had no purpose to come out," explains Grewal.

"I started to miss having standees, having people standing at the red line, having to remind people to back up, or even telling them to hold on to the farebox for safety.  

"I felt disconnected, people with masks on, not interacting as before, I felt that a lot."

Grewal feels that provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry did a "wonderful job with educating and updating the people" and that the vaccine rollout is "a sigh of relief that things are getting better."

But she has a final important note to add.

"I would only repeat the words of Dr. Bonnie Henry to the transit riders: be safe, be calm and be kind while riding transit.  I encourage you kindly to please wear masks."