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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

RTS Route 35 bus driver holds captive audience with jokes and stories during commute

<p>RTS driver Steve Holloway, 54, is well-liked by students and bus riders for the jokes and life lessons he shares during his Friday routes. Holloway’s passion for customer service won him RTS’s top award for customer service earlier this year. He currently drives a bus on Route 35.</p>

RTS driver Steve Holloway, 54, is well-liked by students and bus riders for the jokes and life lessons he shares during his Friday routes. Holloway’s passion for customer service won him RTS’s top award for customer service earlier this year. He currently drives a bus on Route 35.

She was the last student at the last stop on the last trip of the day.

He almost didn’t see her. She was hidden behind the seat.

She missed her stop but didn’t care because she was so absorbed in his storytelling. So, she rode the bus to the end of the line.

The student, although Steve Holloway never caught her name, told him she heard his joke at the beginning of the bus ride and was so intrigued that she rode the bus to the last stop because she wanted to hear the end.

When Holloway spotted her, she told him she was a medical student, and his story had encouraged her. She said sometimes she got discouraged because of the difficulties of school, but his story made a difference.

“She waited all the way to the very end, the very last passenger, to basically tell me thanks a bunch — it really helped her,” said Holloway, an RTS bus driver, educator and UF students’ biggest fan.

Holloway stands at about 6 feet tall and shaves his head. His reading glasses hang around his neck from camouflage-print Croakies, and he readily admits that he uses “Just for Men” to touch up his goatee.

The 54-year-old has worn many hats. He has been a Marine, a high school earth science teacher, a coach and the bouncer at :08.

But perhaps his most significant role has been as an RTS driver, where he breaks routine every Friday and not only talks to the students but also inspires them.

He always starts with a joke. Some he gets from his brother, and others he gets from a joke book a student gave him. Florida State University is usually the butt of the joke.

Students laugh. And for him, they are almost always quiet.

They hang up their phones and take their headphones out of their ears. Conversations stop.

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“Only twice have I had to call people out for being rude,” Holloway said. “And after, I’ve had students apologize for being rude.”

He said he thinks his riders are unusually polite to him because of the way he treats them. He said his philosophy is to be “fair, firm and forgiving.”

After the joke of the week comes the life lessons. When he taught earth and space science in high school, it was called the story of the week. But now that he drives the bus, it is “Holloway’s Helpful Hint.”

“Triple H sounded cool,” Holloway said.

He said he has about 20 stories written down, all from his life experiences. He chooses the story and joke the night before he tells them, selecting a story that he hasn’t picked in a while.

“I go with a gut feeling on what feels right,” he said.

One of his favorite stories is that of Linval Joseph, the story he told the first Friday of classes.

The story goes that Joseph was a student who was signed and dropped by Urban Meyer and the UF football team. Holloway told him that when doors close, others open. He urged the listeners to persevere. He said Joseph later signed with East Carolina and now has two Super Bowl rings he won with the New York Giants.

The story is one of perseverance, and it seemed to strike close to home for students.

One time last year, a student approached Holloway after he told this story, and informed him that it helped keep her going after she had failed two tests and was fired from her part-time job earlier that day.

Holloway, who was a high school teacher and coach for 20 years, still has students come up to him. He coached golf, soccer and some football.

It was for his family that he left teaching and coaching. He said he wanted a change.

He said coaching is a job that goes for seven days a week, and it’s true that coaches leave the job for their family.

“I was raising hundreds and hundreds of other children and not raising my own,” said Holloway, who is the father of four daughters. One is grown with a daughter herself; one attends FSU; one is in high school; and his youngest just turned 13.

He and his wife divorced six years ago, but he said he makes a date with his daughters at least once a week and calls them every few days.

He also makes sure to send them a written card once a week.

He said he is now dating the love of his life, a woman from Williston named Tammy Lynn Johnson, who is the mother of two boys. He even takes her for rides on his bus routes sometimes.

He told her that Friday, the first Holloway’s Helpful Hint of the school year, surpassed any day in the past two years.

Part of that may be because this year is the first time he’s on Route 35, a busy line that leaves from the Reitz Union and makes stops along Williston Road and 35th Place. He drives the route in the early morning and late afternoon, when it’s so busy that he doesn’t even have time to do his customary pushups during breaks.

Holloway said his passion is customer service, and it has paid off. Earlier this year, he won RTS’s top award for customer service, the Diamond Award. He and another employee were the first to ever receive it.

That passion has spilled over into his work, and students have noticed it.

“I will skip a bus to take Steve Holloway’s,” said KP Percuoco, a 22-year-old English senior, back when Holloway used to drive the 38 bus.

Holloway has also taken notice of the students and how much they appreciate his stories.

“That is why I’m doing what I’m doing,” he said. “It’s the same calling I had as a teacher and as a coach. It’s to fill my passion for people.”

A version of this story ran on page 8 on 8/27/2013 under the headline "RTS bus driver inspires students with jokes and stories"

RTS driver Steve Holloway, 54, is well-liked by students and bus riders for the jokes and life lessons he shares during his Friday routes. Holloway’s passion for customer service won him RTS’s top award for customer service earlier this year. He currently drives a bus on Route 35.

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