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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 5, 2002

Bus drivers face Olympic challenge: snow

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Transportation Writer

Paul Fernandez isn't worried about being an Olympic bus driver. After 20 years of driving a Honolulu city bus, he figures he can handle anything Salt Lake City throws at him, from angry residents to befuddled tourists.

TheBus drivers Paul and Myron Fernandez will be shuttling thousands of visitors and athletes at the Winter Olympics.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Then again, there is the snow to think about.

Fernandez, who normally drives the No. 2 route between Kalihi and Waikiki, left the warm roads of Honolulu behind last week, setting off on a nearly monthlong adventure shuttling thousands of people around the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah.

Although he has driven a family car in snow, he's never tried it with a 13-ton bus loaded with passengers.

"All I know about snow is that it's cold and you can slide around in it a lot," he said. "I'm not too worried though;

I figure they are going to give me a nice dry route in the flatlands."

Fernandez and his brother, fellow city bus driver Myron, will be Hawai'i's only representatives among hundreds of bus drivers recruited to help move thousands of athletes and passengers from around the world during the three-week winter extravaganza that begins Friday.

A six-time winner of the Hawai'i bus drivers' annual rodeo competition, Fernandez was first recruited to go to Salt Lake City at an international driving competition in 2000. He then urged his brother to apply for one of the coveted positions.

After undergoing security and background checks, the two learned in October that they had been accepted. They'll be paid salaries and all expenses during their stay, including travel, uniforms and lodging in Provo, Utah. They are taking vacation time from their regular jobs with Oahu Transit Services.

The brothers don't know yet what kinds of buses they'll drive or who their passengers will be, but they are prepared to spread a little aloha and warmth wherever they go.

"We've had several hundred Hawai'i pins made up," Paul Fernandez said.

The pins, which show a familiar yellow-striped city bus with a big "Aloha" above it, will be traded for other pins and Olympic memorabilia, he said.

Fernandez said his hardest problem might be talking to his passengers. "I'm kind of used to telling my riders, 'Howzit, brother' or 'Mahalo,'" he said. "I hope they understand."

When they're not working, the brothers plan to watch the Olympics on television and explore the Utah area.

Myron Fernandez said he'd like to see the giant slalom, or ski-jumping, competition. Paul had more practical matters on his mind.

"I'll probably be out shopping for winter clothes," he said.

Mike Leidemann writes about transportation issues. Reach him at mleidemann@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-5460.