|Party driver by night, family man by day|
|Written by Renee Changnon, Daily Vidette Reporter|
|Wednesday, 12 January 2011 23:49|
The lights are dim, the music is pumping and dancing college students are enjoying the relief that comes once the week’s tests and projects are finished. Fun is just around the corner.
Once the weekend approaches, students pile onto party buses in droves, heading to their beloved hot spots in downtown Bloomington. Mike Olson, a party bus driver for Checker Cab of Bloomington, has been there for it all, but there is more to his job and day-to-day life than meets the public eye.
For Olson, his fiancé and their baby daughter, the crazy schedule of an energetic party bus driver works to their advantage, allowing him to be with his daughter as much as possible whenever he is not on the road.
The opportunity to have a differing time schedule which works in conjunction with his fiancé allows Olson the gratifying experience of being there day-to-day as he watches his daughter grow up.
“We work out really well because we offset the need for a babysitter because we’re there 24/7 with her,” Olson said. “I get to see her when she wakes up in the morning, I get to play with her and be dad. I’m always there.”
Just as this father is there for his family, coming to work is an extension of that. As a company, Olson explained that his Checker Cab co-workers are more than just staff, but ultimately, they are a family in their own right.
Aaron Halliday, president of Checker Cab of Bloomington, jokes that he is so close with Olson he considers him his “brother from another mother.”
As far as brothers go, Olson’s actual brother is on staff as well, sparking the sibling rivalry and healthy competitive nature as they embark upon their nights, earning bragging rights and bringing in more for the company as well.
“They’re each trying to outdo each other for the night, as far as how much each person’s going to bring in, or how much each person’s going to make… while being safe, we try to get them to make as much as possible, that way we use a little bit of brother rivalry,” Halliday said.
After being a part of the Checker Cab family for about four and a half years, Olson’s time at work has allowed him to give his customers the same type of care and attention that he exhibits in his personal life as well.
“He’s a family guy, he’s very loyal, he’s very honest… he really cares about his customers that are in his bus with him,” Halliday said. “He’s not going to run a yellow light just to save a dollar.”
When students aren’t requesting to have the music blasting as loud as possible, Olson has been able to crack jokes with his passengers and has made many loyal customers because of it.
As he transports students from wherever they may be to wherever they plan on ending up, Olson has become much more than just their driver, but a friend.
“I’ve got people that request me all the time. People that graduated a couple years ago that call me up and let me know when they’re coming to visit, which is kind of neat,” he said.
As the Bloomington-Normal nightlife tends to center around the college-aged community during the school year, Checker Cab is out in full force each and every weekend.
When asked something that may surprise students about his experience as a party bus driver, Olson revealed that “[he has] not had one bad college kid ride yet, and [he has] done this almost four and a half years now.”
With outlets such as Checker Cab available, no person has the excuse to say “I’m good to drive,” when in reality they should seek another way to their destination after having a few drinks.
“A lot of kids are responsible,” Olson said, but his worry is aimed towards those who are a little riskier.
“There are some [students] that still drive and they think they’re okay, but if [they] get in a wreck, they’re going to find out real fast how much it costs, and that three bucks that you go downtown on is well worth the pay.”
Living the double life of a family man and close friend to those around him, Olson gets to be part of the students’ evening as they head out for a fun time with their friends. Taking a large group from Illinois Wesleyan to the movie theater, or transporting an Illinois State student and friends downtown for a twenty-first birthday are just some of the ways he becomes part of what the college experience is about.
With enough hilarious stories to last a lifetime, Olson can look back and laugh when he remembers his nights driving a party bus with students who can leave quite an impression.
By incorporating his bright personality with his customers, those who receive a ride from Olson can gain a peak into his life.
“He spends a lot of time with his daughter… I’m sure the kids that know him that ride with him on a regular basis know about her,” Halliday said.
As students call for the Pimp My Ride of the cab world each weekend, when Olson is behind the wheel they are in for a fun evening and will undoubtedly see “his care for his customers shine through,” as Halliday has observed over the years.