Hot wheels: Mere drives the talk
Mere Puru has driven buses in Hamilton for 3 years and really loves her job. Her regular passengers are such a hoot.
"My partner says they should change the name of my route from Chartwell to Chat Well because of all the interesting conversations I have with people," says Mere, 51, who lives in Putaruru.
She starts work at 6am at the Hamilton Transport Centre and does a basic safety check over her bus: oil, water, lights, tyres, hydraulic brakes. Then she drives to Lynden Court to start the Chartwell run at 6.50am, which she alternates with the Claudelands run during each shift.
After returning home from Australia, Mere spotted an advert looking for people keen to train as bus drivers.
"My only experience up until then was driving my uncle's van and a trailer, but I was really confident at it, so I thought driving buses was a bit of me," says Mere, who is a mother of four and a grandmother of eight.
After five weeks' training, she passed her theory and practical tests with flying colours and was ready to start with GoBus, which provides urban services on behalf of the Waikato Regional Council.
"I felt really good about it because I had excellent mentors and my confidence really grew because of them. But everything went so fast and then I started to get a bit nervous about driving, just because of the sheer length of the bus. I used to think, How on earth do these things get around corners?"
Mere is one of about 14 female drivers employed at GoBus, all "awesome ladies".
She reckons she was pretty shy when she started the job, but these days she is known for being talkative and enjoys the banter between all the drivers - they like to tease each other when things don't go quite as planned, like the time an elderly woman crashed into the side of her bus on the Whitiora bridge.
One of Mere's workmates is happy to point out that Mere is a "fantastic driver". She's so experienced, she can parallel park a bus on Victoria Street and make it look easy.
"When you're pulling into the bus stops, you don't want to have your tail end sticking out. It can be difficult driving down the main street sometimes - it's like a maze trying to weave in and out around all the obstacles."