Troy Shirk, a Bear Line driver for Missouri State University, wears a pin on his lanyard that features an upside down turtle and the words “Stay positive.” Doing the right thing and keeping a positive attitude is everything to him, Shirk said.
Often taking the Maroon South route, Shirk has been driving the Bear Line for about three and a half years. Prior to that, he was a bus driver for his children’s school.
“Driving around in a circle is boring. It can be really boring. But if I can put a twist on it, and make it my own, then why not?”
Leanna Ordoñez, graphic design major, has the opportunity to ride Shirk’s Bear Line quite often.
“Troy is always positive no matter what the weather or circumstances,” Ordoñez said. “He always tells his passengers to have an amazing day whenever they get off the bus.”
Ordoñez said that Shirk always has a smile on his face, which makes her realize how much she loves MSU and all that it has to offer.
“We all need help, and the best way to get through any given day is to help each other out,” Shirk said.
Shirk said that even though there are rules and regulations that are meant to be upheld by the drivers, bending the rules is okay if it means he is doing the right thing. Shirk recalled a time when an 18 year old girl got on his bus. He could tell that she was homeless.
“It was cold that night,” Shirk said. “She had nowhere to go so she just got on my Bear Line and it’s kind of divine that she did. I had packed a lunch that day so I gave her my lunch.”
Shirk let her ride the bus the whole night, then went to campus security to see if they could find her a warm place to stay for the night. Two days after that, the head of transportation sent a letter of acknowledgement to Shirk’s boss.
“That made me really, really proud, to just do the right thing,” Shirk said. “Especially by her, because she didn’t know where she was, didn’t have a home. She could’ve been raped, she could’ve been murdered, and I don’t want that to happen because of something I didn’t do and I could’ve.”
Shirk said he loves telling stories while on his route, and his favorite one to tell is how he met his wife.
“It was the first day of classes over at Drury,” Shirk said. “First day, first class, and she was the first person I talked to. We became study buddies or whatever after that. Now we’ve been married over twenty years.”
Shirk and his wife, Cinnamon, became empty-nesters two years ago. Though his kids are grown, Shirk describes the student riders as his kids.
“I think that if I watch over you all, and do the right thing for you all, that somehow karma or the man upstairs will make sure that someone is doing the same for my own kids,” Shirk said.
Shirk said he believes you have to share some of yourself with others to make a positive impact. He said that a smile is the one thing you can constantly give and get back. He believes that in a world full of negative news, tragic events, and crippling self doubt, that a simple smile and “Hi, how are you?” can make all the difference.