Meet Anna-Rose, rhythm guitarist, poet and Metlink bus driver
“I have my work rhythms," is an apt choice of words for Anna-Rose Carpenter, a 28-year-old rhythm guitarist, poet, songwriter, and recently employed Metlink bus driver in Wellington.
She starts each shift by tying a small bouquet of artificial flowers to the driver console, a simple touch to add a splash of colour but as Anna-Rose recalls, it also adds smiles to passengers’ faces.
“Since I started around seven months ago, I’ve received a few hundred compliments already. For only six dollars, it’s really shown its value!”
From Anna-Rose’s hometown of Pukekohe to Pōneke, it’s working with people that has drawn Anna-Rose to bus driving.
“I’m a self- diagnosed extrovert,” she declares. “I love meeting new people.”
“It can be a little lonely if the bus is quiet so it makes my day if one of my passengers will sit up the front and chat away with me.”
Her sociable nature has been lifelong, but it was Anna-Rose’s role in conservation earlier this year where she discovered a fondness for driving large vehicles.
“I loved the challenge of handling four-wheel drives, but I’d wanted to move back to Wellington for a long time. So when I began looking for work here, I thought ‘well, where else can you combine driving bigger vehicles and interacting with so many different people than on the city’s bus network?’
“Once I started, it became my mission to give each passenger on my bus a positive experience, whether that’s offering my arm to help someone on or off or simply giving them a smile.
“Some days I can really feel the mood of the bus shift - I like to think that this positivity is carried through to their friends and family and encourages more people to choose the bus as a transport option, or even to consider applying to be a driver themselves!
“For me, getting a heavy vehicle licence is a life skill I’m grateful to have and something I’m really proud of. I don’t know where my life will take me, but I will always be able to tell people that I drove buses in a city with some pretty difficult turns, narrow streets, and steep hills”.
Anna-Rose says she’s still learning when it comes to driving buses, she’s currently going for her class four licence which will allow her to drive double deckers. With each lesson taken on board, however, there continues to be a common denominator, her passengers.
“In the drivers’ seat, I’m braced for the next bump or corner ahead. They’re not, they’re simply focused on their day ahead, be it a first date, job interview or just heading home to make dinner. They’re in my care and I want them to be as comfortable as possible.”
When not behind the wheel of a 12-tonne vehicle, Anna-Rose’s trusty green acoustic guitar quickly becomes the vehicle for her connection with people.
“I used to travel by bus all the time as a student, and it was often the place where I’d start to write poetry. I’ve always found the motion of the bus and the time to look at landscapes out the window a calming and inspiring thing. Even now, as the driver, it gives me to time to be mindful and reflect on lyrics in my head.”
Using her grandmother’s name, Rosina, as her stage name, Anna-Rose sings and plays guitar in the band, Rosina & The Weavers.
With the band preparing to record an album early next year, Anna-Rose jokes she’s the perfect bandmate, able to perform and also drive the tour bus.
In the meantime, it’s the work rhythms that Anna is focusing on, employment she regrets not taking up during her student days.
“For current students, I’d tell them that I wish I’d thought to work as a driver when I was at Massey. Being able to drive a few mornings during the week and then enjoy a free weekend would have been much preferable to dragging myself out of bed for a whole day of work in hospitality every Saturday.
It’s help that is needed. The national bus driver shortage has left Metlink shy of about 120 drivers to operate its full timetable. The resulting cancellations are a source of aggravation for passengers but true to form, Anna-Rose remains positive.
“People are rightly frustrated when their bus is cancelled, and I absolutely understand that. I’m confident there are people out there willing to give driving a go and that we will be able to recruit more drivers.
“In the meantime, I’m going to continue to try and make as many people’s trips on my bus a positive one.
“It’s my work rhythm and I enjoy it, why would I change it?”