Golden Empire Transit driver Scot Knoy hasn't been behind the wheel of his bus for two weeks, not since he and his fellow drivers went on strike July 15.
But that hasn't kept him from helping two elderly customers get around town in a much smaller vehicle -- his own car.
"He told us any time we needed to go to the store, or the bank, he would take us," says longtime GET rider Almasa Haddad, 86. He's a wonderful person."
Early Monday afternoon, after walking a picket line for eight hours, as he has regularly done during the strike, Knoy climbs into his Toyota Solara and drives west on Rosedale Highway, a busy traffic artery he's driven countless times before as part of GET Route 82.
The veteran driver pulls into a modest apartment complex where Terri Adams is waiting. Adams, 67, waited tables at a coffee shop in Buttonwillow for much of her working life. But her legs don't work very well anymore, so she uses a walker to get around ... and, until the strike, the bus.
As Knoy helps her into the car, he coos softly as if doting over his own mother.
"There you go," he says. "Is that OK?"
Once Adams' walker is folded and stowed in the trunk, they make another stop to pick up Haddad. Then it's off to WinCo, where Adams begins shopping for groceries as Knoy drives Haddad to a nearby bank branch.
As Adams makes her way around the supermarket in a motorized scooter, she recalls details of her own life: the hard work, the loss of her husband, Jim, who died in 2003.
She remembers riding GET Route 82 last year when she happened to mention to a seatmate that her umbrella had recently broken.
When the bus pulled into the Walmart stop, Knoy disappeared into the store for a few minutes. When he returned, he was carrying a package, a smile on his face, Adams remembers.
"He walked over to me, handed me a new umbrella and said, 'Here's an early Christmas present.'"
When Haddad and the 47-year-old Knoy return from the bank, he helps Adams finish her shopping. Then he loads the bags into his car.
Anyone watching might have assumed they were mother and son. Or aunt and nephew.
But bus driver and longtime rider?
"They are wonderful people," Haddad says of the drivers she's known -- and she mentions them by name. "Scot, Chuck, Walter ..."
Haddad immigrated from Jordan some 45 years ago. She lost her husband more than two decades ago and never remarried.
"I'm very independent," she says.
Her daughter and son-in-law help her as much as they can, but she counts on the bus to run errands, she says.
When it appeared a strike was inevitable, Knoy, a GET driver for six years, told the two women to call him whenever they needed a ride.
"They have my number," he says.
Knoy was initially reluctant to speak with a reporter; he didn't want Adams and Haddad to think he was doing it for publicity or attention.
Ultimately he agreed, he says, because he believes some residents have a distorted view of bus drivers.
"I've been seeing a lot of negative comments on Facebook and other places" since the strike, he says. "A lot of people blame the drivers."
He hopes the differences between management and the employees' union will soon be resolved so he can get back to his route and his riders.
Says Knoy, "I care about the people who ride my bus."