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Stupid Shuttle Rides Again!

[whitespace] John Dupbernell

On the Road Again: John Dupbernell's legendary temper has garnered him an affectionate nickname among Super Shuttle coordinators at the airport: Sid Vicious.

Drivers can't get no respect

By Millie

When John Dupbernell started driving for the airport Super Shuttle in September 1991, he figured he'd stay for six months tops. "Here I am, seven years later," he says somewhat ruefully over coffee on a recent day off.

Dupbernell is working doubly hard these days to earn money for a trip back to Southeast Asia. As a Vietnam veteran, he feels a powerful draw to revisit that part of the world and the memories that reside there. "My intuition tells me that this trip will lead to something different," he says. "Humanitarian work, work with the poor--something to help mend the fence; something along those lines."

In the meantime, Dupbernell works the early shift (6am-2pm) and spends most of his time "deadheading," which means taking people to the airport and driving an empty shuttle back to the city. On those morning trips, driving an empty shuttle provides Dupbernell with time to think about life, Super Shuttle and the meaning of everything.

The inability of management to see things from the driver's point of view is the crux of Dupbernell's frustration. "My problem working for Super Shuttle is incompetence," he concedes. "Why bother talking about how we as drivers have to contend with a variety of issues when no one ever does anything about it?" Stops all the way across town are too often scheduled too close together. Dispatch operators get snippy over the intercom when the van is full of customers.

San Francisco drivers don't help the situation. "What upsets me about it is the lack of enforcement on the part of the city and county of San Francisco," he says. "People need to go to my driving school." Dupbernell's traffic school might have more in common with the Marine Corps basic training than with that popular cakewalk, "comedy traffic school." Dupbernell's legendary temper has garnered him an affectionate nickname among Super Shuttle coordinators at the airport: Sid Vicious.

Luckily his temper hasn't prevented him from meeting people from all over the world, one of the real perks of the job, according to Dupbernell. He even got to say hello to Joe Montana at his official retirement party at Justin Herman Plaza. "Super Shuttle basically took Montana from the Hyatt Regency, around the corner, to the Embarcadero entrance to Justin Herman Plaza and back," he says.

"I've had people ask me for a date," Dupbernell continues. "I've had a concierge tell me to come on over to the hotel at lunchtime. We ended up going up to a room." At the Triton Hotel, no less!

Although 60 percent of Super Shuttle's business is residential, tourists are typically the most interesting riders. Dupbernell recalls driving a group of European tourists down Market Street near Post Street when a blond Nordic type asked if they were in Chinatown. Dupbernell says he replied, "We're in San Francisco."

It turns out just about anyone can drive for Super Shuttle. Applicants are quizzed on their basic knowledge of the city. (Where's city hall? How do you get to the Marina from Market Street?) They're also tested on their ability to use a Thomas Brothers street map. New drivers receive less than a week of training, and they're wearing a blue windbreaker in no time. But they probably won't wear it for long. Turnover at Super Shuttle is high.

As with most jobs, a sense of humor helps. "All we need is a good screenwriter. It would make a great sitcom," Dupbernell laughs. "Two months from now, when I'm in Vietnam, someone might want to call Jerry Seinfeld. He'd make Stupid Shuttle a hit."

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From the September 7-20, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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