VETERAN METRO BUS driver Barbara Wright-Young places her hand over her heart often as she tells me how her job of 33 years has changed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Days start by arriving at Sodo’s Ryerson Base extra-early to disinfect every surface she’ll be touching on her coach. A plexiglass shield around the driver’s seat gives her a measure of protection against the airborne virus.

Ridership is limited at 25% capacity, but no matter how few people board Route 125 from West Seattle to downtown, she’s on the lookout for them. And many are looking out for her, too.

“I get cookies, homemade gingerbread, pies. One of my passengers … made me some banana bread for Christmas,” she says.

The appreciation from her regular passengers means a lot to her. So does the MASKS REQUIRED message that now flashes across her coach. She won’t even open the door for anyone who isn’t wearing one.

“People refuse to wear masks because they think this thing is a joke. It’s not a joke. This is serious; this is about life and death,” says Wright-Young, whose sister, Mary, tested positive for COVID-19 and passed away in June. 

There’s something else she does at the start of every shift. “What I do before I pull out this bus in the morning is, I say a prayer. My prayer is: ‘God keep me safe; keep my passengers safe.’ ”