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Riding with Steve: A night with the Hofstra night shuttle driver

By Mack Caldwell
The Hofstra Chronicle

Friday nights at Hofstra are marked by clusters of stumbling students, the savory smell of Popeyes fried chicken and the bright lights from the Hofstra Night Shuttle.

As he coasted down the turnpike, driver Steve Oswiecinski’s walkie-talkie crackled. “Pick up at Constitution, ten-four,” he answered.

Oswiecinski has been driving the night shuttle for three and a half years. It’s a service appreciated by the bastions of us who march out from our dorms to the basements of house parties to purge the week’s stress away in keg pumping and dancing. Angry, happy, drunk, crying or hungry, Steve comes sweeping in with the night shuttle to scoop you up and take you from a party to some French fries. “I’m just a regular guy!” he said as he glanced over with a beaming and genuine smile. But he isn’t.

He could sit in silence. The night shuttle could be a quiet, disconnected and miserable experience. However, because of him, it’s one that students look forward to. Riding in the night shuttle has become an accent, a characteristic of the nightlife here. Steve takes the initiative to get to know students in meaningful way. He asks questions, he’s interested and he makes sure that you get back to campus safely.

“There’s a lot of good people. I always like to hear what they’re studying. I always want the best for you guys. I know how much money you spend to go to school here,” he said.

Throughout the night, clusters of students hop on, either on their way out to a party or on their way back. Eyes focused on the road, Steve plays the role of a priest, bartender and friend. Students crowd in the back and spill their problems and joys onto him. He drove toward their destination talking, asking and empathizing. They know him, like him and trust him.

“Everybody has their own little moment. One night I was driving the shuttle and ‘Landslide’ by Fleetwood Mac came on. And I had a group of people and they all started singing. One guy started crying and called his mother. So everybody laughed. That was a good one,” said Oswiecinski. “I’ve had people who meet each other on the shuttle. Some students tell me that they enjoy riding on the shuttle more than they like sitting in the bar. Some say it’s their best night. All the students here are fantastic.”

When Oswiecinski is not behind the wheel shuttling Hofstra students around, he enjoys classic rock, playing with his son and daughter and seeing concerts with his wife.

“I just saw The Who at Madison Square Garden. It was a good show. I also saw them at Forrest Hills Tennis Stadium. If you ever go see a concert that’s the place to see it. I saw them twice. It was awesome.”

Some of his favorite shows include “The Odd Couple,” “The Walking Dead,” “Seinfeld” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” His favorite character on “It’s Always Sunny” is Mac, “because he’s always doing the fake karate moves.”

Oswiecinski’s impact on students goes beyond what any free pizza event could have. He connects, he cares and he’ll be there when you need a ride home, whether the night is revving up at 10:00 p.m. or while the sun is peeking into the sky around 5:00 a.m.