Calgary’s enduring symbol of host culture, the White Hat, is set to be bestowed upon nominees for the 60th annual edition of the hospitality award in May.
Among the nominees this year are a pair of Calgary Transit operators whom the organization has said have gone above and beyond for customers—although, said a Calgary Transit spokesperson, the ultimate reason behind their nomination and who nominated them remains a mystery until May 24.
Catherine DeWolfe and Grant Massie have been nominated in the tour guide and driver categories.
“I think it’s pretty cool. I wasn’t expecting it at all,” said DeWolfe.
“It’s nice to be recognized and to feel appreciated, and we don’t know where it came from, so it’s overall a very cool experience so far.”
She said that in the interview process after being nominated she was only told by White Hat Award organizers that she had been nominated for her work with kids. Something, said DeWolfe, she takes a great deal of pride in at Calgary Transit.
“You see a lot of kids— a lot of people in general—with questions: Can I honk the horn? Sure. Can I push the farebox out? Sure,” she said.
“They ask you lots of questions or they just want to know about the city.”
She said that she’ll often tell people about the Calgary Tower, Heritage Park, but also the CTrain stops like the one in Tuscany.
“You know, I just try to make the city a brighter place for everybody,” DeWolfe said.
DeWolfe said she also keeps a stash of Transit Teddy temporary tattoos in her uniform pocket for children, and sometimes even adults, who ride her routes.
A brotherhood and sisterhood of operators
Massie laughed about his nomination, saying that so many of his fellow transit operators could have equally qualified for the nod.
“It feels pretty cool for me, and I’ve actually been out flouting it with my fellow operators saying, ‘hey, look at me, I’m a good white hat nominee.’ So I’m pretty excited about it,” Massie said.
“But in retrospect, so many of us here at transit could qualify for that, and I can tell them they drew my name out of a hat.”
He said that sometimes the stories that get shared by the media and the public don’t always reflect the reality that operators see day-to-day themselves.
“I think a lot of things out there in the press look like we’re having a hard time out there, but for the most part, things are working very well for us,” Massie said.
“We’ve got our services, [public safety] and even [Calgary Police Service] out there—they’re always there to support us, but it’s mostly unnecessary, not as necessary as people claim it to be.”
He said that a lot of regular riders are coming back and that generally people are pretty happy to be back riding with him.
“I do a morning express and I see a lot of the same people, picking up every day. They’re coming out, they’re happy to see I’m driving, and I’m happy to see them,” Massie said.
What hasn’t changed in the 15 years he’s been working for Calgary Transit is the way operators bond, even when they might not know one another.
“The camaraderie amongst all of the operators is so remarkable,” Massie said.
That camaraderie is something that DeWolfe said she feels every day, describing her fellow operators as brothers and sisters.
“If you’re wearing the uniform, I might not know your name and I might never know your name, but I’ve got your back, you’ve got my back—we’re all there to help each other,” she said.