The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

Day in the life of Washington and Lee’s Traveller monitors

In our “Day in the Life” series, reporters take a look behind the scenes of the most important, yet overlooked, jobs at W&L

For the 17 new Traveller hires of October, the beginning of the term means some late nights and learning the ropes of being a monitor. Their training manual is veterans’ horror stories.

The Traveller Safe Ride Program, commonly known as Trav, operates between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights and transports nearly 2,000 students weekly. It offers two services: Traveller Transit and Traveller Dispatch. Transit runs five 24-passenger buses and follows a fixed route through Lexington, while Dispatch provides rides via personal requests anywhere within a 5-mile radius of campus. 

Founded 20 years ago as a way to reduce drunk driving, it has since become an integral part of campus party culture. 

The program has two annual hiring rounds that consist of a written application with questions regarding anticipated challenges on the job and previous leadership experience, said Molly Ribbeck, ’24, Public Relations Co-Chair. Traveller’s Steering Committee, composed of six students in leadership roles, then reviews them and selects candidates for interviews before final offers are made, and the new employees can cash in on their $22.50-per-hour wage.

Traveller Chair Alexander Mayer, ’24, explained that within two weeks of releasing decisions, there is an orientation going over the various roles. This session also covers the best way to deal with common scenarios and the basics of the program’s policies.

“Every new hire is required to complete two training shifts for every shift type, one of which is a party night, so they get experience working with somebody who has been on staff before doing the job on their own,” Mayer said.

After these runs, they are free to start work. But that is when the true tests begin: from wrangling young alumni to preventing students from walking home on unlit streets to passing out water to dehydrated students; monitors said there is never a dull moment. 

In interviews with The Ring-tum Phi, Ribbeck, Mayer, and recent hire Sophia Taylor shared their Trav horror stories.

Molly Ribbeck, ’24 – Public Relations Co-Chair

“On my first-ever training shift on a bus, we were driving, and some [Virginia Military Institute students] flagged us down. We are not supposed to give them rides because we are only supposed to give rides to W&L students, but he said, ‘My friend is really hurt. Can we get on the bus?’ 

We had no one on the bus, so we said, ‘Sure, whatever, we drive through VMI regardless.’ He got on, and then I looked down, and his whole thigh was almost cut open, and there was blood along the seats. 

My reaction was, ‘Oh my god.’ We had to clean it up when he left, but I was not prepared for that my first time.

It was a really long scar, four inches long and deep. He and his friend were just holding it. I think they had snuck out and were going back. It was a big gash.”

Alexander Mayer, ‘24 – Traveller Chair

“Young Alumni Weekend last year, so in 2022, young alumni wanted to pretend they were back in college again, so there was a lot of drinking. It was starting to get late at night, a bit chilly, and then people were really getting anxious to get on the bus and started pushing and shoving to get to the front of the line. 

Several times when the doors were opened, I was pushed aside, so I had to assert myself and say, ‘Hey, nobody is getting on the bus until this line gets more orderly,’ and I had to block the entrance to the bus and only let people on one at a time.”

Sophia Taylor, ‘26 – Traveller Employee

“The worst nights are when we start to run modified routes when everybody is out, and we just cannot physically go to every place. There were a couple of senior guys that yelled profanities at me while I was doing it, and it was my first night without anybody with me, so that sucked a little bit. But the person who was driving the bus yelled at them, and that shut them up real quick.

[Another night] there was this one person who pulled up to the Trav line and started projectile vomiting, but then they got on the bus and tried to act like nothing happened. They tried to hold their eyes open and act like they were completely fine while everybody on that bus, including the monitor, saw them throwing up three seconds before.”

Advice from the monitors

Ribbeck encouraged students considering applying for Traveller during winter term not to let the anecdotes above dissuade them. She explained that joining the program has served as a creative outlet for her, from t-shirt design to the Instagram page, and a way to carry on her mother’s legacy.

“When my mom was a student at W&L, there were some student deaths due to drunk driving, and she started working on things to help prevent drunk driving at school, so I wanted to continue that,” Ribbeck said.

Taylor applied to the program after realizing how special of a resource Traveller was compared to what her sister has access to at a large state school. She has enjoyed her nighttime interactions despite some of the uncomfortableness.

“People open up a lot when they are drunk. Especially people I have never really talked to before, and I now know their whole life story,” Taylor said.

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