“Someone farted big time!” At the announcement, moans of disgust erupt from the throng of out-of-season male athletes crammed into the Hamilton Jitney. It’s about 11 p.m. on a Tuesday — $1 draft night at the much-loved “VT” (Village Tavern) — and student driver Chase Uhlein ’12 lowers the van windows. After the three-minute winding ride down the Hill, the Jitney lurches to a stop alongside the curb outside the VT. The boisterous men tumble out, shouting, “Thanks, Chase!” as the van door clicks shut. Uhlein steps on the gas and heads back up the Hill for another round trip.
A frequent patron himself of the VT and Don’s Rok, Uhlein, who hails from Connecticut, enjoys making sure friends and fellow students can safely enjoy the Clinton bar scene. When Jitney service was discontinued on Tuesday nights first semester, he decided to begin working as the evening’s late-night driver.
As he drives, Uhlein banters with passengers and plays Rod Stewart on the stereo. Unprompted, some female riders offer assurances that they’ve completed their homework and have no morning classes. Men on the next trip ask if the bar scene is lively tonight. Says one junior, “I’m looking for a formal date — or you know what? A life partner.”
Uhlein began tonight’s shift at 10 p.m. and will continue shuttling students until three in the morning. In addition to late-night service on Tuesday, and Thursday through Saturday, the Jitney transports students to the local grocery store, the mall and the movie theatre each afternoon.
Every passenger thanks Uhlein when departing, and one sophomore female offers him a tip — but then jokes that she needs her $5 for a drink. Though driving may be a less-than-glamorous job for Uhlein and other Jitney drivers, helping fellow students safely experience the sights, sounds and occasional aromas of Clinton and environs has its rewards.