A night in the life of a SNAP driver

Samuel Tucker | Senior Writer | Nov. 20, 2019

It was a frigid cold Tuesday night on campus as the temperature plummeted to a devastating 36 degrees. Parked outside the library were two golf carts with the bold letters “SNAP” written across the hood, and right inside sat the drivers for the Student Night Auxiliary Patrol, SNAP for short. Taking shelter from the Southern chill were the two drivers stationed for the night, bundled up in hoodies and blankets working on homework, patiently waiting for a call to action.

Greyson Wagner drives a golf cart on Nov. 12 after
dropping off a passenger
Samuel Tucker | Senior Writer

SNAP is a popular service here at GC that helps students get home safely at night from different locations around campus. The organization, with the help of the campus police department, has student drivers patrolling across campus in golf carts awaiting the next call for assistance.

Jacob Dallas, a junior creative writing major and student supervisor for SNAP, believes that a good SNAP driver must be accommodating and willing to put their best foot forward when dealing with students in need of rides.

“We look for people with the desire to work plenty of hours, flexibility in schedule, decent GPA and some sort of customer service,” Dallas said.

When asked to describe the job of a SNAP driver, the first assumption one would make is their constant flurry of calls from people coming home from downtown or student housing. While the weekends do see a significant surge in driver activity, the life of a SNAP driver can often feel mundane, yet interesting nonetheless.

Rachel Brown, a junior psychology major, has been driving for SNAP for close to a year. Her experiences have had ups and downs, but after examining her in action it’s obvious the job is not as glamorous as the weekend rushes close to downtown.

“Weekdays are usually very slow,” Brown said. “We get people every once in awhile coming home from the library or going downtown to get dinner. Weekends are very busy. We start at 10 and we basically never stop driving.”

If a student calls the SNAP phone number, a supervisor at the Hull House will put the name and location into the dispatch system and the closest driver can select that request on their SNAP-issued iPad. Once a driver has finished driving the student, they clear the request and wait for the next call.

“If it’s a weeknight and we don’t have any calls we go to the library, and I usually do homework or watch YouTube videos, but on weekends we go to the Old Courthouse and wait for anybody coming home from downtown and they can ask for a ride,” Brown said. 

Brown does her best to keep prepared for the colder nights on campus by bundling up in layers, with some SNAP drivers keeping blankets or heaters in their golf carts. Many drivers keep a speaker in their cart at all times so they can listen to music.

“Usually we tolerate it unless they do something that puts their safety at risk or my safety,” Brown said. “If they’re standing up and putting their arms outside the cart I might tell them to get off.” 

Thankfully, there aren’t very many SNAP riders who are outright belligerent or intolerable, but because of the large majority of calls coming from intoxicated students, there can be tricky situations to deal with.

Dawson Shores, a junior mathematics major, remembers a time when he had to exit a SNAP because one of the riders could not handle the motion sickness.

“I was riding from my apartment to downtown and we picked up somebody who was so drunk they couldn’t see or walk, so we pulled over to let their friends carry them off so they wouldn’t die,” Shores said. “They were vomiting off the back of the cart it was crazy.”

Even if a majority of the job isn’t spent driving golf carts but rather being on call and waiting in the library, Brown finds the job fulfilling nonetheless and has plenty of interesting quips about the job she can remember fondly.

“[Working for SNAP] has been a good job because I meet a lot of interesting people I wouldn’t have met otherwise and make friends with some of the patrons, so I would say I enjoy it a lot,” Brown said.