Today, we’re highlighting one man’s multi-faceted Metromance story, one very near and dear to our hearts.
Mark Freitag, one of our Transit Control Center chiefs, retired from Metro last year after nearly 39 years of service. His Metro employment started as a part time bus operator in 1981, driving nights in the Central area and Rainier Valley, later as a full time bus operator.
“It was never work, it was play. I didn’t go to work – I went to drive my bus. It wasn’t work until I became a first line supervisor and began moving my way up. But ultimately, those jobs are what enabled me to retire now, so I’m thankful,” said Mark.
But the actual Metromance started much earlier, when Mark was a boy, looking up to his father, Jack, who proudly drove Greyhound buses – the refined way to travel back in those days.
“My dad had more integrity than any man I’ve ever met. He drove buses for 40 years without a preventable accident. He was so smooth, that when he started moving the bus, you’d think it was still stopped. He’d stop the bus so smooth, you’d think you were still moving.”
“I wanted to be just like my dad. I drove the way he taught me, including how to be professional and courteous. I even starched my uniform exactly like he did and went through a can of starch a month!”
That work ethic, good attitude, and fresh uniform paid off.
In 1987, Mark was driving his bus at 21st and Jefferson Street when a passenger named Kari boarded, looking for directions.
“She was a pretty girl-next-door with sparkling eyes,” said Mark. He gave her directions, then didn’t see her again until the following week, when she boarded the bus and they got to chatting.
“He was fun and funny, and decently in touch his emotions,” said Kari. “Plus, he had a rubber chicken on his fare box, which is a sign of good luck.”
Mark didn’t ask Kari out on the bus, but later approached her at the hotel she was working at and invited her to dessert.
Kari and Mark have now been married for 32 years, with four grown children and a son-in-law.
“I so appreciated his job because it allowed me to be a stay-at-home mom. He loved his job and that made him a happy person, and happy people make good husbands and fathers!” said Kari.
Mark’s story is the ultimate Metromance: A boy and his father, a man and his bus, a husband and his wife. And now, he has more time than ever for his other love – flying helicopters!
He has carefully crafted a diorama, initially as a way to showcase his bus collection, and later as a way to honor his dad’s legacy. Take a look below and see for yourself. Fun fact: The buses with working headlights have 75 individual hand-painted people on them.
Mark would like to thank Transit Control Center Coordinator Chellie Lynn for her help and expertise on this project. Chellie is a Master Model Maker whose models are regularly displayed at the Boeing Museum of Flight.