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AT YOUR SERVICE : Burgers and Buses

Christina Lopez balances the demands of two jobs with raising four children, and does it all with remarkable good humor and an infectious laugh.

The 31-year-old Ventura native works a split shift as a school bus driver. In between, she handles the cash register at the Habit, a popular hamburger stand in downtown Ventura.

That is a 48 1/2-hour work week spread over six days. The rest of her time is spent taking care of her children, ages 5 through 12, and her husband, Javier, a landscaper and machinist.

“She’s this bright spirit,” a customer said. “No matter how busy she is, how overwhelmed a normal cashier would be, she’s laughing and joking and calling customers by name. And keeping the line moving.”

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“I just like to treat the people the way I like to be treated,” Lopez said. “So I treat them kind and courteous. And everybody’s equal.”

By 6:30 a.m. each school day, Lopez is on her way in her school bus to Oak View, where she picks up Ventura High School students. Then she heads to the Clearpoint neighborhood in east Ventura, where Cabrillo Middle School students pile on board.

At her restaurant job, which usually begins at 11 a.m., she faces lines stretching 15 bodies deep. But Lopez, working alongside her sister Lisa, 32, never gets flustered.

“I never take my anger out on anybody there,” she said. “I don’t take my problems to work.”

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She knows dozens of customers by name and by order. She endures all this, and happily, for $7 an hour--$7.50 when she steps in as shift manager.

By 2:30 p.m. she is out the door and back on her bus, driving the afternoon shift for students at Buena High School, E.P. Foster Elementary and Cabrillo.

“The kids always ask me why I say good morning every morning and goodbye every afternoon,” she said. “But after maybe half the year they get out of their shells and they start to reply.”

She particularly likes working with her sister. “She jumped right in there,” Lopez said. “Other cashiers are harder to train to move and get in the groove.”

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