Driving toward a better future

When it comes to driving, nothing rattles Nathaniel Robinson, 54, of Overbrook, a laid off car salesman who would like to get a job as a driver. "You don't need a lot of supervision. Once you get your assignment, you map it out and then you go. It's almost like having your own business." 

Robinson had been working for Metro Pontiac Buick-GMC in April 2009, when the dealership closed down as the recession deepened. The owner "just shut it down," Robinson said. His take? He had already made his money and after 30 years in the business, he simply didn't feel like weathering another recession. "Why go through another hassle?"

Nathaniel Robinson

Robinson enjoyed that job, but he really preferred his jobs driving for SEPTA and earlier, Eden Transportation, a SEPTA subcontractor that handled paratransit for disabled passengers.  On a regular bus route, passengers come and go, but as a paratransit driver, he formed relationships with his passengers. "It was like having all these grandmothers and aunts," he said. "They look forward to me being there. They bring you little sandwiches. It's just the friendships that form. It made me feel good at the end of the day."

It's a responsible job. "Safety first," he said, "because you have people's lives in your hands. It's not like you are driving a truck where you have cargo. You have to maintain a sense of authority on the bus, because you are in charge of that bus."

His unemployment insurance has long expired -- now he's on welfare and trying to make ends meet as a day worker, doing anything that comes around from washing dishes to working for a day's pay in a factory. Another hurdle is a misdemeanor conviction. "A lot of people  hire people with a glitch on their records," he said. "It's nothing major, but a glitch is a glitch and employers have a lot of options now." 


  • Nathaniel Robinson
  • Hometown: Philadelphia.
  • Profession: Driver
  • Experience: Worked as a bus driver, musician, warehouse clerk, car salesman and general laborer.
  • Education: Opportunities Industrialization Center, certificate in guest services.
    bachelor's degree in illustration and fine arts..
  • E-mail address: dukes.com@gmail.com
  • Nathaniel Robinson's resume

Read past profiles in the Looking for Work series. The series continues here on Mondays until August 29. Starting in September, it moves to Fridays.

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The Inquirer is not endorsing this individual as a job candidate; potential employers should do their own background checks.

Contact staff writer Jane M. Von Bergen at 215-854-2769 or jvonbergen@phillynews.com.