Night Owl 2013

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By. Markella Haynes

BOCA RATON, Fla.– It all starts around dusk, when the single phone line of the NightOwl’s office starts to chatter continuously as hundreds of Florida Atlantic University students call in for a safe and quick ride to their cars and dorms.
“Night Owls.”
 “What’s your name and where do you want to go?” asked Derek Smith, associate director of NightOwls to the caller on the phone.
Smith holds the phone with his left shoulder as his fingers fly furiously around the keyboard typing the caller’s information into the spreadsheet. The information is then sent to the dispatcher and Night Owl drivers, informing them that a student needs a lift. 

Every weekday from 7 p.m. until 11:30 p.m., the six or seven golf carts are started, as the student run transportation service is open for a night of chauffeuring students safely and quickly around campus. 

Student Government started NightOwls in the early 90s when security became an issue for people walking long distances to their cars late at night. But the current employees have realized students usually use it for other reasons since Innovation Village Apartments were built farther from campus.

“If there is a lone girl that wants to go to Lot 5 when it’s, like, really, dark, we’ll take her to be safe,” said Smith, “but it’s more of a convenience service now.”  

Ryan Price, junior and just one of the service’s thirteen drivers, mentioned that although the service makes students feel safer while walking around campus at night, occasionally students still do crazy things to the golf cart that negates their safety purpose.

“One time I had a student hang on to the side of my golf cart while riding a skateboard, and decided to try to switch places with a student I was transporting,” said Price. “It didn’t end well,” he adds, while noticing a student flagging down his cart.

Students have the option to call NightOwls, stop by their office or simply wave down a golf cart down if they see one. With the golf carts whipping wind through riders’ hair at a maximum of 15 mph, Smith says from the time students call, a driver will be there in about five minutes. 

Chris Miller, sophomore and IVA resident, uses the services most nights, as the trek to and from his apartment takes about 20 minutes from the Student Union. 
“It’s a nice service,” said Miller, “and you get to know the drivers and get to have good conversations with them.”

Sophomore and theater major Carly Levy agrees that the service is extremely useful when you don’t have a car and the FAU trolley is no longer running for the day. 

“I take the service a lot when I go to the gym,” said Levy. “Even though it’s not that far of a walk, it gets creepy at night.” 

As it is possible to wave down a NightOwl driver for a ride, sometimes students are disappointed when a cart is full and is unable to transport them. Price advises to just call the office and someone will be there as soon as possible to take them where they need to go.

On a typical night, NightOwls moves around 300 students around campus and can get pretty busy when you have impatient drivers, according to Smith.
“I don’t think people realize how many people we actually move,” said Smith.

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