The temperature was already above average at approximately 4:00 a.m., on Friday, July 5, 2019. Cressida Neal had recently started her day shift as a bus operator for the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS), when she noticed a shoeless little boy in the intersection near Humboldt and East Capitol Drive.
“I stopped the bus behind him and saw that he was hysterical,” she said. “I asked him what he was doing.”
Later Cressida learned that the child had been staying overnight at his grandmother’s house and wandered away. Sunrise was less than an hour away. She invited the child to wait on the bus until a police officer arrived.
“He must have thought it was time to go outside and play and then got turned around,” Cressida said. “He was probably only about three years old. He didn’t say much until the police arrived and then he started talking more.”
Cressida said MCTS trains its bus operators to pay attention to people and their body language along the routes they navigate.
“If someone appears to be in need of assistance, we can contact the dispatch operator,” Cressida said. “There are cameras all over the bus and we can put a time stamp on the recording for anything that appears to be out of the ordinary.”
In addition to being a bus operator for MCTS, Cressida is also the co-owner of Creative Kids Learning Center, which opened in February 2019. The center accepts children age six weeks to 12 years old and currently has an enrollment of about 35 children.
“I have people who work directly with the children since my hours driving overlap with the hours the learning center is open,” Cressida said adding that she and the other co-owner of the learning center own the building in which the center is located.
When asked whether her pupils or bus passengers present the bigger challenge, Cressida did not hesitate in replying that rude passengers are more difficult.
“The overwhelming majority of passengers are pleasant,” she said. “It just takes one unruly, disrespectful person to create a challenging commute for everyone else.”
Cressida is a Milwaukee native. She said she and her younger sister, Deidra, enjoyed a wonderful childhood. Their house was located near a creek in the neighborhood. During the winter months the neighborhood children would go sledding and in the warmer weather months they would ride bicycles, roller skate and swim at McGovern Park.
“We were outside playing almost every day,” she said. “We had to be on our front porch by the time the streetlights came on. These days I think kids spend too much time in front of a [computer or smart phone] screen.”
Cressida’s father, Rennord, still lives in the house where she and her sister grew up. Unfortunately her mother, Patricia, passed away in 2009.
Cressida celebrated her fifth anniversary as an MCTS bus operator in January 2020. She is an extra on the day shift. Her hours are typically from 3:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. One of her first jobs was as a school bus driver and she dreamed of driving for MCTS, but at the time she was below the minimum age requirement.
Before she joined MCTS, Cressida said she worked as a dental assistant. One day each month, she dedicated time to performing dental procedures on animals at the Milwaukee County Zoo — including gorillas, lions, tigers, and warthogs. After 14 years in that position, she said she wanted to try something different. For a year she taught in the dental assistant program at Everest Community College, which is now part of Bryant & Stratton College.
After a year as a community college instructor, Cressida relocated to Miami, Florida for a year. She fell in love with the sunshine and ocean.
“I’m a warm weather girl,” she said. “Eventually I’d like to buy a beachfront house in Fort Lauderdale.” She said she is very happy driving a bus and being the co-owner of a learning center.
Cressida said she enjoys traveling, but not by car. If the destination is more than three hours away, she said she prefers flying or taking a train. Cressida recently returned to Miami for the Super Bowl. She did not have tickets for the game, but said she wanted to tailgate and experience the entertainment and atmosphere of a warm weather city hosting a major sports event.
In addition to holding a license as a dental assistant and a commercial driver’s license, Cressida is also a licensed cosmetologist/esthetician with a certificate from VICI Technical College.