Going through the official guide of a Bus timetable, I was amused by a criterion specified for bus drivers, namely, ‘customer service with a smile.’
I could not contain my laughter since the reality of facing grumpy faces behind the wheel is almost a daily occurrence.
If courtesy, responsibility and care towards passengers are essential qualities of people in this profession, the ones I have seen are a complete failure.
“Welcome on Board” is the first thing one would notice while entering a public transport bus but such Welcome would usually be in the form of a stare by the driver.
Words go missing and conversation takes place only through fingers, to check if the Bus Pass belonged to the holder. Some drivers snatch it out of your hand, and examine it with suspicion, as though you are an impersonator.
Commuting in public transport broadens an individual’s life experience and you learn about people and their behaviour.
The next sign that hits your eye is, “Please respect your fellow passengers; please give these seats for the elderly or disabled.”
Huh! This is another ludicrous announcement. A first-time traveller would find the scorn and impatience with which some drivers treat the physically challenged. The other day, a freckled octogenarian woman would have slipped and broken her bones (perhaps her life too), but for a student who held her on time and helped her sit down. For the driver, it was ‘another day, another passenger and another dollar.’
Alicia (not her real name) is one of the victims of an unconcerned driver. Getting on to her regular bus, she was dismayed to find that it was following a different route. The management had decided to change the route and the timing of the bus, but the driver had failed to display the notice.
“I cannot help it,’ was his arrogant reply.
Information and assistance seekers would definitely need knowledge as the main component to play a role in their queries.
Xing, a newcomer to Auckland, had a nasty first-day experience. Boarding a bus, she asked the driver if he would be travelling towards a particular suburb.
“Get off the bus and ask someone for help,” was his useless and irresponsible response.
I was fuming. “What are you here for driver?,” I asked, of course within myself.
I cannot forget an unsavoury experience that I encountered recently.
A woman driver ill-treated me and used abusive language, when I asked her how to lock my son’s pram, which I had taken on board for the first time.
“Why do you come out and board a public transport bus when you do not know how to do such a simple thing?” she screamed, much to my embarrassment. I was too stunned to speak but not too stupid to carry on. I alighted, stood by the pavement and called my husband to pick us up in his car!
The amusing thing is that many passengers remain courteous and friendly, never forgetting to say, ‘Thank you driver,” as they alight at their destination.
Recently surveys showed public preference for public transport since it is cheaper and supposedly more convenient.
But considering the insolence that one has to suffer in our buses, I wonder whether all those savings are really worth the loss of prestige and peace of mind that one suffers.
Why are our bus drivers so nasty? Are they overworked and under paid? I doubt the former because I understand that drivers must have rest after a certain period of work. I also believe that they are well paid.
Do they lack motivation? Owners of these companies must examine the problems and perhaps conduct mentoring sessions for their drivers.
We as passengers must demand respect and make the drivers aware of their responsibilities.
I believe the Local Government should also step in and make bus drivers understand of their duties, if they want us to take to public transport, leaving behind our vehicles at home.
Tuhina Seth is a writer, with keen interest in investigative journalism and human-interest stories. She lives in Auckland.