Airport Bus driver story.
By Alister Fuller
In my previous job I did public transport. We do get to interact with people from different walks of life and socio economic backgrounds. So you do get many opportunities to help people in more ways than just taking them from A to B. In the lower socio economic areas like Ringwood I did most of my so called good deeds. However in the Airport that is not the case. We work on strict time frames so I sometimes feel like separate from passengers. Also they are mostly well off people who travel and the opportunity to help people is far less than public transport.
This one day was different. I picked up passengers from Southern cross and when I was on the Tulla freeway a young guy walked up to me and asked me if I was going to Avalon Airport. I told him No. We are on the way to Tullamarine and you cannot walk up to the driver you need to be seated at all times for your own safety. I don't think he understood me.
His English was not good I guessed that they were from Latin America. When he returned to his seat he joined another young guy. I was looking at the mirrors from time to time to follow what was going on. They were arguing in their own language and the other guy was kicking the ground and the other chairs. They were the only two on the ground floor. I immediately felt a sense of empathy for these two young boys.
I knew they might not be financially OK because they are probably studying in Australia, English is not their language and they did not see the signs or ask the right questions, took the wrong bus, probably looking for work etc. I had many of these overseas students in my public transport gig so I knew what was going on instantly. He came back to me and asked me to drop them off on the freeway. I said that is not possible. I told him to be seated and I will think up something when we get to Tullamarine. They seemed very distressed and tapping their heads and behaving agitated. It was sad to see. When we reached the airport they told me that they are not going to make it to Avalon for their flight to Sydney. Flight was 3.15pm and the time at tulla was 1pm.
I quickly worked it out in my mind that if they took a cab from Tulla to Avalon they would reach at 2pm and they will make it for their 3.15pm flight. So I asked them if they had Uber? They said they did. I said OK book an uber cab and find out the cost. They did tell me it was $102. I said to them that if I give them $50 would that help them. That put a big smile on their face. I said book it immediately which they did. They told me that they are going to Sydney for a job interview. I really felt for these two young men.
When we reached T1, they wrote their phone number on a piece of paper and gave it to me. I handed them the money and with a big smile they hurriedly rushed off. I directed them to the best spot where they can pick up their Uber ride. I felt a sense of satisfaction that a small sum of money can make a massive difference. I am certain they will never forget that day. I did ring them around 3pm and they thanked me and that they were sitting in the aircraft ready for take off. A big relief that my plan worked out.
I do however had a sense or a feeling that they thought that my company was giving them the $50 and not me personally and that I would be reimbursed, because I never heard from them ever again. Probably because of their cultural background and where they are coming from. I know because I am from India and not a single bus driver would do anything like this. For me that is perfectly OK because when we do any charity we should never expect anything back. A quote from Dick Smith comes to mind. "GIVING is a selfish act and it has nothing to do with the receiver". Something which I strongly believe in.
Another story at the airport comes to mind. I pulled up at T4 and many people got in. We usually have a few spare minutes at T4 so I usually have a chit chat. This elderly couple in their 70s with 2 young teen kids probably grandchildren got in as well. He asked me how long will we take to get to Southern cross. I said around 40min. He told me he needs to catch a train from Southern cross to Albury. I asked what time. I quickly worked it out and he would most likely miss his train and the next one is more than 2hrs later.
He said that he was not thinking straight and he was distraught because his son had passed away and they were going to Albury for the funeral. I immediately felt empathy for this gentleman so I had to think up a way on how to help him.
He had a firm train booking so I suggested that he takes a cab from T1 and get to Broadmeadows train station he would have ample time to get his train which stops at Broadmeadows en route to Albury. I told him that he has time to think about that because we had to pick up passengers at T3 and then T1. At T3 I discussed it with him again and he was hesitant. He did not know the geography of the place so it was a shot in the dark for him. I told him that it takes 15min to Broady by cab and he would have more than an hour to have a coffee and relax and catch his train instead of rushing to Southern cross and potentially missing his connection. Also the taxi fare would be no more than $25.
At T1 he decided to take my suggestion and I directed them to the Taxi rank. As I was going passed the taxi rank I saw them getting into a taxi. Another good result and a good day at the office.
In hindsight if I had his contact number I would have approached management to give them a refund or a voucher for future travel.
People travel interstate for many reasons while chatting with passengers I noticed that quite a good percentage of people travel to attend a funeral. I know I did in 1998 when I flew to Perth to attend my Dad’s funeral. I was alone and very emotional and all the people around me seemed in their own little world. Strange, but that is life.
There are usually many opportunities as a bus driver to make a small difference. On two occasions a guy asked if I had a phone charger for Australia plug. I suggested that they buy one from southern cross kiosk. This guy did not have Aussie money so I hand them a $5. He offered me in return €10 which I refused to take. For another guy I did gave him my charger. I do have many spare at home.