One day in the 1960s when I was going home from work, the bus conductor refused to accept payment from a mother with her three children because she offered more in coin than legal tender permitted in one transaction.
I quickly intervened and advised her to share the coins among them and to pay four individual fares, each was within the bounds of legal tender.
It was a very early lesson in the reality that in the bus industry you are never off duty. How precocious of me when at the time, I was only a very lowly schedules clerk.
Later, when I was Traffic Superintendent at SELNEC, Leigh, I was enjoying a Friday evening drink at a pub near my home, when the door opened and in walked the driver and conductor of the No. 2 bus that was parked outside. I had to intervene, much to the dismay of some of my ‘friends’ who chastised me and suggested that I was off duty and should have turned a blind eye.
My wife Val confessed recently that when we are both travelling by bus she is quietly willing the driver to do the right thing when we are boarding, and afterwards ensures that we sit somewhere where I can’t see the driver when he is issuing fares. And if something is amiss during the journey she is quick to remind me that it is no longer any of my business.
She is very good at noticing that things for the most part go well. She comments when, for example, the driver waits for someone running for the bus or is particularly careful and gives those on board a decent ride.
It’s pleasing when a driver smiles when we are getting on, and from us it’s a cheerful ‘thank you’ to the driver on alighting.
Drivers today are so much better at being polite and helpful than in the so-called ‘good old days’. That’s not surprising when it’s the fare paid by the customer that secures their job.
But the customer isn’t always right. When I was Assistant Traffic Superintendent at Blackburn in the late-1960s, I took a telephone complaint. The woman accused the driver of her bus that morning of having deliberately pulled away from the stop when she was only a few feet from it.
I immediately replied that the driver denied the allegation; that it wasn’t in his nature and that he would certainly not have done such a thing.
She was rather irate at this response and questioned how I could know so quickly when she had only that moment made the complaint and that I had not yet had time to trace the driver and speak to him? My answer was simple – I knew because I was the driver!