By CY Ming
At 9.10am on May 4, about seven passengers boarded a RapidKL bus with registration WVP 2435 (route 420) at Jalan Pasar, Kuala Lumpur, that was heading towards Pandan Indah.
My wife was the last passenger and just in front of her was an old Chinese woman, estimated to be around 70 years old by my wife.
She fed some coins into the ticket machine and the driver demanded proof that she was a senior citizen.
Unprepared, she fumbled for her senior citizen card and mumbled in Cantonese that she normally had the card ready but was never asked. This time, she was asked to produce it when she least expected it.
She mentioned that her head of white hair was enough to make her look old and cursed herself for the misfortune by using the Cantonese word “sui”.
But the word was picked up by the driver who only understood that the word meant bad, and assumed that the woman had described him as bad.
The driver angrily told the old woman he was Malaysian, alluding that he understood the word “sui”, and demanded why she had said that to him.
The old woman explained that she was only describing her own misfortune and had to repeat her explanation as the irate driver kept asking the same question.
At the next bus stop, a short distance away, also along Jalan Pasar, the driver demanded that the old woman get off his bus, and he got down and waited at the bus stop.
The old woman did not get down and so he went back to the bus and again demanded she get off.
The old woman did so after being advised by other women passengers not to quarrel with the driver.
The incident was related to me after I returned home from work in the evening, as my wife felt that the old woman had suffered gross injustice.
I am also concerned about the driver, as others may suffer from his temperament. He may need counselling.
Misunderstandings and arguments are common, even between two parties who can communicate well with each other, such as husbands and wives.
But for a driver to get down from his bus and demand that a passenger he does not like get off his bus means he has clearly crossed the line.
Rapid Bus operates an academy to train drivers, and what trainees learn are mostly skills and knowledge, as it is difficult to change character and attitude.
However, a strong corporate culture can shape drivers’ behaviour. My brother recently retired from driving buses in Sydney and received zero complaints from passengers, like most other bus drivers there.
They always start the day by reminding themselves of the cardinal rule that they should behave in such a manner that no passenger would complain about their service.
As such, they remain humble when providing service to the public, and greet passengers with a smile.
Local stage bus drivers who act high and mighty and treat passengers with disdain should have their public service vehicle (PSV) licence withdrawn.
PSV licences are renewed annually at the Road Transport Department upon presentation of the renewal form signed by a medical practitioner, regardless of whether the driver had failed to provide public service.
As such, the system allows a large number of drivers holding PSV licences but who do not have a public service mindset to drive commercial vehicles
CY Ming is an FMT reader.
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