I drive transit buses for a living.  At the moment, my hourly wage isn’t all that much higher than what the push has been for a minimum wage across the country.

My job involves a bit more than being able to safely drive an oversized vehicle that can hold a bunch of people.  It involves multitasking and customer service in various forms.

I’ve dealt with people who are kind and people who are angry.  I’ve broken up fights.  I’ve dealt with drunks and druggies.

busI make it a point to greet every person who steps on to the “ship” that I captain, give them a smile, and thank them when they step off at their destination.  If I fall short in that, it isn’t by much.  I get a reward whenever someone waves and smiles and says “thanks” when they leave.  The majority of passengers do that.

There are some riders who don’t say a word or give any form of acknowledgement of my existence.  That can include people I’ve made a special effort to serve and to please.  When that happens, I speak very quietly for them, in a way no one else can hear.

Thank you so much!  You are the most amazing driver I’ve ever seen!  You are so good, I’m speechless!

I cannot thank you enough for the service you’ve provided for me!  It was so wonderful, I’m speechless!

Etc., so on and so forth.

But, then, there are times when I can get a reward that goes beyond any monetary value.  There are times when simple acts of appreciation can make my entire day, and make what can be a thankless job worthwhile.

I was driving what can be a busy east-west route last week and could see a bus stop coming up, with a white-haired, elderly lady pushing a walker toward the stop.  She was maybe 100 feet away from it on the sidewalk with her back toward the bus.  I couldn’t tell if she needed a ride or not, so I slowed down a touch.  As I approached her, she turned and looked over her left shoulder, waving a hand at me to let me know she needed on.

It’s hard to stop a 40-foot bus on a dime.  If I could have pulled to a stop right next to her, I would have.  But I managed to pull up to the stop, and I could see the woman running up as quickly as she could.

elderlyI lowered the front of the bus to make it easier for her to get on.  She lifted her walker on, stepped up, put some money in the fare box, and I was about to hand her a transfer when she gave me the best reward I’ve had in the time I’ve driven one of these big machines.  Without saying a word, she looked me in the eyes — it looked like she had a touch of tears forming — and she reached over to give me a hug.  She didn’t speak, but her gratitude was evident.

From that moment until she pulled the cord to let me know she needed off, I kept looking back in a mirror to see if she was okay.  She folded her arms once on the handles of the walker and laid her forehead on her arms, looking relieved.  I wondered if she could speak at all.

As she was leaving the bus, she patted me on my right arm, looked me in the eyes again, and gave me what appeared to be words of thanks in a form of sign language.

Those are the good moments that make customer service worthwhile.

One thought on “A form of payment that goes beyond dollars

  1. Great story, John! Reminds me of the time I was driving a commuter bus between Blackfoot and Poky while I was attending ISU. Had a special charter taking senior citizens to Salt Lake City to see the Ice Follies one summer weekend. It was 110′ when they got out of the show and I had gone out to the bus to start it and cool off the inside. I’m sure you know how hot those buses get inside when it’s that hot. A/C quit working! I found out what the “greatest generation” was all about that day. I opened roof vents and tried to prop a few windows open to get some air flow for them at least. Well to make a short story longer, the bus did not cool off until it started getting dark which was about an hour before home. John, there were no complaints from those wonderful people and they actually passed the hat around and left me the largest tip I had ever received on a charter! God bless those wonderful Seniors!

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