MONDAY MAN: Driver with passion for the job
DRIVERS OF PUBLIC SERVICE VEHICLES (PSVs) may not be the best rewarded, but these men and women play a major role in everyday life.
For 365 days a year they are responsible for the safe and convenient transportation of thousands of Barbadians to work, school and play, sometimes from as early as 5 o’clock on mornings.
Paul Frank has not been one tempted to give less than the best service to those who board his vehicle. He does not subscribe to veering off route or engaging in reckless driving practices. As a matter of a fact, if you want loud, obnoxious noise banging in your head, then his isn’t the van to ride on.
On his route along such areas such as White Hall, Eden Lodge, Lodge Terrace, Lodge Hill, Well Gap and Cave Hill, passengers and several residents had nothing but kinds words to say about Frank.
Apart from a four-year break, the St Lucian-born has worked this same route since 1978.
He recounted that his start on PSVs came out of his need for a job to support himself.
Along with his twin brother Peter, Paul relocated in Barbados around 1969 to live with their mother after the death of their father. They both attended Ellerslie Secondary. After school, Paul was employed in a garment factory but when that ended, he needed employment to help the family since his mother wasn’t making enough money employed as a maid.
Around this same time, they weren’t many formal “minivans”, but privately-owned vehicles moonlighting as such.
“I knew this guy who had a [private vehicle]. At that time there weren’t any vans [PSVs] so I went and asked him a question. He agreed, I went straight and started from there,” Frank said.
He reminisced about the large amounts of money drivers back in those days made, although the fare was just 60 cents. He said this was mainly because not many Barbadians could afford their own vehicles. So even at some point when a driver needed a “special licence” to transport people, he spent the $150 charged to obtain the licence because he had planned on remaining in the field owing to the fact that the money was good.
As time went on, bus fare was increased. However, more people were acquiring their own transport, so the take-home pay was less; yet the now 61-year-old never became frustrated and remained committed to the job.
Upon the introduction of route taxis (ZRs), Frank said the industry began to attract a negative label and, according to him, sometimes unfairly so. He admitted that some drivers were definitely at fault and they “just need to behave themselves”, but he said there were many instances when an unfair cloak was cast over the entire sector because of the actions of a few. This, he added, was the most frustrating aspect of his job.
For almost four decades, the PSV sector has been his bread and butter, providing for his two children. And he takes much pride in how he carries out his role.
“I work, I do things the way it is supposed to be done. No insurance was never paid out for me, my licence was never taken away . . . but I, and others like me who are doing the right thing, have [experienced] what the old people say ‘Peter pay for Paul and Paul pay for all’. Most of the time people think because you drive a minivan, that you are disgusting, the scum of the earth and so on, but I do this as a career to support my family. So I take pride in what I do and I do it seriously,” he maintained.
The seasoned driver of B41 told the DAILY NATION he didn’t believe the once-touted idea of a salary across the board for PSV operators would reduce the incidence of bad behaviour. Besides, he added, it would never come to fruition.
But he was adamant that until workers showed regard or respect for themselves, the bad perception of the sector would persist.
“What I would like to see is everybody come together as one and unite at some point in time. We must understand that what one person [in the industry] does, reflects on everybody, so they have to do better,” he said.
“I enjoy driving and helping people. Some people get on the bus and don’t have money and I don’t curse and get on bad. Sometimes an old lady would need help with her bags and I have no problem helping her. Me and passengers get along very good. People never complain about my driving, it does be nice, smooth and never too fast. So you would see some people would even wait if they know I pass a certain stop and they ain’t see me yet.
“This is what I would want people, especially the younger drivers, to know, that you can hustle but in a mannerly way. Respect the people, respect yourself and you will be shown respect by others. From the wearing of uniforms not just for one or two weeks and then back to slippers, but how you carry yourself, how you speak to people. Me, I just do what I have to do and at the end of the day, make sure the people get where they are going safely.” (SDB Media)