What a Bus Captain Taught Me

August 17, 2010 Blog 4 comments

Singapore SBS Public Bus
Courtesy of Naked Singapore

After a long and tiring day at work, I had my dinner at a coffeeshop in Chinatown and was waiting for my usual buses back home. The bus stop was pretty crowded with weary commuters.

While waiting for my bus, I noticed something unusual.

A Singapore Bus Service (SBS) bus number 63 appeared to “stall” a few metres away from my bus stop. When I peered into the bus, I noticed that the bus captain’s cabin was empty.

My first reaction was that the driver must be buying coffee or easing his/herself. After all, that’s quite a common occurrence.

On closer inspection, however, I observed that the bus captain was actually helping an elderly gentleman to find a seat in the bus. Instead of just barking orders from the front, he got out of the driver’s seat, held the guy’s hand and led him to find a seat.

That’s not all. When another silver-haired lady got on board the bus, the driver got off his comfortable driver’s seat yet again and navigated the senior to a suitable seat at the back of the bus.

Throughout this time, another bus was waiting behind this one. Several taxis and cars were also behind, while passengers waited for the next bus. However, the bus captain’s priorities were clearly on the comfort and safety of the elderly gentleman and lady.

(Incidentally, the bus driver was Indian in ethnicity while the gentleman and lady were Chinese.)

This short heartwarming episode taught me several important customer service/life lessons:

1) Never get too busy and fixated with what you are doing to ignore the comfort and safety of your customers.

2) Tailor one’s provision of service to the specific and peculiar needs of one’s patrons. While elderly patrons may require assistance in securing a seat, passengers with disabilities may require bus captains to flip open the wheelchair access ramp (at the rear exit of the bus) and to wheel the passenger in.

3) Focus your attention on one customer at a time, and let him or her know that you are 100% with them during that time.

4) Extraordinary service sometimes means temporarily downplaying the needs of other customers – at least on a temporary basis.

Perhaps the greatest thing that this small incident has taught me is that little acts of kindness and graciousness does exist in Singapore, and that it transcends language, ethnicity, age, or gender.

By Walter
Founder of Cooler Insights, I am a geek marketer with almost 24 years of senior management experience in marketing, public relations and strategic planning. Since becoming an entrepreneur 5 years ago, my team and I have helped 58 companies and over 2,200 trainees in digital marketing, focusing on content, social media and brand storytelling.


  1. Yeah, I second your observation. I’ve noticed bus captains helping passengers in wheelchairs getting on and off buses. Kindness and graciousness are more widespread nowadays.

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