What’s it like to ride a happy bus, at least part of the way, to and from work? Read on, to find out

On a rainy evening waiting for buses at Tower 5, some passengers may be envious of those on Mr Fong Yoke Hai’s bus - the happy bus. 

Mr Fong’s passengers never get wet in the rain because they are treated like royalty. 

To shield them from the rain, Mr Fong alights with two wide-brimmed umbrellas, and stands   between the bus shelter and bus door as they board. They remain dry while he gets wet from the spray.

But he’s not bothered. “I don’t want my passengers to get wet.  It’s ok for me. My shirt can dry fast inside the bus.” 

Pressed to elaborate, he says, “My passengers dress smart. If they get wet, they can catch a cold in the aircon office or MRT. For me, after this trip, I go to the gym to exercise for one hour, and I can have a shower there, too.”

When they alight, everyone is eager to thank him, to which he says, “Welcome, welcome,” and reminds them to mind the steps “Slowly, slowly, be careful.” He explains that the ground is slippery when it rains and he doesn’t want them to fall.  

Praise from passengers 

His passengers can’t praise him enough.  One woman was heard saying to her friend, “This is a one-of-a-kind driver. Where can you find this kind of person, this kind of service in Singapore?”

A regular passenger, Gillian Tan, Senior Executive, Corporate Communications, National Heart Centre Singapore (NCCS) says, “He’s the sweetest bus uncle I know. He greets you when you board and reminds you to be careful when you alight.  Sometimes, he even reminds us of the upcoming weekend, with ‘It’s Friday! Have a nice day’.  I’m sure, like everyone, he has his bad days, but he never ever shows it.”
Her colleague, Xianhui Ng, Assistant Manager, Division of Community Outreach and Philanthropy, NCCS, agrees.  “He just brightens everyone’s day with his smile and caring ways.”

Patsy Lee, Senior Associate Executive, Organisational Transformation & Informatics, SingHealth,   says, “He’s does far more than what his company expects him to do.”
But Mr Fong waves away praise, saying, “I’m just trying to do my best in my job. I don’t do it for a reward. It just makes me happy.”

Loving his job

Mr Fong loves his job. Before he drives SingHealth staff he has an earlier shift, both in the morning and afternoon, ferrying children to and from school. He enjoys the flexibility of having pockets of time in-between for exercise or rest. 

It’s a big improvement from the pressures of his previous job in a factory making heavy industrial conveyor machines. That was a 12-hour day, often working 30 days a month because of manufacturing demands and deadlines.  

When the factory relocated overseas, he was going to become a taxi driver, but “my wife made noise about the long hours.”  

So he chose to drive minibuses. The downside, however, is that he has to wake up at 4.20am and only gets home by about 8.30pm. He has dinner at around 9pm and has to go to bed by 10pm. This means he seldom eats dinner with his children – a daughter, 26, a Nanyang Technological University graduate who is now working, and a son, 21, a National University of Singapore undergraduate.   

It also means he can’t stay up to watch his favourite football matches. A spritely 58-year-old, Mr Fong still plays football on Sundays with his mates.   “We‘ve been playing football together for about 30 years, but now it’s just ‘cage’ football with five people on each side.” If not this, he’ll be line fishing in Pulau Ubin where he says, “I once caught a 6kg seabass.”
To the disappointment of his passengers, the happy bus rides may be coming to an end in November. Mr Fong says his contract will end then because a new company is taking over.  At the time of going to press he wasn’t sure whether he would be staying or going somewhere else.

If he goes, there’ll surely be many sad faces. But one thing is clear – he will be a hard act to follow.

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