It’s not unexpected that a number of these posts are focusing on the BVG, Berlin’s public transit system. After all, one of the aspects that I was looking forward to in Berlin is to be able to get everywhere, fairly efficiently without setting foot in a car.
So, I notice stuff on the bus.
Bus Drivers of the Dark Ages
So, when I was a kid…
Bus drivers were definitely grumpy. The current BVG ad slogan of “Because we love you…” would have been dark humour in those days. We were certain as kids that bus drivers did actually wait for us to come running up to a bus until they closed the doors to leave.
As kids we didn’t care about any kind of customer service, really, but the little we saw/understood would have been that the BVG was not service-oriented.
All the bus drivers of my memories are grumpy middle-aged men. There were very few women, no visibly non-German-heritage men, and no drivers under 35 it seemed.
Today’s Bus Drivers…
… are a much more diverse crowd. The chance of meeting a young, perhaps Turkish-in-origin-looking woman seem almost as great as meeting a grumpy man. On the way to school, Ingm also noticed that we had a female driver.
They are not nearly as grumpy as they used to be, no interpretation on my part whether that is to do with diversity or a sign of the times.
At terminus stops, bus drivers take a break between trips. Traditionally, this is a smoking break. It’s also a chance for bus drivers to meet other drivers. Recently, two drivers recognized each other,b then actually went from the traditional German handshake to a full-on hug. Who knew? Grumpy old Berliners hugging!
I have also noticed that the BVG is advertising apprenticeships to train bus/tram/train drivers (though they’re called something suitably nebulous like passenger transportation specialist). I interpret that to be a sign of a) a wave of grumpy retirements and/or b) an expanding system. Both good news.
Weil wir Dich lieben
Perhaps drivers’ relative cheer is a reflection of the BVG’s tongue-firmly-in-cheek “Weil wir Dich lieben” (Because we love you) ad campaign which is very clever.
For an example, see their YouTube channel. At https://youtu.be/2pic3FnvUrY you will find an ad that shows a young man entering a BVG service office and sitting down in the “very important passenger” seat. He inquires about an annual pass and then complains that the price is steep. The BVG staffer explains that running a public transit system is very expensive and then takes the young man on a tour of the facilities that include trained squirrels who draw lots to determine where upcoming delays will focus, a testing lab to find which food-in-mouth makes announcements least understandable (harkening back to a 90s, I think, bit on Saturday Night Live where the New York subway announcers in their break room speak undecipherable gibberish), and a training facility where drivers focus on hitting the close-door button just at the right moment to close the door right in front of a passenger. All very expensive and a great ad campaign.