Thursday, April 02, 2009

What The Old Guy Said

"I'll tell you what it is," he said to me. I had noticed him and his wife right off. They parked right behind us on the boat, we both had easy access to the elevator that took travellers up to the passenger deck. They were both walkers with walkers but what with the wheelchair in the trunk of the car and my slow careful 'protect the knee at all costs' rising, they got to the elevator before us. We waved them on as there was no way we'd all fit in that tiny room.

We met them again in the cafeteria where I'd picked up a tea and parked at a table by the window. Our trips to British Columbia, even one's like this planned quickly, are wonderful. It feels like home here and riding the ferry system provides a view of the world that is hard to find elsewhere. I was sipping my tea and noticed them chowing down at the next table over. We nodded, friendly like.

I was talking with Joe about the amazing people who load these huge honking boats. When we buy our ticket we explain that I am a wheelchair user and they give us a placard that says 'Physically Disabled Person' which we put on the dash. we are directed to a special lane and then, when boarding, we put the car flashers on. As we enter the boat a ferryman or ferrywoman talks to us briefly asking what we need and then they direct us where to park and ensure that we have the space needed for me and the chair.

On our first trip out here as a wheelchair user I always worried that I'd get stuck on the car level because the cars are packed in so tightly. That has never happened, not once. I've travelled the system enough now to notice that my access is not by chance, it is part of an established pattern of caring and competence.

Again, on this small ferry, we had plent of room to get around the car, the people behind us, also needing something extra, did too. As we talked about it I wondered aloud what kind of training that they give these men and women who work for the system. We've never encountered attitude or hositility, we've never been made to feel in the way or a bother. That's remarkable.

The fellow sitting at the next table, was listening in to our conversation. I can't complain, i do that all the time too. He spoke up and said, "I'll tell you what it is, it's just decency. You can train people all they want but you need to hire decency. I've talked to some of these B.C. Ferries guys and, you know what, they're good, decent people."

He left me with a suggestion, "You can always find people who know their jobs, they are a dime a dozen, sift through those and find decent people. Then your work life will be a joy."

What a tremendous idea.

Hire decency, get respect.


lina said...

Truer words have never been spoken! And your story makes me want to get to B.C and see that view of the world! Happy travels Dave.

HeatherUk said...

Wouldn't it be nice one day to notice the good manners and appreciate them but not have to be grateful for them.

Does make you feel good though when it happens that way.

Have a nice day x

theknapper said...

Abit off topic.....
Daniel Tammet who you have mentionned in your blog last year, has written a new book, Embracing the Wide Sky & will be interviewed on cbc radio this Saturday on Quirks & Quarks 12:06-1pm

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

I just finished reading Zoo Station. There is some talk in the book about expecting cruelty and being surprised by kindness. It comes from deep brutalization, oppression and death making. Are we there? We are surprised by competence and kindness and decency. (Sorry to rain on your parade Dave. I also just finished watching the People First DVD Freedom Tour - its very hard to watch and know that it is happening now in Canada.)


Shan said...

Ah, excellent. And I'm the biggest BC Ferry fan there is, so I'm awfully pleased to read this post.

Seithon said...

The only problem with this comment > "I'll tell you what it is, it's just decency. You can train people all they want but you need to hire decency." Is that more often then not the people doing the hiring often have nothing more then a corporate handbook as their guide and lack any sence of decency or humanity which somehow seems to be surgically removed once your shifted up a few paygrades and have the word manager tacked onto your title somewhere.

Dyniece said...

Another BC Ferries fan here. My Grandfather was wheelchair bound for the last 25 years of his life, and took the ferries often and always had a wonderful trip.

I really like what the gentleman said about decent people. In this day and age it really rings true.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me a bit of this news story.

There were calls on the news for improved training of medical staff about people with intellectual disabilities. Quite frankly, I'm disturbed at the idea that someone already on the wards might not already know that having an intellectual disability doesn't prevent one from needing pain relief or food.

Anonymous said...

I'm a BC Ferry worker who has been working for the company for 21 yrs. I was on the boat for 20 yrs, both on deck and in catering, and now I sell tickets on shore. I love my job.

Thank you all very much for your kind words. Most of us do try, and it's nice to hear some passengers do appreciate it. Happy sailing!!