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The Stories Behind: The TikTok sensation who ditched college offers to become a bus driver like his godmother

HOW HE MET HIS GODMA

On one of his frequent bus spotting trips in 2012, when he was 13, he met the lady who would later become his godmother at one of the bus interchanges in Yishun.

She was a bus captain who had been assigned to run a new bus service and decided to get on one of the buses to familiarize herself with the route.

Mr Tay and his friends also boarded the same bus as they were eager to experience the new route. Noticing that they were the only few passengers standing in the front paying close attention to where the bus was heading and taking pictures, they ended up talking to each other.

“At first I thought she was just another friendly bus captain and I didn’t think much about it. I thought it would probably be a hello and a goodbye,” he recalled.

But they ended up exchanging phone numbers and kept in touch via WhatsApp. He also occasionally checked in with her on what bus service she was driving that day, so he could visit her on her bus, as well as have meals together.

And who would have thought that three years later, they would become godmother and godson.

“She suggested that she become my godmother because of the special bond we had. She was always like a mother figure to me,” Mr Tay said.

They also share a “special tradition”, where Mr Tay and his friends visited her every Chinese New Year with oranges in hand – not at her house, but on the bus she drove that day.

“So we were his visitors instead, on his bus,” he added with a smile.

His godmother, who declined to be named as she is media shy, said having a godson like Mr Tay is an “honor”.

“He always comes to visit me and supports me. Every time I see him and his friends visiting me or taking my bus, I feel very happy,” the 56-year-old said in Mandarin.

FOLLOW HIS FOOTSTEPS

Over the years, as Mr. Tay took his buses more regularly, his kindness and dedication to work left a deep impression on him.

“So far she has never complained about wanting to quit. And she goes out of her way to provide good customer service, like getting out of her seat to escort the elderly on the bus and she always pays extra attention passenger needs,” he said.

“So I thought maybe I could be in his shoes one day and try what it’s like to drive a bus.”

In 2021, Mr Tay got his break when his friend who works at private bus company A&S Transit offered him a part-time job as a driver.

So, at the age of 22, he completed his class 4 driving license and professional license course, while still in National Service (NS).

Despite initial reluctance from his parents, Mr Tay jumped at the chance and took the job in July this year after completing his NS.

The former Temasek Polytechnic student had done well enough to receive offers from National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University and Singapore Management University to continue his studies.

“But I told my parents that I was following my passion. In the end, they decided to let me do what I love to do,” he said.

For now, Mr. Tay has no plans to pursue further studies and aims to work in the operations department of a public transport company in the future.

This would involve planning the list of bus captains and managing bus services.

Even though most people may feel that bus driving is for older people, he pointed out that there are a number of young drivers in Singapore, some even younger than him.

Although driving a bus is his passion, Mr Tay said the job comes with its own set of challenges, such as impatient drivers who refuse to yield to buses as well as unfriendly customers.

“And when I started, I couldn’t figure out where the back of the bus was,” he said, adding that driving a bus and a car are very different.

“But there’s this sense of satisfaction because you’re driving a lot of people around. It’s different from just sitting on a bus,” he said with a smile.