A recent communique from the supervisor of the Terminal Division, Ishorne Cesar, to bus drivers at the West Bus Station has ruffled a few feathers. The supervisor, in a hand delivered memo, has addressed the issue of proper dress attire for bus drivers, and a few people are annoyed. As you can well guess, the retort to the missive is the ‘I am self-employed so you can’t tell me what to do’ argument.
While we are sure many would relish the chance to debate the concept of being “self-employed,” we are going to concede that point and move on to what we view are the stronger arguments on this matter. From our point of view, the issue of professionalism in the service industry should trump all. It is hard for us to believe that any of our bus drivers would want to argue against projecting a professional image to their clients, and we note that the bus association is said to fully support the memo, so we can only presume that those objecting to it are in the minority.
We know you should never judge a book by its cover, but ask yourself, are you, as a passenger, more trusting of a driver who presents himself or herself in a tidy, professional manner or one who looks like they rolled out of bed and could care less. In these types of cases, the driver is considered a reflection of his or her vehicle. Torn, messy clothes signal to a passenger that the vehicle may be maintained in a similar manner. The thought process being: if he or she can keep himself or herself in that kind of shape, how do they keep their vehicle?
That moves us on to the safety aspect of this argument. One of the drivers complained that he should not be forced to wear closed shoes because they are uncomfortable when he wears them for extended hours. Fine, no one wants to force someone to be uncomfortable, but at the same time, slippers are probably not the best choice for operating a motor vehicle. There may be no law against barefoot driving or using flip-flops, but for a professional bus driver, safety and common sense would dictate something more appropriate. This is especially true for anyone operating a manual transmission with a stick shift. To mash any of the pedals, you would want to have a sure footing and eliminate the risks of slipping off the pedal. Slippers are easy to slip-on and to slip-off, so it is only sensible that you would want shoes that fit snugly and protect your heel from abrasion.
Now let’s move on to another key point made by Caesar. He said, “Bus and taxi drivers are ambassadors of Antigua and Barbuda so they must be attired appropriately.” How do you argue against that? Image is key to perceptions. As shallow a statement as that may be, it is a reality. Human beings are visually stimulated, so image sets the tone for the relationship, and it does not matter if that relationship lasts only for a short bus ride.
Most of all, dress properly for yourself. As much as we may want to ignore it, we are all programmed. Our social conditioning directs our decision-making based upon how we perceive a person, and that is largely influenced by how they dress. Some people refer to it as the psychology of dressing well. A well-dressed person in any service industry, be it bartender, waiter, or anything else, gets more tips than do their co-workers who dress sloppily. People who dress well are generally considered more educated and believable as well; whether they are or not. It is just how we are conditioned to think. And try as we might, there is no way around that way of thinking.
And if you have chosen to be a bus driving ambassador then it comes with some rules – some 20 year-old rules! Just like having a license and insurance, dress appropriately for your guests. So, while we are lovers of our freedoms and generally push back at unnecessary regulations and laws, we can certainly see the merit in a regulation like this dress code. Plus, we cannot really understand an argument against looking good.