Be nice to people on your way up, because you’ll meet them on your way down!


I’m not totally sure of the origin of that quote. I personally remember it from one of David Niven’s classic books about the golden age of Hollywood but when I looked it up it is attributed to quite a few people, Walter Winchell, Jimmy Durante or even George Raft for instance so who really said it first I can’t say.

Many years ago I used to be a bus driver. In fact I started work on the buses at the very tail end of the driver and conductor years and one of my colleagues was a guy called Neil. Now Neil was a nice fella but he was also a very rum turkey indeed. Way back then there were conductors like me who were honest, well reasonably honest. There was always the passenger who paid right at the last minute as he was getting off the bus and there wouldn’t be time to snap off a ticket. Those few pence went into the drivers’ and conductors’ brew fund and when we stopped at the next canteen (back in the late seventies and early eighties there was always another canteen on the horizon) I’d get the brews in with those few pence. Of course there were conductors who made a habit of approaching customers who were just getting off the bus and they made a regular brew fund out of those last minute bus fares. Others, those more dishonest ones, and I am sad to say Neil fell into that category, went out of their way not to give out tickets or even issued blank tickets. 

One day Neil got his hands burned. He’d issued a blank ticket to a customer and who should board the bus but the fraud squad. They checked the tickets and pulled Neil up regarding the blank ticket. Neil went to a tribunal where he was accused and faced the sack but an incredible stroke of luck came his way. The fraud squad lost the evidence. They’d misplaced the offending blank ticket and Neil managed to hang onto his job with a stern warning. The fraud squad Inspector, a not very pleasant chap nicknamed Himmler, came up to Neil and told him in no uncertain terms, he had him in his sights and one day he’d get him.

Well, Neil went on to become a driver and then a one man driver and by then, as far as I know, he had left his nefarious past behind him. Still, you never could tell. Some busmen took fare fiddling to a fine art form and it wasn’t always the ones like Neil who were the perpetrators. One guy, I’ll call him Arthur, spent a pretty uneventful life working for the bus company. He never upset anyone, was always on time and was rarely off sick. He was very good with money, and apparently invested his bus driving pay packet well. Of course he was one of the first one man drivers and on a good wage. Anyway, he did really well for himself and owned a nice holiday home in Prestatyn. Good on him you might think. Then he dropped dead one day of a heart attack and a few weeks later his widow came into the depot with Arthur’s spare ticket machine. Spare ticket machine? What spare ticket machine? Nobody had a spare ticket machine! Has the penny has dropped yet? Arthur was issuing tickets and taking fares for himself! Somewhere along the way Arthur had ‘acquired’ another ticket machine. Nice scam. No wonder he had a holiday home in Prestatyn! At least the Depot Inspectors didn’t tell the wife.

Anyway, back to Neil although before going completely to Neil I have to tell you this, Just on the A6 in Levenshulme, we had a small busmen’s canteen. The thing about this canteen was that if you were on the Manchester to Hazel Grove or Stockport route you usually stopped here for your breakfast or lunch. Now if you were going towards Stockport the canteen was actually just by two double yellow lines. Just past the canteen was a turn in to the bus parking bays but if you were due for a meal break and your bus was carrying on to Stockport you had to go through the traffic lights and stop in the lay by, leave your bus and then walk back to the canteen. Now, what most people did was stop on the double yellows then shout into the canteen for the new crew. It was wrong but that’s what we did and no one made a fuss. Anyway, one day an Inspector’s job came available. Various people applied but the guy who got the job was Neil and he decided that his first order of business as an Inspector was to stop buses parking on those double yellow lines! He did so and made himself a very unpopular fellow indeed. He’d wait by the canteen door and ‘book’ any driver stopping on the yellow lines and plenty of times myself and other crews would be coming along, ready to stop and we’d see Neil waving us on so we’d carry on, through the lights and on to the layby.

Now here’s where Neil’s past caught up with him. In those days a new appointment was probationary for six months and Neil went along to an Inspectors’ meeting chaired by one of the senior Inspectors who just happened to be, yes you’ve guessed it, it was Himmler. Now Himmler took Neil to one side. Asked what he was doing in Inspector’s uniform and by the end of the week Neil was back driving his bus and someone else was in charge at Lloyd road.

Neil of course, had upset many people in his short term as an Inspector and he had forgotten the golden rule: Be nice to people on the way up because, well, you know the rest. No one ever spoke to Neil again and he cut a sad figure, shunned by his workmates and always sitting alone in the canteen. Shortly after he packed the job in.

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One response to “Be nice to people on your way up, because you’ll meet them on your way down!

  1. Pingback: My 10 Best Posts of 2015 | Steve's Blog: A sideways glance at the world!

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