Monday, December 15, 2008

Life behind the Wheel

Yellow bus driver from Bournemouth, Mario Annicchiarico speaks about the difficulties connected with the job of a bus driver. Is the problem with the system or his character, Tamila Varshalomidze tries to find out.

The strange thing happens straight at the beginning of our talk. I ask him whether he is a happy man and he takes a serious face answering he is a happy man if we talk about the family, but in his job he has no happiness at all. He adds: “It has been 35 years of struggling for me. They (company managers) say you are a skill-man, but they don’t treat you as a skill-man. That’s one of the contradictions to the system.

”The way they created the system is not true. They tell you exactly what you have to do. They use you as a skill and they program you on a certain level.

“When you are in trouble with the passenger or with anything else, the company does not back you. They say you are a professional, you should know how to deal with the situation.”

Mario Annicchiarico, 62, Yellow Bus driver is always the soul of the party. He is the one dancing in a funny way and the one making the saddest person laugh.

His daughter, Joanne Annicchiarico says: “He's a character. He talks a lot, but he is the sweetest man ever. He will do anything for anyone.”

His friend and brother-in-law Carl Holling says: “Mario has always been very good in making jokes and in understanding jokes of other people. This fact made his life in England a bit easier, because Italian and English people have the same sense of humor. Even if he didn’t hear the words he could understand every joke, because just the expression of the person’s face gave him the hint.”

However, his life hasn’t been always cheerful. Mario’s troubles began when he left school at the age of 12 and decided to be on the road. Times where not easy at that time in Italy because of the war, but he says he had a privilege as his father was a pottery man.

“We had lots of artists because my father owned a big oven and he was a pottery man, who used to make pots for selling. We started to see things a little bit different than you would see on the street. We started to speak with people that had some interesting art, which was very nice and plus my father started to rent some studios inside the compound and we started to have different people like painters, sculptures. I was very lucky to meet all those people. They were mostly from different countries. “

Living next to interesting for him people influenced his attitude towards life and later made him think about changing his lifestyle.

“That was the time were I started to enjoy classical music. Before I never thought about it. And I started to work with one sculptor for a few years who used to take me to a piano concert. His wife was a dancer and I have even done two or three weeks with her dancing. I was very interested in it, but I couldn’t carry on, because I was too busy with other things. And this has been very interesting. You could see that there are not just ordinary people who follow the routine every day for years.

“I saw that artists lived with their companions without marriage for years and they were happy. In Italy this was very odd. So all these things affected me and pushed me to change my lifestyle.

“He got very excited while remembering all these things, but the question about his previous jobs makes him sad and embarrassed again. He answers reluctantly that his first job was working as a butcher, which was followed by carpentry, upholstering, welding, molding and many others. But he says with pleasure that he was the happiest person ever when he was working with the Argentinean sculptor.

“The job I enjoyed was when I was in Rome with the artist (sculptor). That was a pleasure, because you were treated as a skill man. He didn’t say “do this”, he would say “can we do this?”

"And for example when it was very hot we were going all to the sea. And after that we were coming back with the artist itself and continued to work until 8 or 9 o’clock at night. There was not really a timetable or the time you have got to start or finish. With the artist there were no boundaries. We had a work to do, but it was up to us how to do it best way and just enjoy it. We were doing the work because we enjoyed it. Every time it was different. One day you use cement, but another day you use clay, metal, ceramic. There was no monotony going on like a production.”

Mario’s brother-in-law, Carl Holling says Mario has always had a clash of personality with the management of any job. He is the person, who hates boundaries and set of rules.
Mario says: “I have even been in contact with lots of priests, because the artists do things for the church. And I had another experience, which put me out of religion for what they (priests) were doing. I started to ask too many questions to myself and obviously you don’t get answers so you start to read. That was when I got interested and started to read after years of no study at all. “

The search for the truth that started from the religion led him to the books and later pushed his interests towards the direction of politics, philosophy and many others. He understood that it was a mistake to stop studying at school and advises all the young people to study well because it will change their lives for better.

His daughter says: “When I was a lot younger he owned his own coffee bar and restaurant, so I didn't see him as much as I would like. He worked really long hours, but he has always been there for me. In fact when my mum and I go through tough times he is always the one to make the peace between us. Unfortunately he never helped me much with my homework as his English is not up to scratch, but he was always telling us stories and entertaining us. I have many wonderful memories from my childhood due to the love that both my mum and dad gave me.”

Mario and his English wife Hilary have two sons and a daughter, who give sense to his life, he says. He adds: “My father was irresponsible. He wasn’t a good father for me. He died very young, 55, of alcoholism. So I never wanted my children to experience anything like that. That’s why I worked so hard as soon as Hilary got pregnant. I was doing two-three jobs a day and sleeping only about four hours a day. I had created my own family and I wanted my family to be happy.”

Mario Annicchiarico advises every young person to study and fight for their better future.

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