Bookmen. Bookmen. Am I the only one who thinks they are not necessary at our stations? Am the only one who has no idea why their role exists? No, really.
So my mum once told me about how bookmen came to be, since her dad owned a commercial vehicle.
In those days, travelers were scarce. It was pointless parking at a station and waiting for the car to load because it would most likely produce very low results. What the bookmen did therefore was to make note of all the people who intended traveling from one place to another. Once he got a list of people that could fill up a vehicle, he would call up a driver. Now mind you, it could take about a week or so to get a full list. When the driver arrives, ta da! He will have passengers without sweating. Now this kind of deal definitely needs a reward. The bookman must surely be paid.
Fast forward to today. Who are bookmen? They are those who help the mate to call out the destination the trotro is going to and then hustle the driver/mate to be paid. They hardly ever seem satisfied with what they are given. And yet, I keep asking myself, what have they done? What work do they do to deserve ¢2.00 or ¢3.00 per trotro? Can anyone help me understand this better? I mean, even I can call out the destinations. Can’t I?
The worst happens when you get to the station and there’s no car available. They are the ones who will “help” you stand in a queue. The fact that they have laboured and toiled to get the passengers to stand in a queue means that they deserve to be paid. Really?
Somehow too, in this kind of scenario, they also have the right to deny a trotro the chance of picking up stranded passengers. It happened to me once. The bookmen had us in a queue waiting for the station cars which are all loading taxis. A trotro driver had closed the day and was going home which was exactly where we were going. The driver stopped at the station to pick us, but the bookmen refused. Picture this, a long queue of passengers, an empty trotro, but the bookman selfishly wants us to wait for the station taxis. Oh were we bored! It was downright annoying. But no, no amount of our anger could get us into the trotro. We had to wait. Sigh.
Maybe the transport ecosystem understands them better. But do they really? I hardly see a good relationship between drivers/mate and the bookmen. So if no one likes them, why do they still exist?
Are they doing something so important that I have not noticed yet? Someone, help me!