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

SINGAPORE — My first impression of Mr Matthew Tay upon meeting him face-to-face was that he looked even younger than I expected. 

Mr Matthew Tay in his bedroom, which is full of bus memorabilia, on Aug 18, 2022.

Mr Matthew Tay in his bedroom, which is full of bus memorabilia, on Aug 18, 2022.

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Every so often, the internet thrusts ordinary people into the public eye. But as quickly as they come, they tend to fade away from the limelight soon after. In this series, TODAY journalists talk to some of these viral sensations to find out who they really are behind the social media screen and how their lives were affected by their fleeting fame.

 

  • Mr Matthew Tay, known as idrivebus on TikTok, uploads videos about his job as a bus driver
  • In one of his videos, which garnered over 50,000 views, he spoke about how his godmother inspired him to become a bus driver 
  • He met her on one of his "bus spotting" trips when he was 13
  • He had offers to enter university, but decided to follow his passion for buses

SINGAPORE — My first impression of Mr Matthew Tay upon meeting him face-to-face was that he looked even younger than I expected. 

I had seen the part-time bus driver through a video he uploaded on TikTok, which has garnered over 50,000 views to date. 

In it, the 23-year-old talked about how he had met a public bus captain and became friends with her while taking the same bus in 2012. 

She became his godmother three years later, inspiring him to take bus driving as a career. 

We were conducting the interview at 2 Fish Farm Road 2. 

Upon arriving at around 9am, what greeted me was not a fish farm, but a large open air car park filled with various buses. Walking around, I finally spotted Mr Tay’s bus — a grey single-decker one with a pink stripe and the company’s name A&S printed on the side. 

Peering into the vehicle, I noticed that he had already arrived and was diligently mopping the floor, making sure everything was spick and span. 

After exchanging greetings and settling down for the interview — in the bus itself, he shared with me how his love for buses had led him to meet his godmother. 

BUS LOVER SINCE YOUNG 

For Mr Tay, his passion for buses began when he was seven. That was when he started “paying more attention to his surroundings” and found that the sheer variety of bus designs was interesting. 

He would frequently draw buses in his free time and the first one he sketched was a public bus that stopped near his home. 

Then in 2010, when he was 11, a newspaper article Mr Tay chanced upon led him to his community — other fellow “bus enthusiasts” who would go for weekly bus spotting sessions and talk about buses on their Facebook group, which had amassed about one to two hundred followers at the time.  

“I realised it’s not only me that likes buses, there is a group of people that likes buses too, so why not just join this Facebook group,” he said. 

“And when I joined, I made lots of friends and we went out to take photos of buses together. And from there, the passion evolved from just taking photos to eventually driving buses together.” He added that within his close group of five, three of them are now driving buses. 

When his parents found out about his passion, they started taking him to various bus interchanges as well to collect brochures that detailed the various bus routes.

“I will keep them and they will become treasures in a few years to come because the route may get amended or cancelled,” said Mr Tay. 

When asked what his favourite bus was, he had a visibly hard time deciding but finally settled with “bendy buses”.

“They are very cool. When they turn and you're sitting behind, the front goes in a different direction," he said, his eyes lighting up. 

HOW HE MET HIS GODMA 

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

She was a bus captain who had been assigned to drive a new bus service and decided to hop on one of the buses to familiarise herself with the route. 

Mr Tay and his friends also boarded the same bus as they were eager to check out the new route. Noticing that they were the only few passengers standing at the front paying extra attention to where the bus was heading to and taking photos, they ended up chatting with one another. 

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

But they ended up exchanging phone numbers and kept in contact over WhatsApp. He would also check in occasionally with her to see which bus service she was driving that day, so he could visit her by taking 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 became my godma because of the special bond that we had. She has always been like a motherly figure to me,” Mr Tay said. 

They also share a “special tradition”, where Mr Tay and his friends would visit her every Chinese New Year with oranges in hand — not at her home, but on the bus she was driving that day. 

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

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

“He always comes and visits me, and supports me. Whenever I see him and his friends visit me or take my bus, I feel very happy,” the 56 -year-old said in Mandarin.  

Mr Matthew Tay has followed his passion to become a part-time bus driver.

FOLLOWING IN HER FOOTSTEPS 

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

“Up to now, she has never complained that she wants to quit. And she goes out of her way to provide good customer service like getting out of her seat to escort the elderly up the bus and she always pays special attention to the passengers’ needs,” he said. 

"So I thought maybe I could be in her shoes one day and try out how 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 took his Class 4 driving licence and vocational licence course, when he was still in National Service (NS). 

Despite his parents' initial misgivings, Mr Tay jumped at the chance, taking on the job in July this year after he completed his NS.

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

“But I told my parents 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 does not have intentions of pursuing further studies and is aiming to work in the operations department at a public transport company in the future. 

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

Even though most people might have the impression 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 give way to buses as well as ungracious customers. 

"And when I first started I couldn't figure out where the bus' rear was," he said, adding that driving a bus and a car is very different. 

"But there's that sense of satisfaction because you get to drive a lot of people. It's different from just sitting in a bus," he said with a smile.

Now, Mr Tay has moved on to work as an interchange supervisor at bus operator Tower Transit. 

It was a job he started on Aug 22, after TODAY interviewed him, although he received the job offer sometime earlier.

Mr Tay told TODAY that he applied for a few public transport roles, but was particularly keen on the interchange supervisor role that Tower Transit offered. 

According to Mr Glenn Lim, the communications and customer experience director at Tower Transit, Mr Tay's job involves rotating between the Yishun, Sembawang and Woodlands bus interchanges where he provides assistance to commuters and ensures that buses depart on time.

Mr Tay said that stepping into the depot on his first day to undergo training was a dream come true for him. 

"Since I was a kid, I have been spotting and photographing buses, so it is really quite surreal for me now to be so intimately involved in Tower Transit’s bus operations," he said.  

When asked if he felt sad about ceasing to drive buses so soon, he said: "It was a little bitter sweet. I've come to really enjoy driving over the past few months, and I hadn't expected to receive a job opportunity in public transport so soon.

"But this role has given me new insights into other areas of bus operations which I'm starting to really appreciate." 

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