When I became separated and started living alone, the household hand I sorely missed was the family driver. Ours could do many things beyond his job description, even type lease contracts. But driving being the immediate need, I was forced to buy an automatic car—I couldn’t drive a conventional one.
Driving again for some time without accident, I felt I could brag to Dad that my driving had improved, considering how bad a driver I had been in everybody’s opinion, including my own. Dad was vaguely agreeable. If I did scratch the car a few times against the posts of the parking space for my rented condo, he said, it must have been the posts’ fault—unlike cars or pedestrians, they couldn’t get out of the way.
I drove for several years, hating every minute of it, until my children moved back in with me. I moved out of the two-bedroom condo, bought a house, and hired a driver. Life thus became almost normal again. I’ve never been without a driver since.
I’ve had my fair share of good drivers, finding the right character I needed at the right time. If not for the burly Nestor I could never have gotten rid of Mom’s 25 difficult tenants. Cool Celso was handy with his presence of mind during my first and only experience with car theft.
I’ve also lost a few good ones, because of a favorite maid of mine, who had been perfect until, rather suddenly, she turned out to be quite a seductress of drivers. She had been caught coming out of the driver’s quarters one early morning by my first grandson’s yaya, but before yaya could report the apparent assignation to me, she made up a story about herself catching the yaya spanking my first grandchild, a mere eight-month-old at the time. My daughter-in-law, without a second thought, fired the otherwise efficient yaya.
It was only after this favorite maid of more than 10 years, had left my employ to get married that truth came to light. Apart from making seductive advances on the drivers, she was also carting away towels and linens, stocking up for her trousseau, I presume. It was my laundry woman of as many years who finally told on her. Household help, I’m convinced, don’t rat on each other until the culprit is gone.
A friend from school whose driver, whom we all knew and had been with her for many years, took her to the labor court. That, after giving him benefits far beyond his legal entitlements; she lent him money to build his own house and gave him a share in a franchised water station. He got retirement pay, but he wanted more, so he went to court. She fought him all the way, and won. Still, heartbroken from the betrayal, she hasn’t hired another driver since.
Friends in business tell me female employees, particularly married ones, are more dependable than their male counterparts. Female drivers should make good hires then; for one thing, they’re easy to fit into a household, which is normally all-female, and the complications of domestic affairs are lessened, if not altogether avoided. Hiring male drivers just for the day is another alternative.
Our children are having their own problems with drivers. I thought I’d seen it all, but was shocked to hear their stories, not a few pointing to a not-always reasonable bias for labor on the part of the Department of Labor.
Still, it’s safer to hire drivers recommended by friends, but, because that usually takes time, young moms in carpool arrangements are forced to go to employment agencies. These agencies require police clearances from their applicants, but that is no guarantee. In one case I know, the driver who filed a complaint against his employer did have a police clearance; it was the agency that had an expired business license.
In another case, a couple had to fire their driver of only three weeks for verbally abusing their daughter and the carpool passengers, bringing them to tears; and to scare them even more, he started driving recklessly. When confronted by the parents, he was unrepentant. He was paid his last and fired right then.
That was not the end of it. The couple got a notice from Labor months later ordering them to reply to a complaint of improper dismissal filed by their ex-driver. Someone in the department advised them to settle and thus avoid court action. That meant two months’ separation pay—for three weeks of bad service! The busy couple settled.
They hired someone from another agency. Two weeks into the job, at the crack of dawn, he was frantically knocking on the door of the maids’ room borrowing money from the cook to settle a cockfight loss. He had awakened the whole household and was later sorry. But their two maids came forward to tell on him: He had a gambling habit, and in the short time he had been with them he had run up a debt to them. He was fired.
There must be some way for households to protect themselves against opportunistic or undesirable drivers without the risk of being taken to the labor courts. After all, we entrust our family’s lives, never mind our cars, to them. Perhaps seminars or barangay meetings could bring people with domestic concerns together—to share experiences that might uncover a pattern or modus operandi that might be traced to a syndicate, as is in fact greatly suspected.
There should be an insurance policy to protect us from such circumstances. We need to be educated and forewarned as employers. Some drivers are known to transfer from one house to another in the same neighborhood. Such incidents should be reported and erring drivers banned from the village or community, a practice that seems to be actually catching on.
Employment agencies should also be more careful who they hire out. And barangay leaderships should step in with lawyers or paralegals for guidance and advice, if only to avoid litigation, which no one welcomes at any age.