« Actually, I am the instigator of all this, » says Irma Fontijn laughing. « I was the first member of this family to start working on the bus, by now we are all part of the Transdev’s subsidiary Connexxion family ». Sitting in one of the parked buses at the depot in Haarlem, Irma and her husband Raymond, their son Xander and his girlfriend Casey talk about their special bond with the company.
Irma tells that she met Raymond at a shooting club, after which they worked together at a supermarket: « Raymond was Branch Manager there. Before that, he worked in the military. Before that, I worked as a coach driver, I even worked on loan for the NZH network ». In the end, Raymond and Irma joined Connexxion about a year after each other. « And I haven’t regretted that for a moment, » says Raymond. « It’s the best work there is, but unfortunately I had to quit about 10 years ago, » he says visibly affected. Due to illness, Raymond ended up in a wheelchair, so he had to say goodbye to his beloved work as a bus driver. « I’ve had a really hard time with that for at least two years, it took a long time before I was able to give it rest. That was a tough, dark time for me. » Still, he never completely let go of Connexxion: « If there’s any reason for me to come here, I’m here, » he laughs. It’s obvious that the drivers at the depot can appreciate that, because not a minute goes by that he’s not greeted enthusiastically by one of his former colleagues. « I do see a lot of new faces of course, but fortunately there are still plenty of former employees who come to have a chat.
The last couple of years Fontijn family has increased its presence within Connexxion, because a new generation has entered the company. Son Xander followed in his parents’ footsteps some three years ago and has strengthened the ranks of the bus company. « Like my father, I haven’t regretted a minute, » he says cheerfully. « My passion lies in music, so I followed a music education. That didn’t bring what I hoped for. Then I started working as a car detailer, very physical work with all that polishing. After all the enthusiastic stories from my parents, I wanted to apply for a job at Connexxion, but I was only 20 years old. It soon became clear that it’s useful to have family within the company: « My father went on the phone and arranged for me to start training already. In the end, I only got my bus driving license eight days after my 21st birthday ».
Finally, Casey is (for the time being) the last of the family to make her appearance as a bus driver. « Officially not yet a ‘Fontijn’, but almost! » She happily raises her hand with a beautiful engagement ring on it. Casey has a completely different background than the rest of the family: « I worked as a welder at Tata Steel, a very intensive job. The idea of working as a bus driver has always attracted me and with three references within the company, the step was very logical. Now I’ve been on the bus for just over a year and it’s the best step I could have made. »
As a company veteran, Irma can still be found laughing behind the wheel every day, but that’s not difficult according to her: « it’s just the best job in the world! Casey fully agrees with her: « It often doesn’t even feel like work. I like my job so much that I really had a difficult time when the corona crisis sent the temporary workers home. I sat in my bus crying. » Fortunately, Irma, Xander and Casey are back onboard the bus, but Raymond isn’t sitting still either. He is a volunteer at Only Friends, an organization dedicated to making sports accessible for children with a mental or physical disability. « We have already achieved so much with Only Friends. The counter now stands at over 700 children in a total of 27 different sports. We have even accomplished that Ajax now has several of ‘our’ teams that play in competitions, » he says proudly.
With four Fontijn family members connected to Connexxion, the end is not yet in sight, because there is another son. Irma’s vision is therefore clear: « as long as the youngest one still has work in the steel industry, we are not complete yet!