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Guiding travelers a labor of love

By HUANG ZHILING | China Daily | Updated: 2013-02-07 02:20

Guiding travelers a labor of love

Zhang Yun (left) helps three blind men board a train bound for Nanchong in Sichuan province on Monday. [HUANG ZHILING / CHINA DAILY]

Chen Mei was wary when first approached by Zhang Yun, an employee in the waiting hall of Chengdu Railway Station in Sichuan province on Monday morning.

The blind masseuse, who was traveling alone, kept asking Zhang where he was taking her, but she was assured that Zhang's job was to help the elderly, weak, sick and handicapped board their train.

Once she was aboard the train for Chong-qing, Chen was happy and repeatedly thanked Zhang after she heard one of his colleagues calling Chongqing Railway Station to make sure they gave her a helping hand when she arrived.

"Many people with disabilities who might have been cheated somewhere else do not trust me when I offer to lead them to the train. But after I promise them that it is a free service, they feel comfortable with my help," Zhang said.

Zhang, 39, has worked at the station since 2011. He does not know how many passengers he has helped.

Spring Festival is a busy time for him. Within three hours on Monday morning, he had accompanied four blind people to their trains.

From 8 am to 6:30 pm, Zhang greets passengers who might need assistance. When he and his 10 colleagues find somebody who has difficulty walking, they use wheelchairs to escort them to their trains.

"The station, which was built 60 years ago, has no elevators leading to platforms. Each time we have to push the wheelchair to a platform we walk 1 km and another back. We are all so exhausted during Spring Festival because so many people need wheelchairs," Zhang said.

He considers helping people in wheelchairs get to the train better than talking to passengers in the waiting hall.

"Each day, we have to talk for at least seven hours. There's an endless stream of people who ask the same questions, like 'Where is the toilet?', 'What is the direction to the train?' and 'Which floor is the train on?'" he said.

Constantly talking with passengers is a strain on Zhang's throat, and he has to drink plenty of water.

Because of Zhang's easy temperament and his attentiveness to people seeking help, there is a saying among frequent passengers: "Ask Zhang Yun for help when you have difficulties".

Sometimes, people misinterpret the saying, and those who have difficulty buying tickets bang on his desk and curse him.

After they let off steam, Zhang informs them the station only sells tickets that have not been sold online or booked through telephone.

"We also relate how we cannot buy tickets for relatives in the station, and they are angry because they do not believe that people who work in the station cannot get tickets," Zhang said.

Despite the heavy pressures of the job, Zhang is moved by his colleagues, who consider it an honor to help people in need. "Ren Xianlan is 54 and will retire next year. But she wheels disabled passengers many times a day. Xue Liang, 25, became a father on Jan 21. Only seven days later he returned to work," Zhang said.

He is happy when passengers show their gratitude by offering him a handful of peanuts, an orange or several eggs from their luggage.

"Of course, I never take their gifts, because it is my duty. But their gesture of kindness makes me feel really happy," Zhang said.

According to Chen Jingwei, an official at the station, Zhang once found an old bag containing 130,000 yuan ($20,600) in an area that was not covered by security cameras in the station at night.

"Without hesitation, he reported his find to police who found its owner — a migrant worker," she said.

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