Volunteer hospital car driver Robert Norris thought he knew how to get from A to B fairly uneventfully. Sometimes, however, his passengers have other ideas, not least entertaining him with stories from their lives and the occasional unexpected detour.
Here, Robert, who is a volunteer for South East Coast Ambulance Voluntary Car Service, reveals a few reminiscences. They include one from a man who saw Hitler at a pre-war rally in Germany and two former sailors who discovered they had served on the same battleship.
Robert said: “I have been driving for the South East Coast Ambulance Voluntary Car Service for over seven years. I thought it would be interesting and amusing to recount some memorable journeys and also challenges that we volunteers come up against driving to and from various hospitals.
“One of the first things you learn is to never trust your patient – they often suggest alternative routes and short cuts but stick to your guns and go the way you know.
“On one occasion, I was called to collect a lady in Crawley and return her to Burgess Hill. I was taking her home so what could possibly go wrong? After driving down the A23 to Burgess Hill I asked for directions to her home. ‘I am sorry,’ she said. ‘I suffer with short- term memory loss and have no idea where I live!’
“I collected a man in his 80s from Haywards Heath going to the Royal Sussex with a pick up on the way of another man of similar age in Burgess Hill. They were both very reserved and just said a polite ‘hello’ in the car. On the return it was a different story – it appeared they had both been in the Navy and both served for a time on the same ship (a battleship, I believe) in the Mediterranean in the early 1950s.”
Robert added: “More recently I was asked to collect a retired vicar, aged 94, from a retirement home. He told me that when he was training in Cambridge in the mid-1930s he and five others were sent to Berlin. During his time there he went to a rally with many thousands of people and, who should the speaker be but an up-and-coming young man called Hitler. I find it remarkable that sitting next to me was somebody who had seen Hitler.”