Yerevan is an ‘early bird’ city. On the contrary, it is also a night owl, as well. At 6am scores of trolley buses, marshutkas (minibuses), and trams join taxis and clang along the streets of Armenia’s capital without pause until midnight.
Drivers at the helms of this army of vehicles are on the constant move, yet sitting still, watching the flow of humanity getting on and getting off. For long hours - time with families and beloved ones have to be crafty tailored around long shifts that can last up to 16 hours per day, cumulating in around a AMD100000 ($200) monthly salary. Encapsulated in this working-space-on-wheels, drivers surround themselves with colour - artificial flowers, fluffy animals, tiny toys, crosses of any size and decor, religious icons, and patriotic quotes that adorn their world on the move, with passengers often chipping in.
Norayr Sazbandyan37, has been driving a trolleybus for six years. The father of three used to work in an obsidian stone factory for 7-9 years. But he had to quit his job because of financial reasons; the price of the stone had rapidly decreased and it wasn’t profitable to continue.
As a teenager Albert Mkrtchyan spent long hours traveling with his father. Yet, his travels never took him outside the perimeter of Yerevan. His dad was a trolleybus conductor. Now 22 and the father of eight month-old twin daughters, Mkrtchyan stepped into his father’s shoes and has been at the helm of the capital’s trolleybus for four years.
Driving is in Armen Hakobyan’s blood, as both his father and uncle were conductors - as a child he used to sit quietly next to his father while at the trolleybus’ steering wheel, recording his moves and all possible technical details. Once an adult, he got at the same steering wheel. Now 41, he has been on the job for 18 years. As a bachelor, he ended up marrying the daughter of a colleague. The trolleybus may be off of his son’s future though. “I’d like him to be a dentist,” he says.
Edgar Zakaryan has been conducting a marshutka for ten years, piling up small decorations in the vehicle for most of this time. “It is a personal pleasure,” says the 34 years old.
Arman Khojoyan is 36. He has been driving a trolleybus for around 6 months. Before, he used to be a driver of a mini bus, which was connecting the suburbs to the center of Yerevan. Khojoyan decorates his trolleybus, because he wants to be surrounded by beauty and color.
There are always sweets, candies, and small toys available on the mini bus that Hrant Aghekyan has been driving for 50 years. He loves children. “Little treats make them happy and calm them down if they cry.”
28-year-old Samvel Ghukeyan’s hobby is to decorate his vehicle with artificial flowers, as they make it more pleasant the long hours on the road.
“I love to be behind the steering wheel when all around me looks nice,” says Murad Gevorgyan, 60, who decorates his trolleybus with artificial flowers, photos of models and religious icons. He has been a driver for 26 years. Gevorgyan’s two sons left Armenia and currently live in Russia. His wife visits them often to look after and care for their grandchildren.
Driving the trolleybus is serious business for Suren Bazyan as he states, “it is the safest means of transport.” Driven by a sense of pride, the 34-year-old father of two keeps the vehicle he has been driving for nine years spotless.