Chloe Lin could not imagine what a mess her trip home for a family reunion over the Lunar New Year would have been if she had not stopped at Freeway No. 5’s -Shiding Service Area in northeastern Taiwan.
On Feb. 6, just 10 minutes after Lin’s family got onto Freeway No. 5 — notorious for holiday traffic jams — the 28-year-old found out her baby had diarrhea and that she had run out of diapers.
With no idea where to get diapers, Lin and her husband decided to exit the freeway and enter the service area to try to come up with a solution.
After learning that the convenience stores at the service area did not sell diapers, Lin panicked because they had a long trip ahead of them.
Lin and her family were lucky, though: A service area employee, surnamed Chen (陳), happened to walk by and told them the service center had prepared free diapers for just that kind of situation.
“It’s amazing that they provide this kind of service — with four sizes of diaper to choose from!” Lin said.
Chen and her colleagues are no strangers to such services, however, as they have seen similar situations over the years and are ready to offer a helping hand around the clock.
“We usually keep 50 diapers on hand for those in need because you never know what will happen during a long freeway trip,” Chen said.
Giving out diapers is just one of the many ways the National Freeway Bureau tries to help motorists enjoy a smooth and happy journey. The service areas provide various amenities such as food, drinks, toilets, travel advice — even directions to the closest location for a Wi-Fi connection.
The only thing different this time was that the bureau asked all their 14 service areas nationwide to keep a “benevolence diary” during the Feb. 2 to Feb. 7 Lunar New Year holiday to share the holiday spirit with the public.
“We think it’s nice to send the message during the holiday season that there are always people willing to help, no matter when or where you are,” said an official surnamed Liu (劉) with the bureau’s Toll & Service Division, which oversaw the diary project.
Although a simple action to help others might appear on the surface to be no big deal, Liu said, it is the human touch of the Taiwanese people that makes the country a wonderful place to live. There are many lovely stories in the benevolence diary, he said.
On Feb. 2, service personnel at the Guanmiao Service Area in southern Taiwan helped a driver retrieve his car keys, which had been grabbed by his puppy and thrown into a 1m deep ditch alongside the freeway.
On Sunday, the Jhongli Service Area in northern Taiwan mailed a package to a foreign tourist who lost her backpack in the area. As it contained a glass ornament, the office wrapped it separately in a waterproof raincoat, which reportedly impressed the tourist.
Chen Chuan, a supervisor of the Shiding Service Area, said he felt especially gratified to be able to reach out to people in distress during the Lunar New Year period.
“We often call the freeway patrol to help tourists who have missed their tour buses, but it is very different when you help people at this time of the year,” Chen said.
Chen said that because there are so many people on the road during a short holiday period, people tend to be in more of a rush, more anxious and therefore more likely to encounter difficulties than usual.