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Home Sittingbourne News Article
A bus driver has told how people cross the road to avoid him - because of his facial tattoos.
Neil Collins, who drives Arriva buses in Swale and Maidstone from the Sheerness depot, thinks people wrongly assume he is a thug because of his appearance.
But the 38-year-old, who believes his problem is made worse because he owns a Staffordshire bull terrier, claims he is "one of the nicest blokes you'll ever meet"... and is planning to have more tattoos.
Mr Collins, from Milton Regis, had a tribal design etched around his right eye three years ago.
Then last year he had the pattern enlarged and joined to one on the side of his head, making it even bigger.
"I was always the one being bullied at school. I just wanted to feel that people were not going to mess with me. It has given me more confidence..." - bus driver Neil Collins
He said: "People do stare, and if there's a group they will comment between themselves.
"Customers, the ones that get to know me, they speak to me but there are some that won't.
"I do talk to people about it if they ask. They usually want to know if it hurt. It didn't, actually.
"I've got a Staffordshire bull terrier and, when I'm walking him, looking like I do, I've had people cross the road to avoid me.
"I'm sure a lot of people think I'm vicious or maybe a thug, but they don't know me. I'm probably one of the nicest blokes you'll ever meet.
"If they want to be that shallow that they can't see through the tattoos, that's their problem. I don't bite.
"I'm an easy-going bloke. Don't judge a book by its cover."
His first piece of body art was a scorpion on his left arm just above his watch line at the age of 25.
He now has 23 inkings on his arms, neck and the back of his head - and he is planning to have more work done in the near future.
But what was it that made the former Westlands School pupil decide to have one done on his face?
He said: "I was talking to someone about having it done and they asked why I didn't get one like Mike Tyson.
"It was a bit of a dare. But I thought 'why not?' The week after I went to Skin Illustrations in East Street, Sittingbourne, and had it done."
He added: "I was always the one being bullied at school. I just wanted to feel that people were not going to mess with me. It has given me more confidence.
"I've had drunk people say to me: 'I suppose you think it makes you hard.' I've never had a fight in my life, and if I did I'd probably lose."
Mr Collins, of Hall Close, did not tell his employer he was having it done, though.
He said: "I did have a tattoo done at the same time, which probably got me off the hook. It's of a bus on my left forearm in Arriva's colours."
Asked if he regrets the facial artwork, Mr Collins said: "I often forget I've got it.
"But I think if I was ever unemployed I would struggle to find work."
Arriva spokesman Richard Lewis said: "As a company we have no problem with our employees wearing tattoos, providing that they do not display imagery or lettering that could cause offence.
"Neil is a valued member of our team at the Sheerness depot, and his tattoo does not detract from his ability to carry out his work to a consistently good standard."
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