Reasons why Fran needs a gag, not just a mask
The driver, a man in his fifties, was standing outside his bus today, having a sneaky fag in the sunshine before the next trip. I waited to board, slipping on my mask.
'It's a steaming hot day,' he said. 'But I'm not one of those people who moans about the heat.'
One of the talking bus drivers, I realised. They don't all want conversation, and neither might this one, after today.
'That's the best way to be,' I said, glad he'd mentioned it first, because I'd been about to moan about the heat.
'I don't moan when it's cold either,' he said.
Ah. Here I could show more empathy. 'Cardigans all the way for me.'
'Can't stand people who moan,' he said. 'If it's hot, they moan. If it's cold, they moan. They're never happy.' He began to mimic someone complaining. 'Ooooh, it's too hot. Oooh, it's too cold. Moaners, the lot of 'em.'
I shook my head slowly from side to side.
'What's the point in moaning about things?' he said. 'People are bloody miserable.'
'You won't catch me moaning,' he said. 'I just get on with it. Get on with the job. Not the moaning type, me.'
'You must suffer in the heat,' I said, 'in the driver's cab.'
'I do,' he said. 'But do I moan about it? No, I don't. What's the point? It doesn't change anything.'
'Good for you.' I was running out of responses.
He chucked his fag end into the gutter. 'Let's get on this bus,' he said, went up the steps and sat in his cab. 'I'll tell you when I do moan,' he said. 'When it's freezing cold in the winter and the heater in the cab doesn't work. Then I raise hell. The bosses don't know what's coming to them when my heater doesn't work.'
'Right,' I said. 'A single to Rugby Road, please.'
I took my ticket and found a seat half-way down the bus. There was one other passenger, a man sitting behind me.
The bus driver hadn't finished our conversation. 'I'll tell you what,' he shouted down the bus. 'Bloody roadworks on the Coventry Road again, clogging everything up. What a pain. Couldn't get through for love nor money. Bloody council.'
My mouth let out the words before my brain could think about whether they were wise. 'I thought you said you didn't moan!'
I said it with a smile so he knew I was only teasing but, you know, masks ...
|Me and my big mouth|
He stuck his head out of the cab and looked back down the bus. 'Say again, love? I didn't catch that.'
So I had to repeat it, only louder. My fellow passenger must have heard what I'd said so I couldn't pretend and say, 'I said, I love the way you give out the tickets.'
'I thought you said you didn't moan,' I said. The second time, it sounded much more insulting.
There was a pause. Goodbye, world, I thought. I am about to die at the hands of a revengeful bus driver. You could have waited until I was 60, because round numbers are always more satisfactory, but it wasn't a bad run.
'I said, I don't moan about the weather,' he said, put his head back in his cab as though disgusted with me, and started the engine.
Fortunately at that point the noise of the engine took over and I bent my head to my crossword puzzle, praying, I won't lie, that we didn't meet any roadworks.
When we reached my stop, I said to the driver, 'Thanks very much,' and stepped off the bus.
He didn't reply. But that was better than, 'I hope you meet an axe murderer on the way home.'