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Friday, 28 November 2008

Making friends with buses

In London, where I used to live, bus drivers do not talk to people. They sit, staring straight ahead, thinking about life in Romania, while you beep your Oyster card on the impersonal little pad and move on, like a packet of Shreddies on the belt at Sainsburys. London bus drivers do not acknowledge you. They do not acknowledge people with toddler triplets and a buggy as long as a fish shop queue. They do not acknowledge 106 year old ladies who appear to have cleared the shelves at Lidl just in case war starts. They do not acknowledge the four hoodies at the back of the bus, blasting out Eminem from their mobiles and decorating the backs of the seats with razor etchings. They will sometimes acknowledge the fact that you've rung the bell and want to get off, but this is not guaranteed either, if the news from Romania has not been good.

In Warwickshire, the bus drivers talk. They say 'hello' and they say 'goodbye'. If you say 'thanks' as you get off, they answer, 'alright, love' and make you feel all warm inside. If they know the person who's got on, they'll have a chat about the weather or the football results. Because there's no Oyster card system, they give change for notes without complaining, rather than chucking you off and moving before you've got off the step, like they would in London. They'll shout at young lads taking up the front seats when the Darby & Joan club gets on. They wait until anyone wobbly has found a seat and then move off, unlike London drivers who delight in catapulting old blokes with medals on their jackets down the aisle.

And, in Warwickshire, it's not just the drivers who talk. The buses do, too. In London, if a bus is out of service, it will say so on the front: 'Out of Service'. It's blunt, it's factual, and it's not wasting any time on you. Tough. Just get on with your life and stop moaning. You should try life in a Communist regime, it says. In Warwickshire, the message on the front of the bus is, 'I'm sorry but I'm not in service'. It's a conversation, it's emotional, it's a real apology and it's an acknowledgement that it may well have spoiled your day, and it will try to do better next time. Despite it being a metal box, a Warwickshire bus has more humanity than a London bus driver.

Okay, so it rains more here, I can't get digital so easily and people laugh when I say 'grarrss'. But in Warwickshire, even the buses want to make friends, and that's nice.

2 comments:

  1. Don't get me started about London buses - the evil bendy number 25 is often my only route home late at night and I risk my life every time I do it.

    And why is it the kids that play their music out loud ahve th worst taste in music ever? Why is it never the Beatles? Or a bit of Jeff Buckley? Heck, even Britney would be better, although not by much...

    Bring back bus conductors, that's what I say. And give them kevlar for good measure.

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  2. I am sorry you still have to suffer, CTS. I agree with your suggestion about bringing back conductors, although I had to look up 'kevlar' in the dictionary. Would they get down the aisle?

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