LEP: The Bus Ride

This column first appeared in the Lancashire Evening Post.


It is Tuesday and I am on a bus that smells like wee. Because that’s what people do on Tuesdays, they wee on busses.

I let the old lady on first as we board and make an effort to be overly nice to the driver while paying.

“Have a great day,” I said and he looked a little alarmed, like great days are things that happen to other people.

I shuffle up the bus and grab a ‘Metro’ newspaper on my way past.

“It’s just Brexit and bloody Donald Trump” croaked an old man, sat in those seats by the newspapers with the excessive legroom. Every bus has one of these guys.

I picked my seat carefully. Left hand side, middle of the row – by the window. Unassuming. Just out of shot of the croaky old man but with a perfect view of the road, ready to make my move once my stop comes into view; just after we pull onto the high street, not a moment before and not a moment later. Two teenage boys played videos out loud on their phone and giggled at their in-jokes about Jason’s Mum and what Darren said to Stacey at the weekend.

We roared away from the bus stop, driver wondering if he could in fact have a great day and the smell of urine exaggerated by the warmth of the engine. I settle in my seat and flick open my ‘Metro’ to ‘Brexit Shambles’ and ‘Trump Tweet Offends Australia’.

This is textbook.

DING’ went the bell and the ‘STOPPING’ sign lights above the driver. A woman maneuvers to her feet and steadies herself – uniform under a coat with her hood already up and headphone in. Off to work? Nurse? Carer?

Then, ‘DING’. People have never trusted the bell unless they press it themselves. A middle-aged man with a mono-brow and an oversized coat – three seats ahead on the right hand side. But wait, he hasn’t stood up. The bus stops and the woman slinks off. The man is still here as we pull away. Strange. He must have misjudged. Gone too early. It happens. We’ve all been there.

‘DING’ and up pops a man in a suit. Not a natural bus traveller, unsure of his surroundings and hesitant at best. Then, ‘DING’. Mono-brow again. Rooted to his seat. No intention of alighting. Then again as a Chinese lady and a woman with a pram shove their way past and off at their stops.

This is new. This is not in keeping with the rich tradition of riding a bus. Who is this joker abusing the rules of the stop button? Taunting us with incessant pressing.

What if this is a new initiative from the bus company? Ensuring the driver knows without doubt that somebody wants to get off. Maybe a bus company executive has given a presentation in warm boardroom to some wealthy people in suits with bad breath, concerned at the startling number of stops that are missed in the name of bad stop button use. And now they have employed this man to ride round and round in an oversized coat, double pressing the stop button. Maybe they have trained him? He is privileged with knowing the exact sweet spot of the button, the precise angle at which to attack and ensure maximum ‘DING’ and perfect illuminated sign.

Well, it’s irritating and confusing. I can’t focus on pretending to know what is happening with Brexit and the constant double ‘DING’ is ringing around my head. What did I do to deserve this? I let the old lady on first and was overly nice to the driver. I have done everything right.

I glance out the window as the mist of my confusion lifts. Wait – Pound Kingdom, Burger Bar, the Bingo hall and Nationwide – the high street! We have turned. We have turned and I have missed it. Damn this man. He has distracted me and now I…

‘DING’ – and then the light. Driver glances in the mirror and pulls in. My stop. Just after we pull onto the high street. Mono-brow still rooted to the spot, his oversized coat grazing the seat as his hand comes down from the bell.

I nod to him as I mope past and he gives a knowing smile.

I will never know this mans story, or who convinced him that coat was a good idea. But today he is my saviour.

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By Darryl Morris

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