Here’s the story of introversion, buses, and Lord Kitchener.
Do you remember the first time you got on the wrong bus? You didn’t know what was happening. You were conflicted. You couldn’t get off or else you’d be stranded in a strange new world. You couldn’t ask the driver because your ma told you not to talk to strangers. This also ruled out asking any other passenger. But eventually, you’d reach as far as you could go and you’d have to get off. And you’d have no money to get home. Stranded. You can’t ring your family for help because you don’t know where you are. You couldn’t even ask a stranger for some money. I did that once after my bus fair was nicked. He told me to sod off. “Ah, all you kids these days – all drink and drugs – I’m not giving you money.” Which was rather nice of him. It was only one pound. I’ve never done drugs before, but I’m pretty sure there isn’t a lot you could purchase with one pound…
Of course, it’s entirely possible he was referring to drink, but I’m also pretty sure alcohol hasn’t cost one pound since nineteen dickety two. I couldn’t have called anyone for help, either. We didn’t have mobile phones then, and now I’m starting to sound old. Well, we didn’t have mobile phones as we know them today. So bloody expensive. And I couldn’t have asked a friend who may have lived nearby because I didn’t have any friends then… Or now. Sniff. I was so close to walking. All five miles. I couldn’t have done that. I have a dodgy heart. And legs. And everything else. I’m more bits than a whole at this point, to be honest.
Eventually, he relented and gave me the pound. I still wonder why his wife never said anything. Probably agreed with him. Probably met whilst he was serving under Lord Kitchener. It is nice to see that there are still people in the world willing to help you out in times of need… Eventually. After much internal debate. And with heavy reluctance.
I remember a time when buses didn’t have bells. That makes me sound incredibly old, too. You had to run to the front of the bus and tell the driver to stop. Kind drivers did just that. Less kind drivers made you wait until the next stop, because you often missed your stop by the time you got to the doors. Really mean drivers slammed their breaks on and let you off. Bear in mind you were at the front holding on to a flimsy metal pole. Slammed breaks equalled a brief ‘Superman’ moment…
Of course, many of you would argue that I should’ve sat at the front to avoid becoming a human pancake. True, but the front seats are priority seats for the elderly, disabled and pushchairs. Our buses also have only one set of doors. Well, two if you count the emergency exit, which some kids did open to deliberately set off the rather cheery alarm. Sounded less like an alarm and more like the start of YMCA. Of course, when the bells did arrive, they arrived at Christmas. Gone was The Village People, in was a bad rendition of Jingle Bells.
“STOP RINGING THE BELLS, YOU SCAMP!”
Ah, that was the last time I heard anyone say the word ‘scamp’. Glory days…
It was also dangerous sitting toward the back of the bus. That’s where the school kids sat, who mercilessly hurled spitballs at me and messed my hair up. If you were really unlucky, you had to sit right at the back with the older kids. The seats had burn marks on them where they were set on fire with lighters or where cigarettes were put out. There were also some bodily fluids I’d rather like to forget I had to sit next to. These public buses now have CCTV and smoke alarms, so it doesn’t happen anymore. A third option was to stand, but those buses were crammed and you often fell over in the scrum. That was either good or bad depending on what you landed on. Old person? Bad. A young mother’s bosom? Well…
There were also the double-deckers. Before the time of CCTV, boy, those upper decks sure were unruly. Nothing but children. Oh, man. I may have been one, but I really hated them. Smoking was banned but they just opened a window and leant out. You remember that old guy who initially didn’t give me any money? Those upper decks smelt like what I imagine the pubs he misses smelt like.
Oh gee, I just remembered the emergency bus tickets. Now that makes me feel old. Don’t give them out anymore. I got one once. Still have it. It is a little piece of cardboard they gave you with the company name on it. They gave you it if they were out of paper tickets. The driver had to write on it the bus number, code and so on. With a pencil! Ah, no fancy ink back then. It’s from 2001! It’ll be worth a fortune. Ah, memories.
I’m not young anymore. Shouldn’t be scared of buses going off grid. I know my town fairly well these days. Even got myself one of these newfangled mobile telephones last month or so. I forget when. It’s an amazing technological whizzy thingy. Except when it runs out of money. It would be good if you could transfer the money, wouldn’t it? “Oh no! No bus fair! Ah, well, I have three pound on my phone, can I transfer it across and use that, instead?” I think that’s a good idea. I have 74 pence on my iTunes. Never gonna use that. But, like with the phone, it’s still my bloody money! You see, you see? Everyone should come to me for new ideas. I get literally three or four new ones a month.
The only time I got the wrong bus it actually ended up at the same destination I was headed, meaning I now knew of two buses I could get. But it was still scary. They changed our bus service recently. I had to get one of the new services, which goes a different route, for the first time this week. Whilst not the wrong bus, I knew I had to get on it all week, and I’ve been worried. Where will it go? I couldn’t figure it out. What if I’m not on time to my appointment? What number do I ring? What if I’m lost? What if this? What if that? What if – ARRRRRRGH!
I didn’t want to get on it.
Life isn’t easy for some of us.
There was one young woman who got on that bus. She seemed nice. Chatting to the driver. Nice to see a young person being sociable. What? Oh, okay, I know I’m turning in to that old guy in the bus shelter. Maybe it is me from the future. Hmm. Anyway, she looked comfortable, but now and again, she looked my way. I probably looked really nervous, I was constantly checking my watch. Looking around like a pigeon looking for gullible tourists to stuff them. I probably looked like a right tool. I could see her out of the corner of my eye. Introversion has done this to me, we’re all constant worriers. And some days it’s tolerable and other days it’s not, but there’s something about Christmas, every year, when it’s at its worst.
I’m not having a go at that young woman for staring at me. Along with a few other people. But can I just ask that everybody understand our plight. If you see someone behaving like I did on the bus, or anywhere, we’re probably shy, don’t worry. That woman was really not helping the situation. It wasn’t her fault, she was curious, but really – we’re okay. If you want to help us, just say ‘hi’. Be nice. All we long for is acceptance.
It sounds really insignificant, it’s just a new bus, but not for me. After my life with buses, I don’t know quite where that journey is gonna go next. And you know what, readers? Everything was fine. No delays, no problems – nothing. Well, apart from one problem…
THERE IS NO BLOODY LEGROOM ON THESE NEW GODDAMN BUSES! I’M BLOODY SIX FOOT TWO INCHES TALL! I’M NOT A BLOODY LEPRECHAUN!
But considering that ten years ago people were setting fire to those very seats, I suppose I shouldn’t complain.
American writer, Jarod Kintz (b. 1982), once wrote: “I had a dream about you. I had converted a beached whale into a tour bus, and I asked you to be my driver. You asked what kind of people you’d be driving around, and I said, “Dead people.” You frowned and said, “Dead people don’t tip.” And I said, “Yes, but they also don’t protest when you root through their pockets.”
Peace Out :|:
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