Friday, 12 July 2013

Transports of Delight

A local bus. Member of Bus Pass Crew alighting


Before I reached 60, I never used buses. They were expensive, unreliable and took far too long to get where they were going, I thought. I have subsequently discovered how mistaken I was. Now that I am a member of the Bus Pass Crew, I know better. Apart from the occasions when they decide not to show up, there is very little about using the local buses that I don't like.

Interestingly, it was the presence of a local bus route, with named local stops, that was one of the things the Inspector on our Town Green Public Inquiry asked me about, when the obnoxious council barrister was trying to prove that where I live is not a proper ''neighbourhood''. He would only have to stand in the queue waiting for the 657 (it used to be the 625; we don't know why they changed it) or the 366 from Luton to see that we are a community.

I have got on the first morning bus into town, looked around, and realised that I know everybody on board. And there are some great conversations to be had. Here, using the bus has a set routine. You board and greet the driver. You scan your pass. You greet any passengers that make eye contact as you find your seat. You move to the back of the bus automatically if a mum and buggy get on. You vacate the 'elderly' seats without being asked. When you leave the bus, you thank the driver. If a stranger boards who is unsure of where they are going, you all pile in with your helpful tuppenyworth.

Mind you, I live in a relatively small town. I also use the buses in London, and the contrast is unbelievable. London buses are so unfriendly.The first time I got on a London bus, I tried to scan my pass on the Oyster card machine, causing it to go into conniptions. I got glared at by the driver. I tried to leave the bus by the front, not the centre doors. I got glared at by the driver. I said thank you as I alighted. I got glared at by the driver.

Here, because it's usually the same set of drivers, they get to know who we are and where we catch the bus. I have known certain nice drivers to stop at non-designated stops to let elderly people off with heavy bags of shopping, and one morning, when I was walking up to the local school in the rain to invigilate, the bus drew alongside, slowed, and the driver gave me a 'do you want to get on' look. That's how we roll where I live.

The other thing about buses is that occasionally, something happens that just fills you with delight and reminds you that the world is so much nicer than it appears on the surface. Like the time I was travelling back from Welwyn Garden City and the bus stopped to let a little playgroup board. The kids were wide-eyed, noisy and fizzing with excitement at catching a bus. The leaders settled them into the front seats (hastily vacated) as best they could, but it was a bit like trying to organise a panic. As the driver pulled away from the kerb, one of the leaders gamely squatted down in the gangway, and very discreetly and slightly anxiously began to sing ''Wheels on the bus'', in an attempt to calm things down.

And then, something happened. First, the people in the nearest seats started to join in. Then those sitting behind them joined in, followed rapidly by those further back, so that by the time the bus crested the hill outside the town, everybody on board (except for two college students at the rear of the bus who were desperately trying to pretend they weren't there) was singing along to ''Wheels on the bus'' and doing the hand gestures, to the rapturous joy of the little playgroup, who clearly thought this was what happened on every journey.

That's why I like buses.

35 comments:

  1. Excellent! I love busses as well. (I just erased a tirade about my local bus system. I get carried away, as you know.) Anyway, it's nice to know that somewhere, somehow, some people have fond regard for theirs. Thanks for the reminder. :)

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    1. It is easy to moan..... but the fun outweighs the disadvantages..and round here, poorer people and oldies use them copiously to get out and about. Buses provide a vital social link..

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  2. I can't remember the last time I used a bus! You have, however, given me something to look forward to in the not too distant future. That is of course, if they don't withdraw the bus pass just before I'm entitled to it. That's what they seem to be doing with my pension!

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    1. They won't take away the passes - to many oldies would be trapped. You will LOVE having it!!

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  3. Same as you, I have only started using buses since acquiring my badge of office, and what an eye-opener it was as to how the local community spirit works.
    Joy xx

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    1. Whenever I have a letter in the local paper about the field..the whole bus joins in the debate.

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  4. I think I want to relocate. Leicester buses are pretty much like the London variety. Your town sounds amazing. 'The mummies on the bus go chatter, chatter, chatter...'

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    1. It was magic!! ''The oldies on the bus go creak creak creak..''

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  5. What a lovely story about the kids! I was already cheering about the things you like about busses before I got to that and your story just nailed it. I use the bus all the time here when it's raining and I love them. The drivers here are always friendly and cheerful. I get to chat to people too even knowing I'll never see them again (it's a big city) and it gives me some lovely 'me time'. They are clean, they run on time (mostly) and they get me where I want to go faster than a car as they have their own bus lanes in the rush hours (and I'm always in a rush :-) Fabulous. Three cheers for busses!

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    1. And you don't pay parking fees, which are huge here!! And save on petrol. What's not to like?

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  6. I love buses - I was ill for a while, and not allowed to drive for 18 months (when i came back from the long trip) so had no choice. I learned that, not only could I get all over India on buses, I could do it here. It's just a question of reading timetables carefully (of course I've made mistakes), and allowing plenty of time. That's no problem - I read at bus stops! (I often read on buses, too.)

    I live in a small market town, so most of our buses go to other towns. The 'rules' (such as they are) - older people with shopping at the front, and young people at the back. I sit more or less in the middle, where I can listen to the chit-chat from the back. Sometimes it's tedious, but often it's wonderful. The 2 lads snogging (yes, both lads); then the young people who climbed on with huge musical instruments, bumped into everyone all the way to the back seat, then one yelled - making sure all the perms and cardigans could hear - 'have you heard, like, Verdi's f*cking Requiem, it's f*cking great!'

    You'd never hear that stuck in a traffic jam!

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  7. Hmph. I have to wait until I'm 63 to get a bus pass, and the last bus to Skimmel Bridge left five years ago.

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    1. You need to start a campaign...or set up Lady Marmalade as an impromptu bus!!

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  8. I can't drive any more (dodgy hips) and I have been putting off getting my bus pass. I can't really believe I am old enough to have one I suppose!
    But after reading todays post (brilliant as always!) I will go and get one on Monday. I have missed going out under my own steam and you have given me the impetus to get cracking! Thanks Carol!

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    1. Excellent. AND remember you can use it throughout the UK!! I save on tube fares in London, and going on that nasty claustrophobic thing.Plus the interesting buildings you see from the top of a London bus....

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  9. The bus taking me to school crashed into a wall on the way there...A bus driver once closed the doors on my daughters foot before she had completely alighted and drove off regardless...My other daughter was was taken virtual prisoner by a bus driver who refused to let her off one evening despite her protestations...( the police asked if we could forgive him as he was under pressure and couldn't afford to lose job )...My Father was a bus driver at one time ...that's where he met the woman/'Clippie' he ran off with thus ruining my mother's life.................................................I tend to travel by taxi these days...:)..............( excellent...chuckle worthy...entertaining post as usual...You never cease to amuse me woman....thankfully...:D )..

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    1. Hahaha. How to induce survivor guilt without even trying. Desperately hoping most of this is untrue....... probably isn't though.

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    2. Oh Lynn you made me laugh ,then I felt guilty for laughing at your misfortune.

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    3. I thought she was making it up -apparently she wasn't!!

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  10. My other half is a bus driver so I get free bus travel now and I now prefer to use the bus than drive! X

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  11. I like this one! Can't imagine you with a bus pass. I think they should put the age up...

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  12. I too use buses all the time, because I won't drive (always thought it was too much effort). I see - so you're one of the women I see on the bus who moan about the late arrival of the 10.17 in the shelter, and make remarks about 3 coming at once, and natter away and drop their bus pass when I'm in a hurry.... and I daresay I shall be one of those before too long, too!!!

    When I lived in rural Norfolk it was normal for the bus driver to just let you off where you wanted to be, but not quite so here, even in Geordieland which is about the most friendly place on earth (well, of the places I've been to, anyway!)

    Things that annoy me? School kids who don't get on the school bus but get on MY number 27, then crowd around the entrance and don't give up their seats. I usually shame them into doing so, and get applauded by fellow passengers. Oh dear.... I've become a nutty old woman on a bus....!!!! :) Way to go, I say!

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    1. Absolutely...you'd fit in here. We had a ''new'' young driver a while ago, and one of the oldies (89) who was used to being dropped off mid-stop, was refused, quite aggresively by the jobsworth. He took a swing at the him!!!! We all cheered!!! Needless to say, when questioned later, we all saw nothing!

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  13. I use buses all the time since I gave up my car after stopping working. I usually meet someone I know and have a chat. Glasgow buses are normally very friendly but you'll never be able to wait at a bus stop without someone moaning to you about the waiting time. Glasgow people love to moan about buses,it's their hobby.

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    1. Oh we have this here. Followed by the council! I guess it's everywhere.

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  14. I use public transportation (mostly buses) all the time, it's cheaper than driving (not to mention I don't drive anyway). Unfortunately, they're usually crowded, often with passengers who took their last bath sometime in the previous century. Still, nice things happen as well.

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    1. Maybe you're using buses to work? I tend to use them after the rush hour, so different clientele....

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    2. I use them before or after the rush hour when I can, but it's not always doable. On top of that, the city reduced the number of the buses during summer, so avoiding crowd is mostly a matter of luck. And the bath-avoiding clientele uses them at all times.

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    3. Boo., is all I can say. Despite their rudeness, I was on top deck of a London bus yesterday...the only way to travel round the cir=ty. You can realy admire the historic buildings!

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  15. There is something to be said for being old enough to own a travel pass! :)

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    1. There is A LOT to be said.... despite the aches, pains etc, old age is actually not too bad!!!

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  16. Carol I can't wait to get my bus pass but I don't think it will ever happen as I'm going to stay 39 for at least another twenty years. Never getting old. xx

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