Written by Steddyeddy
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Wednesday, 23 April 2008

image for On The Buses The 33a Bus to town - used to be a double decker until it met the bridge

The Government keep telling us to stop using our cars, and after all, travelling by bus really can be so enlightening. You meet all types of interesting people, psychopaths and social dropouts.

There's the change-fumblers. The regular bus commuter who, despite using the bus at least twice a day, gets on during rush hour, laden down with bags and parcels, an umbrella, even a flat pack wardrobe, and then starts fumbling in their wallet for the correct change.

And do they have the correct change? No, of course not. After a half-hour's rooting through bags and wallets, they hand the harassed driver a crushed up 20 note, relieving him of all his pound coins in change. And then the passenger proceeds to drop two of the received coins, one on the driver's side of the partition, the other rolling down the packed isle of standing commuters.

I always manage to attract the strange ones to sit beside me.

The most usual tends to be a member of the i-Pod, generation. I see them get on the bus and think to myself "this one is going to sit beside me, I know it, I can feel it in my bones". And yes he does. This person, despite having what can only loosely be called music, piped directly into his middle ear, still insists on listening at a level which makes me deaf. At seven in the morning I really don't want to listen second-hand to what I can only describe as a central heating installer ripping up floorboards.

On the other hand, had he not sat beside me, I would have instantly become owner of a large complex. "Why didn't he sit beside me?" "What's the matter with me?" "Do I look wrong?" "Do I smell?"

Another type I attract is the svelte teenage beauty, legs up to her armpits, dressed completely inappropriately for public transport. Not only will she fidget irritatingly with her mobile phone for the entire journey, but on the odd occasions she actually uses it for what it was primarily designed for, namely to speak with someone, she manages to completely turn the Queen's English into a mind-blowingly incomprehensible second language.

However, the main type of passenger I seem to attract is the mumbler; the one, regardless of the weather, is dressed in a heavy, ex-charity shop Crombie overcoat; the one who either smells of fabric conditioner, the inside of a busy pub, or of baby vomit (although I find the smell of baby vomit sometimes preferable to that of fabric conditioner, a product primarily designed to part women from their money).

I know I'm in trouble when the mumbler sits beside me and stares at the side of my head. Then, as I'm trying to quietly read my newspaper, says, in a rather loud voice, "I know you!".

Now I know, and even you know, that I have never, ever met this person before. But they insist on trolling through a list of every person they have ever met, read about or seen on television. After 15 minutes of this tirade, you finally concede and turn to this person and whisper, in a very deep, threatening voice "Yes, you do know me. I'm on release from Armley after serving 20 years for killing a bus passenger".

I sometimes get lumbered with the Daily Telegraph reader. The one who insists on holding their broadsheet open while they read it, sticking an elbow in my face each time they turn a page. Making it very difficult to surreptitiously read over their arm.

Alternatively, when I enter a crowded bus and have to choose who to sit next to, I nearly always manage to pick the bus lunatic. If it's not the mumbler or the teenager, it's usually someone who, the moment I sit down and get comfortable, decides they want to get a copy of the free newspaper in the tray at the front of the bus. Of course, I stand up to let them out, and someone else takes my seat. They return with their newspaper and immediately start a shouting match with me that someone has taken their window seat.

Ah! The joys of public transport.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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