London Buses review
I'm fifth in line behind three beer bottles and a half-eaten hamburger in a sauce-splattered carton. The other guy standing here is trying to peel the pages of his rain-sodden newspaper apart while we're waiting for the bus to loom out of the morning mist. There's a stream of headlights approaching down the road but by the time they arrive they have revealed themselves to be cars.
The electronic timetable has been stuck on three minutes for the last five minutes and two tourists are bemoaning the frozen slowness of it all. Even the time goes on strike in London they say (they are very pleased with their joke) and I can feel myself wanting to defend our city against the newcomers. You do know that London is 2,000 years old, right? We're a city of stopped clocks and last night's beer bottles and that's how we like it.
When the bus comes a big business guy lumbers in next to me and starts brushing the rainwater off his coat while I wipe a hole in the window so I can see outside. The two tourists are trying to pinpoint exactly where we are on the flaps of their map but the rain is battering like hammers against their watery window and making it impossible for them to see anything but blurred words and starbursts in the street. The bright lights of the theatres start colouring up the condensation so I'm guessing we're level with the Savoy but even I haven't got a clue. We pass a Starbucks but that doesn't help because there's one of those everywhere. Then we pass an angry cyclist who bangs on the window so hard he makes the whole bus jump.
The driver has decided to let on a scooter so everyone has to shuffle about and squeeze into spaces that they don't really fit while we patiently wait for the guy to board -- it's like he's driving his car onto a cross-channel ferry. It's one of those huge scooters with a motor on the back and people are now so squashed up they can snoop on the news in their neighbour's paper. They're reading the headlines out of the side of their eyes and trying to work out what they're watching on their mobile phones.
All of a sudden somebody's phone starts trilling the theme tune to Hawaii Five-O and we sit there listening to his conversation for two minutes. By the time he's finished we all know where he's going for breakfast (another guy is coming because Steve can't make it today), and yes he has remembered to bring those numbers which he promised to do last night. I've got the bloody numbers here he says, actually lifting them up to the phone as if he could see. I'll meet you in five minutes, five minutes, yes I'll meet you in five minutes. Give me five minutes, he says. You'd better make it it ten minutes mate because we're not going anywhere in this traffic.
At least you can watch a bit of TV on these buses now because they've installed a load of CCTV screens so you can see what's happening upstairs. I'm wondering if they're all having a party up there but they just seem to be sitting in silence. Then it switches to the back camera and they're all sitting in silence as well. Front camera: more silence. Bus driver: silence (or maybe he's asleep). Then it switches downstairs and it's me -- I'm on TV!
We've been motionless for what seems like ages now so I think it's time he changed the route. Whenever a bus has been standing still for five minutes the driver should spin the destination on the front like the strawberries on a fruit machine and wherever it lands that's where he has to go.
That business dude has decided he's finally had enough and dings the bell to get off between stops. Some drivers won't let you do that in case you step out into the path of a bike, but this one opens up the doors and as soon as one person makes a break for it suddenly they all want to follow and twenty people stream down the stairs and jump over the kerbside puddle to freedom. It's a bit like a prison break and when all the brave ones have made it the hesitant ones are left sitting in their seat wondering if they've got time to follow. But before they can make a decision the bus jolts into life and we're off again.
Those same two tourists are too engrossed in their phones to notice St. Paul's Cathedral on their left, and after a little pandemic of yawns spreads around the bus we hit some more traffic at Bank. This is where all the remaining briefcases and umbrellas get off, abandoning the bus to the rucksacks and backpacks. I've had enough as well so I step off and watch the bus disappear back into the gloom.
Guest – I like it, why is in on public transport, when they use the phone, the first thing they say is "I'M ON THE BUS/TRAIN IN ALOUD VOICE SO EVERONE CAN SHARE. Then have a long discussion about Aunty Glads haemorrhoids, on how she can no longer get the cream she likes. There are times I've become so engrossed in listening the conversation that I have nearly mist my stop.
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