Call me crazy but i am one of those strange people who never learned to drive. When younger i had neither opportunity nor funding and now i am older i find i lack both time and inclination. Work commute used to be a car share with a local friend but i find i like the walk with my ipod and whilst the bus ride itself is a bit of an event, i find i have grown very accustomed to the ritual.
Passengers vary according to the time of day that you board. Pre 9am you will find those heading to work like myself but mostly of the student variety, row after row of darkly clad teens pulling hair around their acne clad faces, giggling loudly and all logged into some smart phone which they message each other on rather than talk. A pervading odour of musty not quite dried clothes emanates from their direction and they sit in twos or on the outside of the seat in order that you might not sit by them. Sometimes in some act of devilment i will deliberately sit down next to one if they leave an unoccupied space and watch the horror as it dawns that a grown up has invaded the ‘cool’ spot.
Cast your eyes towards the back and row after row of people seated alone. Nobody wants to be seated next to anyone else and bags and briefcases galore occupy the space next to each one of them. A woman near the front hides behind an upheld newspaper as though trying to pretend she does not have to take the bus at all.
”You’ve changed your hair” the bus driver says to me as i board. I like to think i keep up with the times and board with a clever little app on my phone. I try not to roll my eyes when held up as those not so up to date climb on and ask for a ticket. ” it’s nice” the driver adds, ”it suits you” I smile and thank him whilst swiftly scanning for a seat. Most drivers are nice and will wait for you to be seated before pulling away but some just dont care and will drive off sharply sending you hurtling into the lap of some poor unfortunate who happens to be nearby.
Rattling and bumping down the road we skirt the edges of the lake. It is not really a lake but a water filled minehole which doesnt really sound so glamorous so we call it ‘the lake’. Drivers often dont slow down around here and hurtle around the winding track, which by the way has little in the way of barrier between water and road.
”Please don’t kill me, please dont kill me” i mutter silently to myself, convinced that one day we will neglect to negotiate the turn and instead sail headlong into the murky depths. I confess i have planned every possible escape route and always sit as near to the ‘break glass’ window as possible. Images of newspapers sporting the headline ”Bus crashes into Lake that isnt really a Lake” batter my brain and i admit even sensible me is terrified of the jolting race around the gloomy bleakness beside us. Not even the appearance of a solitary duck swimming steadily across it can calm my overactive mind.
Board the bus an hour later and it’s passengers change entirely. Students replaced by row after row of blue tinted bubble perms all clutching plastic shopping trolleys and sporting a uniform of stay pressed trousers that have argued with their ankles. Far from silent the bus rings with a crescendo of voices all competing to tell the first unheard bit of gossip. By the time I reach my destination I know all about what Enid did at the weekend and oooh did you hear about Betty? Apparently fish is on offer at the local supermarket too.
Yes the bus is definitely an event in itself and i hold my breath as an over friendly lady with a strong smell of wet dog seats herself beside me and attempts to start up a conversation. But it is here I find I must leave you for the lake looms eerily on the horizon and I find I need both hands to hold on and pray that the wheels on the bus keep going round…….and round.