Monday 3 August 2015

London: Bussed to distraction,

Before it all happened
At the end of our journey, as we thanked the bus driver for the trip, I walked up to the driver to commiserate about the somewhat sordid day he was having. In fact, a good few of us had not enjoyed the bus ride and it was no fault of the driver, but of passengers and schedulers.
This was on one of my unannounced trips to London, I boarded the bus from East Street in South London to Euston, route 68 it was and journey expected to take about 34 minutes. I had the time.
I would normally have taken a Priority Seat, seeing that I use a cane and I was laden with shopping from the Agege Bread shop on East Street having taken a leisurely 1.6 mile walk from Vauxhall rather than use public transport that would have taken just about the same time. [My Blog on Agege Bread]
Disconcerting conversation
The Priority Seats were already occupied by those who did not need them, especially one where a man had his arm comfortably draped over the head of the aisle seat with him sat by the window, making it difficult for me to take the seat behind backing onto the side of the bus. Yet, that was the better seat to take, so I snuggled in.
The man, quite volubly Nigerian and as cantankerously annoying as you can get was ensconced in a mobile phone conversation for the entire length of the journey and I can only imagine where he got on. The volume of his speech in another language I could not care to comprehend him enough to want to call him to order, though I doubt the scene that might have developed afterwards would have been nice. We all endured it.
Pissed off from a screen
The driver, however, had to contend with schedulers who because of certain events in London had the buses running outside schedule that he was advised to slow down to help even out the schedule. In the ensuing conversation, we learnt that we were already going at 10 miles an hour on a 20 miles an hour route causing congestion and inconvenience to others.
The scheduler insisted the more unconvinced of the chaos he might be causing on the roads from the comfort of watching screens and tapping keyboards, that the driver let it be known that he had been a driver for 30 years and that he will not have his intelligence insulted. I raised an eyebrow whilst seemingly agreeing with him. He was doing his best.
Tripping up on London place names
A few stops later, a lady got on with a rather large suitcase and an accent that was caught in the Shibboleth of London place names. She was going to Aldwych, but managed to pronounce it with an ‘s’ replacing the ‘d’ and ‘w’ that is sounded like Alsish. It occurred to me from her accent that she also might be Nigeria and somehow, my ear trained to such accents and having an idea of the route, I surmised she was going to Aldwych.
The driver was none the wiser, she however, got on the bus and made to sit beside the chatterbox man who shifted uneasily to give space without breaking from his conversation. However, she needed help with directions and he was about to give her the wrong information based of apparently knowing assumption.
I intervened, first by letting her know the proper pronunciation of Aldwych and that the stop she wanted was the Aldwych / Kingsway stop where she could board the bus on route 9 to Hammersmith. It transpired that she was really going to Victoria and though it was a circuitously contrived journey to go from where she boarded to Aldwych, to Hammersmith and then to Victoria, she was more comfortable to do that than take the London Underground. I was not going to dissuade her, but she had enough information about what she needed to do.
The power of example
Over the next few stops, people boarded and disembarked some needing directions and asking questions until a point where someone had found to use the bell as some musical instrument. You only have to ring the bell once and the Bus Stopping sign lights up on both decks, it also alerts the bus driver to stop at the next bus stop.
This unnecessary peeling of the bell in the midst of the cacophony of our conversationalist who had hardly paused to take a breath since I got on the bus some 30 minutes before had the driver make an announcement that whoever was ringing the bell should behave.
A mother and child descended from the upper deck and rather than get off she decided to have words with the driver about the fact that she son was under control and that he had every right to ring the bell. Her unladylike manner at the highest volume she could muster and then leaving having been quite abusive to the driver was enough for everyone to conclude her ill-discipline was fully developed in the child. Such is the power of example.
We finally cantered, as it were into Euston, the talkative conscious enough to disembark and give way for me to have a quick chat commiserating with the driver, who had one more trip to Camberwell before playing another route. I was in time to make my train too.

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