Due to a recent car crash I’ve had to resort to walking and/or taking the bus to work, which is a huge novelty for me. I text my good friend from the buses I catch in an exaggerated mock miserable Victor Meldrew character voice, complaining about the germ filled steamed up windows and the general inconvenience of the circumstances.
One morning in heavy rain and running tight for time, a bus from a company I didn’t recognise turned up and stopped for the soaked queue. Out of about 15 people queuing only about five of us stepped forward. I figured most people were going to wait for the normal First Bus to arrive, to use their travel cards and bus passes which I presumed wouldn’t work on this independent bus. Sure enough the young woman in front of me got back off when the driver said her ticket wouldn’t work.
Getting closer to the driver I prepared myself to also walk off, as I feared the price to the centre would be more expensive than the £1.50 charged by First Bus.
“That’ll be £1.60 to the centre please.”
There were four primary reasons why I paid up and didn’t walk off, not necessarily in the following order;
- It was raining heavily.
- I was pushed for time.
- I figured an independent company could do with the extra 10p.
- It seemed petty to walk off over 10p, all of the above issues considering.
Unable to find a seat I propped up against the metal frame work. Looking around it was much more rustic than a First Bus, and this fuelled my Victor Meldew character without hesitation or shame.
As the bus stopped at the each stop, I noticed every time only a handful of soaked people came forward, most people choosing to wait for the more mainstream bus, even though the route to the centre would have been roughly the same. At one stop when the bus was about to stop but then didn’t as no one came forward, the bus took a dramatic jolt. One of the women stood in front of me shouted….
“Clara you holding on?” [laughter]
A voice from far behind me shouted.
“Yeah I’m fine don’t worry about me, I’m sat down!” [laughter]
The driver then said loudly,
“What are you worrying about Clara for? She’s sat down! You should worry about the others.” [laughter]
And then the banter started…… [and much more laughter]
It turned out that maybe half the people on the packed bus either knew each other, or they knew the driver. It felt like I had somehow got onto a work bus but I didn’t feel unwelcome. Conversations and laughter started to fly, and when people got on and off I realised the driver knew their names and/or vice versa. In their banter he even beeped the horn getting the attention of someone they knew walking along the street. It really was a sliding doors moment for the better, and in realising this I wrote the following message to my friend.
They were lovely moments to witness, and my Victor Meldrew melted away in place of James Stewart’s George Bailey from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, I wanted to shout ‘Merry Christmas’ to everyone, even though it wasn’t Christmas.
The parallel universe of this sliding doors bus was far different from a First Bus, where except for my lovely friend Diana who I occasionally see, everyone looks miserable, avoiding eye contact and as far away from a community experience as they can manage sinking into their seats. But this cheap looking bus, which ironically is more expensive, prided itself on the friendly touch. For me it worked.
As I walked away from the bus I realised I didn’t even know what the company was called, and couldn’t make out the logo from my now far distance. I have not seen one of these buses since, even though every morning I now have £1.60 ready in anticipation.
The only evidence I have that it really happened, a treasure secreted from the parallel universe back through the sliding door, is my bus ticket. Proudly displaying the £1.60, a little bit of sun sheltering from the rain. The unique quirks of independence, a company I now see is ironically called Faresaver. It was well worth the extra 10 pence.