Fifth Column: Spontaneous Com-bus-tion (Issue 1)

I regard myself as a tolerant man, not prone to irrational outbursts, with an understanding nature, positive outlook and extremely patient manner. Non-smoker, GSOH, WLTM woman, 28…sorry, wrong column. As I was saying, I’m a reasonable, fairminded person with a relaxed attitude, but, if there’s one subject that winds my crank, it’s Public Transport. Spending 50 minutes of every working day in the enforced company of 30 or 40 souls you wouldn’t normally seek out is not so bad.

After all, meeting new people could lead to all sorts of possibilities. However, meeting them in a rectangular tin can that smells of wet socks and dry farts is definitely not conducive to a lasting friendship. Even before the odour strips your nasal sensors, the first dubious pleasure is being greeted by the Neanderthal grunts and stiletto looks of the driver. Welcomed aboard with a cursory glance and disdainful sneer sets the tone. You then have to wade through mounds of used bus tickets, halfeaten Big Macs and tissues with stains of dubious origin to get to the one remaining seat. Invariably next to the town loon (25 stone with a persistent itch and no inhibitions) you spend the entire trip listening to the tinny beat and rasping hiss emanating from his MP3 player. The journey itself is far from uneventful.

Near misses and colourful expletives are standard and that’s just from passengers pushing past each other to get off. A driver with two lead feet, lurching from stop to stop, approaching each at slightly less than the speed of sound and then stopping within two feet does nothing to aid the digestion of your morning Weetabix. It does free up some seats, however, as everyone ends up sitting on the knee of the person in front! Thankfully, every journey has its terminus and the opportunity to alight is seized upon gratefully, though even this can be fraught with danger.

Assuming Neanderthal Man hears the bell, you still have to negotiate the mass of bodies preventing your escape. If you can heave, slide, sashay and rub your way to the doors without becoming the unwitting party to a paternity suit, you’re doing well. Of course, you still have to endure a parting snarl from the driver, who, having waited the regulation 3 seconds at the stop, had closed the doors and set off again ten seconds earlier. Although, slamming on the brakes as he did, has just catapulted you to the windscreen in time to tumble over the empty cola bottle on the step and out into the street. All in all, an experience not to be missed…unfortunately – though I’m not entirely sure it’s worth the £8.50 charge. Now, where’s that bike!

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