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international librarian of mystery

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

I have a ten trip

Normally, when I finish work at the library I've got time to walk a up a couple of blocks to one of the first stops on my bus route home. This ensures I beat the rush at the more heavily populated stops near the library, and that I get a seat for the trip home, with the corresponding benefit of the chance to do some reading on the bus. After my closing up shift on Friday, however, I didn't manage to get out the door until twenty past, and saw a bus shoot by that I just knew was mine. It was a 100 metre run to the stop, where I knew the bus would be pulling over to pick up at least a few people, so I broke into a run. Problem was, I hadn't crossed the road yet, so I wasted a few seconds as I had to wait for a gap in the traffic and do a dash across. As I huffed and puffed up to to the back of the bus, I could see the the indicator light blinking on, then the hiss of the hydraulic doors and whirr of the electric engine revving up for take-off. Usually, all would be lost, but today, I banged especially hard on the side just as it started to pull away.

"Oy!" I yelled. "Stop!"

The bus jolted to a halt with a tooth-rattling familarity. The bus doors hissed open. I climbed on.

"Um, is this the Newtown bus?" I asked. It was only then that I realised I had never actually spotted the destination on the front or side of the bus.
"Newtown?" he asked back.
"Yes, is this the Newtown bus? Do you drive to or through Newtown?"

He jabbed away at his ticket machine and dispensed a $2 fare.

"Newtown, $2," he said.
"Oh, no, I have a ten-trip," I said, pulling it from my bag and giving it to him.

He threw his head back in despair, snatching the useless fare from his machine, flicked it to the floor of his booth with disdain. He then snipped my ten-trip right across the divide of two fares, hissed the doors closed behind me, and launched the bus out into traffic. Despite the fact I was prepared for the acceleration, I was still left with few options but to half-fall into a fellow traveller and bash some poor guy with my bag as I bounced around looking for suitably placed hand-grips.

It was pinball travelling all the way to Courtenay Place, where there was enough hustle and bustle of people coming and going for me to slip into an aisle-side seat. At the first stop around the Basin Reserve, a woman getting off handed a beanie to the driver, and indicated she'd found it on her seat. Something for the lost and found perhaps. As he pulled away from the stop, he flicked the hat out between the closing hydraulic doors. I looked around, searching for fellow witnesses to this outrageous behaviour, but no-one else, it seemed, had seen it.

Three school-girls were outraged, though, when the driver missed their stop at the start of Adelaide Road. They had so far been keeping the otherwise silent rush-hour bus crowd alternately entertained or annoyed with their unending stream of unselfconscious teenage talk, separated though they were around the bus.

"Tiff, I just got a txt from Kay. She's got the hots for Nate!"
"No way! Nate is in love with Rose!"
"Hey," another piped in, from across the aisle, "let's call Nate and tell him."
"Ooohh, yes. Although ... no, what about Jase?"
"What about Jase, Simone?"
"Oh, nothing. But ... remember that pxt?"

Cue insane giggles all round. But then...

"Hey, that was our stop! Driver! Stop!"
"I can't stop! Clearway! Next stop!"

The next stop was probably only a few hundred metres away, but it took about ten minutes to get there, as the bus idled in the grid-locked rush-hour traffic. For a lot of those ten minutes the bus blocked the entrace to the maternity ward of Wellington Hospital. Three cars became trapped in the lane oncoming lane opposite us, signalling and wanting to drive across the exact spot we were occupying, while they held up all the traffic streaming out of Newtown. On the other side of the bus, cars coming out of the hospital and wanting to turn right across the road were held up as far as the eye could see. During this time the teenage girls muttered and grumbled to each in not too overt tones about the abilities of the driver. After some snail-lake progress, we finally reached the next stop, and the girls alighted with a cheery 'thank you driver'. Just as the driver threw the hyper-thrust into gear, there was a timid...

"Back door ... please ... driver."

...from the back of the bus. The bus jerked forward a second and then stopped, and the doors hissed open, giving the man a chance to escape.

Further up the road, going about warp 5 now, the bus swerved around the corner to head up Constable Street, and totally failed to give way to a car coming from our right. There was a squeal of tires, and we only just missed getting sideswiped. Thankfully, the next stop was my destination,and jumped off the bus brazenly withholding my 'thank you driver' as punishment for his poor driving. My chastisement went unnoticed, however, as the driver was too busy waving his fist at the driver of the car he had just cut off, who was giving him the fingers back as he slowly cruised pass the bus.

As the bus roared away up the road, I made a mental note of its number and registration, for the letter to the editor I was already composing at the back of my mind.

Maybe, now it's summer, I should just walk to work more often.