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international librarian of mystery

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Thanks, driver!

I'm pleased to see that Dave over at Killing time has similar problems with Hull's bus-drivers that I do here with the Wellingtonian variety. As Dave points out...
Bus drivers in Hull are nasty people who assume you have memorised the tarrifs and timetables and react with disdain when you ask them where the bus stops and how much all this sub-standard journeying is going to cost you.
So, so true. Not for all bus drivers, of course. Citizen Bus Driver, I know for a fact, is happy to answer questions on the various rules, regulations and nuances of the public transport system - but a great many will make you their mortal enemy should you even ask (as I often do) the simplest request, such as to be taken to a specific destination, as opposed to just naming the number of sections you want to ride. I had this encounter with the classic nasty bus driver on the way home from my horrible day's work the other day...

I was sitting at the bus-stop, and saw a Newtown Park bus zooming along the street, that would take me within half a block to my house. I stood, then stooped down to gather up by bag, bent back up, and watched as the bus zoomed by, only to be stopped at a red light, twenty metres down the road. I ran after it, banged on the doors, and saw them swing over to reveal the frowning driver, who said, not trying at all to hide the exasperation in his voice...

"So you did want to get on. I'm not a mind-reader, you know."
"Err, sorry. I was, um... gathering my things. Um, Newtown shops thanks."
"Where?" he snapped.
"Um, Newtown? The shops?"
"How many sections?"

Now, I know it's a three section fare, but I'm not buying into that game. I choose, instead, to play the part of a dumb tourist.

"I'm sorry, I have no idea. Someone told me the Newtown Park bus would get me to Newtown."
"Yep. We go that way."
"How much?"
"Light's changed..."

He pulled away at warp 10, sending me skittering down the aisle as the bus propelled itself into traffic. When he was up to crusing speed, I eventually found my balance, and wobbled my way back beside of the driver to pay my fare.

"Two dollars," he growled.

I dropped a five dollar note in his change bowl. Grumbling, he proceeded to steer the bus with his knees, lifted up his change tray with one hand, pulled the note from the bowl and slipped it into a pile in his money tray with the other, then put the change tray back down and handed me the change, at which point there was an almighty crunch, we jolted to a halt, and I flew into the bus's windscreen.

We'd side-swiped a taxi that, for reasons only a taxi driver might explain, was straddling two lanes of a main thoroughfare in rush-hour.

"Bloody Christ!" swore the bus-driver, leaping up and jumping past me to the street. A bit dazed, I staggered to the end of the bus and took a seat, where I ended up looking straight down on the taxi the bus had just hit. The damage actually wasn't too bad. The rear-view mirror had been pretty much severed from its stalk, and there were a few scratches on the side of the car itself, but nothing too drastic. The bus-driver and taxi driver still proceeded to have an animated discussion on the rights and wrongs of the situation, punctuated with arm-waving and some finger-pointing. The problem with the sort of trolley-bus I was riding though, is the fact they all run on the same overhead wires. So when our bus had pulled up, every other bus down the line had to stop behind us as well. After a couple of minutes of sitting in the same spot, at least a couple of dozen buses were stuck behind us. The arguing public transport providers were bringing the city to gridlock with their petty traffic ding. It took at least another ten minutes of remonstrations and finger-pointing before someone produced a pen and paper and details were finally exchanged. Our bus-driver returned to his seat, fuming. He spotted me at the back.

"You!" he yelled, pointing.

I pointed at myself. "What? Me?"
"Yes! Your ticket!"
"Oh, sorry."

I walked timidly to the front of the bus, all eyes upon me. I got to the front and he thrust my ticket at me. I took it, and, naturally, he took the opportunity to turbo-boost out into traffic again, sending me tumbling back down the aisle, all the way to the back seat I had just come from.

He kept it up all the way home: insane hot-rod style take-offs from the lights up to top speed around corners and straights alike, followed by tooth-loosening braking as we came up to any stop. One poor mum, her hands full of various baby appratus and a tiny wee baby, was only just saved from disaster by vigilant fellow bus-travellers, who helped catch her when the driver accelerated away the moment only seconds after taking her fare. My muscles ached from the constant exertions in battling the g-forces.

But still, without fail, as every person alighted from the bus, they would yell out...

"Thanks, driver!"

Kiwis, so polite.