Highways England have written to me as part of a consultation about a proposed Motorway junction improvement scheme. That is to say, the letter began “Dear Resident”, so I don’t imagine they will be crying into their tea when they don’t hear back from me.
Not having a car seems a belief too far for some people. How can anyone live without one?
“I don’t believe you don’t have one,” said the woman sitting next to me.
“I’m a devotee of the bus,” I explained with the usual blah blah qualifier about not being about to blah blah.
Her objections were two fold: the inconvenience of public transport, the inconvenience of the public. I take her point on both counts but all life is on the bus and mine is the richer for it.
Twenty years ago I was sitting on the bus minding my own business when the woman sitting next to me leant over and asked, “are you Anna?” She was the Mother of a long lost school friend. I phoned her. We caught up.
“Actually, I won’t take your number as I’ve got enough friends,” she said as the call ended.
I learnt a valuable lesson. The future is generally best approached without carrying the past on your back.
When the son was young, he’d fall asleep in my arms, sitting on buses. You can’t do that while driving a car.
A couple of weeks ago I did eleven stops, sitting in the middle of a domestic row that was amongst the best I’ve ever witnessed. “You never listen to me,” yelled the woman who was sitting behind me.
“That’s because you’re not worth listening to,” said the man standing at the front of the bus.
“Come and sit next to me. Have I got to tell the whole bus our business? “
“No. You don’t need to say anything.”
There was a long silence until the woman could bare it no more.
“What I really want,” she bellowed in a tone that informed her fellow passengers that something was being unreasonably withheld from her, ” is that colonic irrigation.”
“Be quiet,” said the man.
“You would even begrudge me that.”
One woman’s misery is twenty other people’s side splitting moment.
Recently I sat next to woman, at the bus stop, who was veiled and wearing gloves. Perfectly relaxed, she was knitting. I couldn’t restrain myself. How was it possible to do that? “Practice.” Now we meet at the bus stop from time to time. She always says hello and we’ve started to chat. She’s not a letter box or a bomber but a nice woman I would never have met if it wasn’t for the bus.
I met my neighbour on the bus. We’d been passing each other in the street and never knew the other one was there because neither of us could see the other one blah blah. He sat next to me and a good traffic jam got the conversation flowing. He told me how to get asbestos removed for free, and I told him about local swimming sessions if you can’t see. That saved me nearly a thousand pounds. Who knows, it might have saved him from a kick in the teeth and dentures.
Sometimes I run into my friends on the bus and get a bonus catch up. They have the advantage of never having to bother to speak to me if they don’t want to, because I will never know they are there. If we were circling each other in our cars we’d hoot and wave, that’s all.
The car may be king but long live the emperor of transport, the bus.