Saturday, 23 March 2013

Passing the time

Once the bus is moving what then?

Well you can look out of the window at the passing scenery, recommended for the first trips.  Learning the route can be very important if you later choose a different time filler. You learn not just the landmarks, the stops and who joins where but how the bus moves, the way it sways and rolls how it breaks and pulls away.  You learn the texture of the road, where it is smooth or rough, the particular sharp jiggle generated by repaired pot holes. Dips and banks so that you move with not against the motion of your ride.  With time you can almost feel part of the bus rather than just a passenger.

Reading on a moving vehicle can be difficult and nauseating, it is a good way to incur travel sickness however, it is a great way of making use of your time being consumed by travel. I have not previously been able to do this but I tried a few moments at a time and  once used to the motion of the journey a few moments more until it stopped bothering me. Who knew reading on a bus was a skill you could develop. Oh and used bus tickets make good bookmarks, told you I found a use for them.

You can have those conversations with bus friends of acquaintances that I mentioned earlier or you can take a nap.  Bus napping is another skill which takes some development if you are to arrive at your destination and not continue past your intended stop.

Am I seated comfortably?

then we will begin..the choice of where to sit appears to be a simple one, after all they are going to the same place.  But no, is it better to the left or the right, before, behind or over the wheel. If a single decker with two levels, is up better, and let us not forget the back seat in its extended benchiness! I have both seen and hear exponents of all variations.

As for me I prefer to sit on the left side of the bus (as you face the front) so my view forward is not blocked by the drivers section. You will come to understand that reason for the choice is somewhat ironic. It also puts me on the same side of the bus as the paths and bus stops. I like the first set on seats after the designated reserved for the elderly and disabled, neither of which are generally travelling at silly of the night, but rules are rules.

On a few of the older buses in rainy weather this is not a good choice, the window leaks.  Sitting in the seat without checking for this problem is not a mistake you want to make, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood's strictures for pies applies equally in this situation, soggy bottoms are not good things.

The back seat appears to be a choice split between, the men on the way to work in the mornings and teens (it allows more elbow room for texting each other) and excited children,who run onto the bus whilst parents get the ticket claim the back bench seat triumphantly and then are utterly downcast when forced to move to a less exciting position once their parents spot them.

It is amazing how quickly we become territorial about our seat on the bus. I did not notice at first the proprietorial air I was developing when originally the bus went the whole distance and I was one of the first on so no problem, my seat all the way. Later, as it became necessary to change at the halfway point there might be people already at that stop with right of way before me and horror sitting in my place. Now I might have thought it was just me getting a little bus crazy however, I note that all of the regulars have their own seating preferences . Indeed,  one morning,comforting me regarding, if not my sanity my normality a fellow regular muttered under her breathe "she is going to sit in my seat, that's not right" when a new face took her usual place (one seat in front of mine on the bus).  What creatures of habit we become almost without thought.   

tail of the ticket part two

After the sad inadvertent littering incident all those years ago (it haunts me still!) the idea of one ticket was appealing. The evolution began with a card version purchased once a month at the bus station at my destination.  They were not available at my point of departure.  Oddly even without the engine noise this could be a tricky process, the ladies in the shop often had their minds in a different gear to mine. Moving onto ordering on line and having the ticked arrive by post was easier but came with an element of risk, would the new one arrive on time, or at all?  It invariably did. Then onto the keycards ordered on line and updated through the miracle of technology. Of course technology wonderful as it is does not always work so either the reader on the bus does not work or the ticket is feeling sleepy and things don't go smoothly all the time. But it is better.

And have I gone all app and mobile phone as the natural extension of the Darwinian ticket process...heck no that is a step too far for me.  Mobile phones remain an occasional thing for emergency calls, I rarely remember to switch it on.

On occasion I do miss the paper or card ticked,  I had found a life after expiry usage for them, but I will tell you about that after I take my seat!   

Friday, 22 March 2013

Finaly, on the bus, tail of the ticket part one..

getting on the bus is a whole new set of decisions, what type of ticket to get, single, return, weekly, monthly, annually and recently add into the mix how many zones of travel (by colour ) paper tickets, electronic cards and even directly to your

I started with paper tickets, singles as during the early stages there were the occasional lifts in one direction or another.  This was short term as schedules were never easy to match so I moved on to the daily then the weekly then the monthly. I never did get to annual, I kept and keep hoping for another job in walking distance.

The problem with getting the ticket on the bus is communicating with the driver. Adding the sound of the engine, regional accents and half asleep people to the various options and routes it is not always easy. Although I have never had quite the problems of one departure point regular.  Each morning he asks for the same ticket, always a single giving the correct name of the stop as stated on the route list, and every morning he has to say it twice.  I could ask for his ticket for him, I know what stop he wants now, indeed it has become my mental label for him.  I can't see the problem, he is outwardly at least more patient with the situation than I am. Then one morning last week he only had to say it once, I wanted to cheer, but I sat in silence as this is not a bus friend just a regular passenger.  The next day, he had to say it twice!

The other problem with on the bus tickets is what to do with them. Yes there is a place to put used tickets on the bus but that is normally full of other rubbish.  You can pop then in your bag or pocket where they accumulate till they begin to take over.

The last time I had a job "with travel" I was of the "stuff the used ticket in the pocket and bin it later" persuasion.  Of course later keeps not happening and your pockets expand till you have panniers!  Getting off the bus one windy morning, trying to push yet another ticket into an overfull pocket, I thought to put them in a bin fastened to a lamppost I would pass before the zebra crossing  on the way to work.  I always forgot when I got inside where bins aplenty resided. So, do it now with bin in sight and before I forget again was my thought.  I crunched up the tickets and with the the blustery wind in mind I put my hands part way into the bin not letting go till I was satisfied the wind would not catch them back out again.  Visualise if you will my stunned dismay when the released handful of tickets dropped down into the bin and kept dropping right out of the bottom the wind gleefully whipping them across the road and down the street. There appeared to my horrified eyes double the tickets I had attempted to dispose of  swirling the public thoroughfare. Some person akin to bus shelter despoilers, had set a fire in the bin and melted out its bottom!  I have never since attempted to dispose of my tickets outside.     
The street down which tickets blew

Thursday, 14 March 2013

The scary Punk

for a long period the bus station was also the starting point for a young lady who at least stylistically was a punk.  With artistically arranged hair, tartan trousers with the requisite pins and dangling bit void of functions.  I presumed she was an art student (due to the large portfolio bag she regularly carried and the terminus of the route leading to a city with such educational establishments).

We never spoke, she appeared to be apart from the conversational net as she had other ways of passing the time.  And every day she was with us on the bus she scared me silly.

Now you are wondering if I have a fear of the different, or a stereotypical view of punks! No I have a fear of things being poked into eyes.  I can't watch medical programs about eyes they make me cringe. What has that to do with Punk Girl?  Well every morning she would work on her make up at the bus stop, no problem there, well except it takes a lot of black eye liner and mascara to create the punk eyes she wanted.  There was never enough time to do that justice before the bus arrived, so the application continued on the bus.  Each time we swayed round a corner, stopped or started away with a jerk I sat in horrified expectation that pencil or brush was going to poke her in the eye.  No matter that she had avoided such an injury for months my trepidation never did diminish.  I hope she obtained whatever she was studying , if indeed she was however, I was much relieved once she flew away and I could stop worrying.    

The first bus friends, the Fly Aways + 1

having arrived at the bus station I encounter people with whom I immediately have something in common.  We are waiting for a bus! Yes this is the point of commonality on which all subsequent conversations and bus relationships are initially based.

Six years ago there was one bus for the full length of my trip (it is now two, which will become evident later) and there were two gentlemen using the same route and starting point although with differing destinations.  Names are something not exchanged in the initial stages of commuting interactions.  It appears to be human nature that we must have names or labels for things, if we don't know the right one then we make one up.  Soon with that understanding, my passage to work first becomes populated with  The Tiling Fisher ,and the Shop Manager. The Blind Man joined us at the next stop, and no he wasn't, like the old joke, that was his job. They had been using this route for years and they were familiar to the drivers, even to the extent they would wait a few moments for them if not there at departure time.

Indeed it was the drivers asking after them by name which initially allowed the labels to be replaced, as least partially, I am not too good with recalling names but the juxtaposition of the first these two names helped, being as they were, reminiscent of a childhood rhyme. So the Fly Aways became a morning constant with regular updates on deep sea fishing trips and which relative or friend of, was having what tiling done now.  How the shop was going, trips away ,anticipated holidays and Church events filled the time till the bus arrived.

Quickly I became almost as aware of their schedule as my own, Knowing the days they had off,  when they would be away.  There is a strange kind of community that builds up on the bus, I presume it is the same for those travelling by train.  Being on first name terms is generally seen as more intimate than surnames, but for the commuter first name are more the norm and surnames are the privacy setting.  Indeed there is little else that seems to be excluded from the revelations that will be shared between "bus friends".  We can know so much about each other, what is happening with family, friends work, the dreams, desires and angst's of each others lives yet we meet just for those brief if regular time waiting for or on the bus or whilst we journey.

I am not saying that all bus conversations are counselling sessions or confessionals, the greater part are about the common topic of the BUS, when was it late, early a lucky catch or a frustrating miss, happy or morose drivers and that most British topic of all, the weather. But enough are more so that labels become friends, bus friends.  Most will remain just that and one day they will fly away and not come back, retire, change job change bus, get a car and drive to work and they will not finish the rhyme and come back.



Friday, 1 March 2013

Cracks in shelter from the storm

well shelter from whatever really.  I am lucky and bus number 1 of the day departs from the small bus station at the centre of town.  It has a roof to keep out the rain, walls windows and even sliding doors to stave off the wind.  Seats to rest on (admittedly metal ones, freezing in the winter and hot in the summer but there all the same).
Seats in bus station, gaps too.
Lights to keep the darkness at bay and enable me to read a book if I arrive early or the bus late.

It was not always the way, this space was once what passed for a multi story car park, well it had more than one level.  It never had the fame of the "Get Carter" multi, its bigger and multier counterpart in Gateshead, however it met the same fate albeit much earlier and with less notice let alone protest.  Demolished and replaced, in this case by two shops and the bus station.

Before that shelter- less, seat- less, dark  stops on opposite sides of the main road was as near to a bus station as we got.  So although it is not magnificent I appreciate the amenities it does provide.

Sadly others do not, perhaps they have no recollection of times gone past, perhaps they just have no care for themselves or others.  It is a regrettable yet regular occurrence that the glass sliding doors or the windows are broken, the glass as crazed and cracked as those who made them that way.
Vandalised automatic door

The drafts whizz in the rain bleaches and the sliding doors huff and wheeze themselves open and shut in a relentless parody of the Heat of Gold's doors, all the pleasure gone only recrimination remaining.  It makes me sad sometimes the lack of care and respect given to the advantages we have.