Sunday, 28 April 2013

Out of the tin

originally the bus traveled this route once an hour this resulted in lots of people squeezing on to the same bus. More often than not the bus was a single decker and passengers were packed in cheek to jowl (and other bits), with people standing from one end of the bus to the other.

Now you know that I have a seat, a window seat at that so this doesn't sound like a problem for me, well not till it is time to get off.  Squeezed in like sardines the logistics of removing a sardine or two could be quite complicated.  The person in the outside seat has to get up and move slightly back, protecting their ownership of a seat from those standing behind whilst I get up and sidle out.  They then slip into my window seat and as I squash past the foremost  standing passengers, the jocking for the now vacant seat occurs behind me.

Those who got on the bus knowing they would be standing take note of where the possessors of seats get off.  They try to manoeuvre themselves so they will be in a position for the quick dart, the prize of a seat.  It is manic musical chairs without the music.  It is funny being popular just because people know you are getting off the bus at the same place every day creating the opportunity for others to sit.

The shop girls, some of whom had to stand were particularly good at the tactics of seat seizure, and at the same time regularly bemoaned the bus company's lack of foresight in not using a double decker or having more buses run the route per hour.  They got their wish as from my halfway mark and before most of them joined, there is now a bus every ten minutes and the single decker is the rarity now.

Of course this greater flexibility has pretty much deprived me of their company even as it has made getting out of the tin considerably easier.  Convenience over congenial company and social interaction, I am not sure if I benefited or not from the change.   

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Commuting babies and twinkling sheep

the need of many mothers to work, has added baby commuters to those travelling with me.  They are bundled up in pushchairs and make their journey to nursery or childminders, with their mothers then continuing on to work.

Mostly they do so with happy curiosity or contentedly asleep, bus napping in your own customised seat and with someone else responsible for the logistics of the journey looks most pleasant.  Occasionally however they are less enamoured of their circumstances and vent their feelings with ear splitting shrieks, even I find it hard to nap through those sounds..

The current baby regular is most often accompanied by a slightly bedraggled bemused looking bunny.  Bunny keeps her company and for the most part smiling, oh but the day there was a falling out, well bunny did not so much fall as be repeatedly tossed to the floor.  Tired of the "I throw it down, you pick it up " game, mother confiscated bunny and the wail of "I want bunny" was heartrending for a whole stop, till you recalled bunny's fate if restored was to be tossed again to the floor.  Following Easter, bunny appears to have retired and been replaced by a bright yellow chick, trips to the floor not having bedraggled it as yet.

A slightly older child joined the cavalcade one day and had been learning rhymes, Twinkle twinkle little sheep, yip, sheep, the child had a toy sheep and repeated the one line phrase over and over.  It was firmly stuck in my head by the time I got off the bus. You must know how it goes when you get something replaying in your head like that, although I expect it is usually annoying tunes from adverts or snippets of songs half heard from some other persons on board music fest.  Anyway, I had to finish it off to get rid of it.  Now I do not know if I made this up in whole or in part of if I just dredged it up out of my memory but...

Twinkle twinkle little sheep
I count ewe when I can't sleep
Jumping fences in my mind
when sleep I can not find
Twinkle twinkle little sheep
Do you count me when you can't sleep?

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Where was I

ah yes, on the bus and headed for work, reading ,napping or interacting with other passengers. My next regular joined the bus a few stops from what becomes the halfway point for later journeys.  She is the first of the group of passengers that I collectively think of as the shop girls, although as time went on I realised that was not 100%  accurate as whilst all worked in the city they did not all work at department stores.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

Joining the bus later than me she had the longer journey into work and a more difficult return trip due to her hours. Late night shopping may be a boon to those who work till 5 or later but it is not a joy to the people who work in the shops and have their hours set to accommodate it.  I have never worked in retail and conversations with this lady were both interesting and illuminating.

She worked in a large department store which I had been familiar with most of my life.  A visit at Christmas just to see the window displays was a childhood treat. It used to be, as was the case with most such stores, that all the products on sale were bought from them and from their staff who were employed directly by the store.  However, as with many places it has become an umbrella for lots of franchises generally relating to a particular brand of product, so that in the clothing department for instance there are several areas dedicated to particular brands.  My new bus friend worked in one such franchise selling bags and shoes ( boots, etc) with high end prices.  The staff being separately employed by the franchise and working partially on commission, which made the interaction between the staff on the various franchises more complex.  It explains why you can see shop assistants standing with no customers and in the area next to it people waiting to be served, a bit like a posh market with several different stalls under one roof.  Same location but they don't work together and can  not use the tills or do sales on the other area.

Storage and stock issues, cleaning and display arrangements, the store regulations and the franchises own regulations, even who should turn on the lights all things to be navigated carefully in an unending game of work politics.  Bit by bit with almost daily instalments (she had a rota to follow and we did not connect on her late nights) I was introduced to a whole new world.

The other ladies joined one or two stops before my exit from the bus so although their comments added to the whole I never have become as familiar with their jobs.  For these ladies their involvement with each other went beyond the doors of the bus and into workplaces, they extended the relationship to meetings for breakfast, lunch and the occasional night out.  It was both a pleasure to hear about and a slight sadness to be only on the periphery of this group.  Mr Flyaway, working in retail as he did was an honorary member of this group, even if girl applied to him even less than to the rest of the ladies.        


Monday, 15 April 2013

Ready for that nap now..

bus napping, the art of sleeping on the bus and spending just a moment or two more in the arms of Morpheus, without missing your stop.  Bus napper, person who intentionally sleeps on bus journeys, not someone who steals a bus, that has a k in it instead of zzzzz's

If you pop" napping on the bus" or a variation thereof, into a search engine you are going to find quite a lot of entries, from Canadian journalists lauding the confidence of the napper to those advocating various napping positions for the long distance traveller, although to my mind anything over an hour is not napping that's sleeping with a small s anything more than two hours is sleeping with a big S.  Some people have trouble doing that in a bed never mind on the bus.

Considerations and worries for the  novice napper and some gentle advice.

What if I snore or drool, won't that be embarrassing, yes if you do, so do you know your sleeping habits? ask your family if you snore when you fall asleep sitting up? Do you end up sleeping with your mouth open? If the answer is yes then what. Well you could try sleeping with your chin resting on your hand which keeps the mouth closed which can help with both problems but you need to find what works best for you.

What about keeping my belongings safe if I am asleep. Depends on what you have, how busy the bus and how deeply you nap.  I have a bag or occasionally two. I have them on my lap, valuables bag underneath the other and my arms wrapped round both.  I nap lightly and know if someone has sat down on the seat next to me, early morning bus and quite often regulars so far no problem.  The busier the bus and the deeper you sleep the more this might be an issue.  Assess your risk and make the appropriate choice for you and your journey.

What if I lean on someone ? Napping is best accomplished in a window seat so you can lean into the side of the bus and away from anyone sitting next to you.  Try sitting that way to form the habit before you try the sleeping part.

And the big one, what if I miss my stop?  That is where learning the route first comes in, marking reference points, getting a feel for the bus so you know when it stops.  Learning the landmarks so cracking one eye open for a second is sufficient to orientate you and give you a sense of time.  Try just closing your eyes and gauging where you are before trying to nap.

As for me, well when I started on the one bus  it was a reasonable napping time and a second bus station as my disembarkation point, that helped.  On dark mornings the neon signs of shops and a petrol station make good landmarks.  A very rough bit of road on the approach to my midway change over point is brilliant as it rattles the bus and me with the right timing for pressing the bell to get off.  If they ever get it repaired then I might have a problem.  From the second bus there is, near journeys end a quick dip down from the main road a long turn right at one roundabout then a left right, the combination is like a magic wake up call.  Works better than my alarm at home.

Do I nap every morning? no, sometimes I read on bus one and nap on bus two, rarely the other way around and if I am extra tired or feeling the cold that's when double napping occurs.

A cautionary warning, try not to nap standing up at the bus stop, if you have got that tired you need to do something  about it more than bus napping to address the problem.  And you will probably miss the bus!

Oh and a cautionary warning about the bus napper, a person with their eyes closed is not necessarily asleep and just because someone can't see does not mean they cant hear.  Although perhaps that is a cautionary reminder for on a bus regardless, I expect to come back to that point later.

The shop keeping Flyaway was a bus napper on both the outward and homeward bound parts of the journey.  He leaned his head against the window and was so relaxed into the movement of the bus his head would slide backwards and forwards with the motion of the bus.  For those not used to seeing him nap there was the temptation to wake him just in case he had missed a stop.  Generally speaking unless you are certain which stop a napper wants to be off at, let sleeping nappers lie!.  With napping flyaway I didn't even bother with that, he always woke up to the second of when he needed to anytime I saw him dozing the time away.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Not reccomended...buss surfing!

A newspaper article suggested that a great way for the bus commuter to get some exercise and tone those muscles whilst travelling was to bus surf.

I agree an odd term which conjures up a plethora of worrying images, is it for instance the bus version of wing walking or involve wearing rubber suits or extra baggy shorts, or do I have to sing Beach Boys songs?  The reality of the idea is to my mind just as daft.  Stand on the bus for the length of your journey and don't hold on to any of the aides, such as the straps or poles that the company provides to help you balance.  Using just the muscles in your legs back an abdomen to keep you upright, leaning and swaying in sync with the bus like a surfer riding a wave.

Are they mad or just insidiously trying to drum up trade for the injury lawyers?  The bus surfer risks not only their own safety but those of other passengers.  Falling over yourself is likely, falling onto someone else more so.  Just getting up early before your stop and working your way hand over hand on the seat backs and upright poles is perilous enough and I have seen a goodly number of people come a cropper in that situation.

What surprised me almost as much as how daft this suggestion was, oh and it included using the overhead straps on the bus like the rings in mens' gymnastics, duh! was that the paper it was in was available free on the bus next to the sign asking passengers to remain seated when the bus is moving..  

Remain Seated

On a lighter note, also not recommended, playing hide and does not work well. Nor , I have observed is I spy a great success, either the object is on the bus and too easy or outside the bus and passed before the "with my little eye " is finished causing frustration all round.

more time passing

Not quite ready for a nap yet?  Well there is still the electronic entertainment option. I have tried an MP3 player but the music was not loud enough to block out the bus noise, well not the type of music I wanted to listen to at least. Kindle books, games on tablets or mobile phones (the use of the latter on buses is likely to have a post all of their own at some point) but as I mentioned before I am not rushing headlong into the technological revolution.  In fact mostly I am a Luddite when it comes to such things.  My friend Roni does what she can to move me onward but it is an uphill battle.  She is a devote of the Kindle as a study tool and all strength to her and it, but I still prefer a "real" book.

As an aside , if you are going to read a book there are a few things to keep in mind. 
  • When choosing the book remember you have to carry it and balance it on the bus, this is indeed one occasion when bigger is not always better.
  • At the same time try and make sure there is enough book to last the journey in both directions. It is frustrating running out of book with travelling left to do.
  • Avoid books with very interesting cover art or you will spend more time telling other people what you are reading that reading!
  • If the book is too engaging you run the risk of getting so caught up in the story you forget to get off the bus. (re reading an old favourite works quite well)  
  • Keep a book mark handy,or something that will fulfil that function.
  • Avoid reading at bus stops (stations are mostly OK unless very busy) as you can miss seeing the bus coming and only notice it as it glides past and then onward without you. Oh, unless you have an understanding bus friend with you, but in that case you are probably talking not reading. 
I have seen those with steady hands and steady stomachs knit or sew (scary, needles, bumpy roads and corners, need I say more?) and of course the application of make up! however, they too are more than I am able to cope with in transit so I have no advice to proffer on the choices there.