Monday, June 20, 2011

Bus of Ages

I note a number of superb bloggers get their muse whilst taking a ride on the bus. Apparently, this is a rich seam of human anthracite in the bedrock of society, ripe for the mining, ready to be thrown on the fire of blogging to warm the hearths of . . . well, you get the drift.

On the bus are people to write about.

We are a one car family and, apparently, I'm not allowed to take the kids to school on the motorbike no matter how much duct tape I use. Because of this, I must resort to the bus when the wife goes off on her little hobby of being a state-registered nurse.

So, after a morning spent wrangling a 4 year-old boy off his trampoline and wrestling a 1 year-old girl into her tights, off we go to the bus stop, which is just round the corner.

"What do we do now, daddy?" my son asks.

"Now," I narrow my eyes, look to the horizon and put on my Ray Bans. "We wait."

And wait we do. Past the time the bus is due, which is pretty much normal. Past, in fact, the time my boy is supposed to start school, which is also not uncommon.

My daughter pulls my Aviators off my face and licks the lenses. If she breaks them that'll be another twenty quid on ebay wasted.

Eventually, just as I'm about to give the school a ring to say we'll be forty minutes late because I'm going to have to walk there at the pace of a small boy, the public transport device hoves into view round the corner. It is elderly, and erratically driven, and about as aerodynamic as a sofa. It meanders down the road like a brick being pushed by a dog, hissing to a stop in front of me, a cloud of oily smoke arriving at about the same time.

"New model?" I ask the driver, conversationally. He turns his head slowly to look at me, then his left eye, and then his right one. His brow furrows, and he glances desperately at the signs on the wall. From past experience I know he is looking for the "Do Not Distract The Driver With Pleasantries Or Queries About The Age Of The Vehicle" sign, but they have been taken off because people want friendly drivers, not automatons. Unfortunately, they got neither.

All he can see are signs that say "DayRider Ticket - £3.50" and "Work For Us; Good Wages And All The Used Chewing Gum You Can Scrape From Under The Seats", so he is forced to interact.

"Uh . . ." he says.

"Single to the school, please." I say, putting him out of my misery.

"Uh . . ." he looks at the children, his mind wrestling with the concept of three people on a single ticket. I enlighten him that they are free because the company's own policy allows under-fives to travel gratis.

"Uh . . . wanton." He mumbles.

"Oh . . .kay . .?" I wonder how to respond to this, before my brain translates it into 'one pound and ten pence'. I consider giving him a tenner to see if he might explode, but the bus is late enough already so I hand over the correct change. Wanton.

By now, my son has managed to sit at the back next to a window, so I join him. Next to us, a kid in a hoodie, looking like he's trying to be cool, quiet and mysterious, looks at me, grins widely and says "Hello!"

"Hello." I say back, settling in.

"I have to go on this bus to school now because I've got to go to a new school, because it's further away, do you go on this bus a lot, because if you do I might see you, because I'll be on it every day, so I hope it's not too busy, but it was the only school that will take me, even after my tablet, where are you going to, do you know why I have to go to a new school?" He takes a deep breath in.

ADHD I immediately think, and we begin a conversation about the emergency exits, and about how a very fat person wouldn't be able to get out, about how he doesn't like his new school, or being twelve, and a load of other subjects in between.

"Have you heard of ADHD?" he asks me at one point. "They give you tablets, and you get these lessons where . . ." he actually looks quite perplexed at that point, almost sad. "I have to go to a new school," He concludes.

"I have." I say. I decide to confront the subject head on. "Got any hobbies?" I ask.

"Er . . ." His eyes flash left and right, trying to recall. "No!" He announces proudly.

"Get some." I tell him. "And do you like writing?"

"Yeah." He says, enthusiastically, "English! That's not so bad! I'm good at spelling"

"Get a note book and a pen." I say. "Write a load of stuff down. Don't show it anyone unless you want to. See how much you can write in one day, starting with who you saw in the bus."


"Helps with the ADHD." I say, "Maybe.

"Does it?" He asks, and I can see the expressions on his face chase the thoughts in his head, like watching the ripples on a pond made by a fast moving pike beneath.

"Yeah." I think about my own notebooks from those days. "I think it does."

Our stop arrives and we say goodbye. I gather my son up, preventing him from trying to touch the blackheads on an elderly chap's enormous ears on the seat in front of him.

In front of my son, not the elderly chap, because ears like that would be worth writing about.

We get off and, amazingly, aren't the last to arrive at school. My boy, the epitome of young confidence and wonderful carelessness, legs it into his classroom without even a backward glance.

Those notebooks are long gone, as are my school days, but I recall I always had a backward glance.


  1. :-) a brick being pushed by a dog...

    There's so much I love about that phrase, starting with the fact that while I love it, it would never have occurred to me.

    And now, of course, I have to ride a bus in another country -- but not one where they allow poultry. The homeless I contend with are enough (although there are fewer eggs involved).


  2. Great post! Wish i still had my notebooks...

  3. Wanton. Never a truer word spoken by a tired old fart. He had you pegged.

  4. Pearl - Poultry on buses isn't so bad. Unless you live near an ostrich farm and then you've got problems. Those things always have their iPods up waaay too loud.

    krouth - Thanks! And you never know what treasure you might have mislaid, as well as heaps and heaps of abject crap!

    GB - He was pretty much spot on. I wouldn't talk to me either.

  5. Poor ADHD boy! Tell him next time you see him that he should take up juggling also - that and the writing takes care of focusing the mind and the body. Plus, girls love jugglers.
    Little known fact.

  6. Vic - True! I can juggle, and I have to fight them off with an imaginary stick!

  7. Writing because you WANT to? Frankly the idea never occurred to me..ever! I wrote because an assignment was due or I wrote because if I didn't I'd have got a 'D', and you Really didn't want to bring a 'D' home to my parents. It's all different now of course, now my mind is still active even though my body is slowing down...some where between the two is the writing that soaks up some energy.
    This is another great post from so many others.
    Cheers mate

  8. "...and about as aerodynamic as a sofa" — Your description of the bus slayed me. Great imagery.

    I was also touched by your advice to write all those thoughts down to the ADHD boy. Sometimes there is wisdom on the bus.

  9. I used to commute into the big city to my big city job where I rode an Express bus both ways. The express bus was for those of us who lived out in the suburbs going in and out of the city who didn't want to stop a lot.

    That never worked out well, and I always got to sit next to old people who wanted to tell me about their medical history.

    sigh... I miss the bus...

  10. Tempo - Cheers yerself. And I know it's a long shot but it . . . just . . . might . . . work.

    Mandy_Fish - Glad you approve! And I don't get called wise very often. Even if I dress up as an owl.

    SkylersDad - A chugging meander, that's the sort of bus you want for inspiration. Nothing efficient and competent. That way lies tedious monotony and stagnant thoughts.
    Also, 'rode an Express bus both ways' sounds like a eupemism for doing the dirtiest thing in the world, whatever that is.

  11. You've got a great voice and paint a vivid picture of life on a peasant wagon.

  12. Sounds like public transport is all the same around the world late, dirty and smelly :-).

  13. Tony Van Helsing - All fun and games on the prolemobile.

    Juderaoo - Why ta very much!

    Windsmoke - And noisy. Don't forget noisy.

  14. note to self: Do not read about blackheads on an empty stomach. Blech.

  15. Elly Lou - Much better on a full stomach, are blackheads.

  16. there were ears? On the seat in front? Ears off of an old man?


    Buses are goldmines. Since you and Pearl do it so much better than I, I can only tell you that once, when I used to commute to work in Manhattan by bus, some crazy, large lady in a giant t-shirt and no bra, once got right up in the grill of another lady, who was quietly reading and yelled, "WHAT UP, YOU HONKY BITCH?" causing me to sweat profusely from trying not to guffaw. While trying to swiftly exit the bus I smashed right into a pole. The end.

    OK I admit, yours is better.

  17. I love everything you write. such a treat to see you pop up on the reader. So much so I actually make happy noise. "Oh! Yay!"

    This has the bonus "touching moment." Sly devil, now I'm entertained and moved.

  18. Veggie Ass - Big, crazy ladies are perfect blog-fodder. The bigger and crazierierier the better. Er . . . the tighter the sweater.

    Nicole - What a lovely comment. I'm very glad you enjoyed it.

  19. damn, how am i JUST seeing this lovely gem, sugar? *sigh* this almost makes me want to ride the bus here in my little town! xooxoxxo


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