Finding things other than drinking in Scotland is far more difficult than it sounds. So I’ve been taking the bus a lot. Busses run like clockwork here and are used by all sorts of people. Almost too many kinds of people.
For a start, there are a lot of old people on the bus. They get to ride for free, but not everyone is stoked about this. It is, however, a massive relief since it means they are not driving, but it also means that the busses get a slight smell of Hospice without the discounted furniture. Although I would not at all be surprised if someone had died on one of those seats. In fact, it would be preferable as that would leave the seat open for other passengers.
I’m not sure if they choose to advertise during Antiques Roadshow or some shit, but all the ballies seem to cart these little trolleys around, following them like the Reaper himself. These trolleys are about knee-high, contain pram wheels and have what appears to be a water-proof plastic/canvas material. What are they putting in these bags? Something that is too heavy to carry, can’t get wet, is under knee height, and is unlikely to be electronic? This narrows it down to gremlins, dry cleaning, and firewood. My gut says gremlins.
As they cart around these cradle-to-grave machines, they always give an expression on their face like they don’t know where they’re going, even though they know exactly where they are going. They’re just waiting. Waiting for someone not to give up their seat and then bam! A tweed-clad gremlin on fire starts eating your face off. But perhaps that’s just my imagination. Perhaps not. Just know that you’ve been warned.
Next are the foreigners. I realise I fall in this category, but fuck you. Usually, these are women of some kind of Eastern European origin. They are generally quite attractive, and take up less space than the locals, so they’re not a bad addition to the bus. But then you get caught up in their ritual of reassuring people that they don’t even go here. This includes speaking loudly in their mother tongue to whomever is from anywhere near them. Failing that, they’re on the phone showing enthusiasm at seemingly inappropriate time. This may seem rude, but when riding the bus with family we tend to break out into Afrikaans so we can skinner about the people around us and assert dominance. If only Mrs. van Watookal from high school could see me now. Although there’s quite a difference between trappe an vergelyking and saying that the gentleman sitting near the back looks like a doos.
There are also the drunkards, appearing at more random times than expected. From a Tuesday morning to a Saturday night, they are out. They seem to speak passionately about issues that don’t exist, coming from events that never happened. Until you’re the drunk fuck, in which case they make total sense. But, even I must remain coherent from time to time. And it’s not until you’re sat in front of one of these vile creatures that you realise what a true pest they really are. I once drew the long bus short straw and sat in front of some chap who was emitting fumes. I took little notice until he kicked my chair and offered some kind of proposition to me. I ignored him, admittedly having already weighed out all pros and cons of doing business with him. I resigned to putting on my headphones, a social norm in the situation. The drunk fuck continued to spew shit from his mouth but I could not hear him so I didn’t care. But then it happened. A bug landed on my jacket.
This seems like a normal thing if you’re from an African climate, but not so much in the UK. Not only are the windows pretty much shut on the bus, bugs are as weary of the weather as the people. But I’ve dealt with insects before and had no shame getting ready to execute this poor fellow. Only he was already dead. And recently so. This could only mean that the bug, while still alive, landed on the drunk fuck and found its host so uninhabitable that it used its last bit of life flying away from him just to die in mid-air and dive bomb onto my jacket. That or the drunk fuck threw it at me. Neither were ideal and I decided to walk, stepping on the bug on my way out.
The next set of deplorable creatures are the high school teeny-boppers. They often travel in packs and are loud, annoying, and at times good-looking which puts one in the most unusual of positions (depending on the girl, of course). Back to reality and they remain skidmarks on the bus system. I like to think of myself as pretty liberal and, at a mere 23, not at all old. But these youths need to sort their shit out. Fine, go sniff your pills at the next stop, I don’t give a shit, but you needn’t shout it to your friend sitting next to you using words like “lit”, “fire”, and “fleek”. What is your obsession with fire? Have the Gremlins got you before? Why do you hate English so much? Give your seat to that old person, they have their own drugs to do, damn it.
Their respect will shock any South African, so don’t ever let anyone here pull rank on you. If you’ve seen the Inbetweeners will see how the locals treat their uniform and that is exactly how it is done. Ties have no set length (the more ridiculous the better), shoes have no consistency, and kids use just about any old jacket to put over their untucked mess. Have you no school pride? I’ve have many problems with formal schooling not allowing individualism, but you got to have some kind of order so you can rebel at a later point in life. Kids are given too much freedom and too much hope. This is why music is getting shitter and why people are choosing to identify as cats and shit. Kids should be given the option to be anything they want for the first semester at school. After that, they should be beaten for thinking outside the box, so they can appreciate leaving school and have some interesting shit to sing about. Think the Ludovico technique, but with sticks.
This brings me to my issue with headphones. I enjoy listening to music too, and in a world where music has to fight against TV, Facebook, and Twitter for free time, it can be hard to get a good tune in. But why wear earphones constantly? Why wear them when it’s just you and one friend on the bus? Why are you so fucking afraid of human contact that you have to blair some easy-digestible pop bullshit rather than look strangers in the eye, spit on their shoes, and tell them to go fuck themselves at a normal audible volume like the rest of us? Needless to say, I don’t dig it.
Finally you have the chancers. Varying from those trying to get a free ride to those trying to carry weird shit on board. Such as the following encounter:
Man stands at bus stop with a few 3m long curtain rails, wrapped in plastic. Other passengers look confused. Old people measure the rails against their trolleys. Drunks are reminded about a story they never heard. Foreigners speak on the phone.
Man in heavy Scottish accent “Alright pal? Can I bring this on the bus, it’s too heavy to carry.” This is a lie, as he is carrying it while he speaks.
Driver, struggles with English “No, I don’t know”
Man “No it’s fine pal. Just a few stops. It’s too heavy to carry”
Driver, “Will it fit?”
Man i half past giving a shit and is already on board and seated in one of the front seats, with the railings clearly crossing over the path down the centre of the bus.
Driver “No it cannot block here”
Man “Yea but it’s too heavy to carry. You know what, I’ll take it to the back”
Man carries uncarriable rails to the back. People move out of the way. he apologises with a smile. Man manages to find a seat at the back with the railings going down the side, resting on his lap. Chuffed as fuck.
Man from the back “Uh, pal, I haven’t got a ticket yet”
Man “I said I haven’t got a ticket!”
Driver “It’s fine!”
Random passenger 1 joins in “I think it’ll take longer for you to get back up!”
Random passenger 2 “As long as you don’t attack us with it!”
I am now confused and wonder who forgot to hand me the script. The poor banter continues and after a few stops the random passengers, who sit on opposite ends of the bus, have broken down the whole operation, ruled out danger based on where the first man was born, and bonded as they all had family that once worked in the same area kind of. By the time we reach the top of the street, random passenger 1 has to leave and Man manages to convince him to help carry the immovable object out with him and the two part ways. I have FOMO.
So finally, I like the bus system. It gets me from where I need to be. I don’t need to worry about staying sober, dodging potholes, or getting rear-ended on Lynwood road by a guy who refuses to pay you. But the people are generally entertaining in a good and bad way, and I always like to thank the bus driver on my way out. Before we swear at each other under our breath. First world problems