Friday, April 16, 2010

The London bus experience - you never know what you are getting yourself into

I have forgotten how terrifying bus rides can be with more frequent rides on the Tube these days. That’s until two days back when I absolutely have to take the bus (I try not to).

The thing about Tube rides is that you know where you are going when you get onto the train proper. Well, when you actually get to your destination station is a totally different matter but you know you are heading in that direction simply because the driver can’t do a sharp left if he so desire.

But that’s not the case for buses, is it?

I knew something was amiss when the bus driver came out of the bus and chatted with a fellow passenger. They never do that at interchanges or terminals if you will. Especially so when the weather is cold and wind is acting up. The bus drivers would rather huddle in the comfortable warmth of the driver seats with the door shut to passengers shivering in the cold waiting in line outside.

So this particular bus driver opened the door and actually got out of the bus, walked towards one of the passenger with both of his hands in his pocket (it was quite cold on that day) and started mumbling something. The chap whom he spoke to looked surprised for a moment, reached into his knapsack and pulled out a London A-Z. Who carries that in his bag nowadays anyway?

Back to our little story here. The guy started flipping his A-Z furiously while driver shuffled his feet nervously. Bad sign. I should have headed to the Tube straight away but my survival instinct failed yet again. The A-Z guy finally found what he wanted, jabbed his finger on a page and muttered something to the driver who gave him some quick nods and a thumbs up.

Somewhat relieved, the driver skipped back up the bus (another bad sign) and opened the front door. The rest of us herded up the bus. That was the surest evidence that humans’ brain just don’t function once temperature drops beyond the threshold where intelligence gets snuffed out.

The driver said nothing when we got up the bus one after another like lambs heading for slaughter. I noticed that the ticket validator wasn’t switched on. Woohoo, another free ride. Not that it matter to me anyway as I tapped my travel card on the validator to no avail.

The bus got out of the interchange and some of us whose brains hadn’t been frozen out realised that the bus wasn’t going on the regular route. We glanced at each other, no one said anything and that included the driver as he stared right ahead and looked absolutely sure of where he was going.

Finally after the longest ten minutes ever, someone finally had enough. He walked out to the front and gave a soft tap on the plastic sheath that keeps the driver safe from the rest of us. “Where the hell are we?”, he demanded. Apparently, not everyone has got a A-Z handy. He exploded after a few moments, “Then why didn’t you say so before?!”. He turned to the rest of us and helpfully informed us that the driver was notified of some roadwork earlier and had taken to an alternate route. The look of ridicule on his face would have been comical if not for the fact that some of us would have to figure out where we were and how to get back home.

Looking at the reactions of the other passengers, the driver must have been grateful for the plastic sheath. Rumours say that the sheath is shatter proofed as well. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised.

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5 comments:

Lucie said...

hahahaha hilarious post. Only not so hilarious when you are in that situation.

I think that plastic thing is actually bullet proof -- I think they started putting them in to prevent the drivers from being shot in dodgy areas.

Cashmere said...

Are you serious? I think that will never happen here and if it does, we would have been informed earlier. Someone should have said something the moment he got on a different road.

William K Wallace said...

Thats what I love about life in London, even a simple bus journey can turn into an adventure....!

C K said...

@Lucie,
No kidding? Then again, I don't think the shield would be effective if one is determine. Hey, I'm just saying that. :)

@Cashmere,
I think the passengers are too... polite or simply waiting for someone else to make the first move. Heheh, I'm one of those who remained in my seat. Like I said, the bus ride can be an thrill ride in itself!

@William,
Tell me again about it! :)

withinireland said...

oh gosh... what a tribulation! I'm moving over in September and will be following your blog... so you advise the tube I guess!