One often wonders, amongst many things (such as why one has started using the pro-noun “one” and whether as a result one would be accepted into the royal family), why it is that buses have been allowed to continue to exist, and have not yet been replaced by a more efficient, appropriate and – frankly – friendlier substitute. I know that I have before written about the problems surrounding public transport (An Ode To A Cherry Bakewell), but that was more centred around the issue of trains, and it seemed due time to turn my attention to their four-wheeled friends.
I have never been a fan of buses – largely in part to the time I was unable to locate the right bus stop and time to get home for twenty minutes before realising I was looking at entirely the wrong route and it was a bank holiday Monday, and buses were not running. However, when one’s school and work place lies on a bus route and one has neither finished learning to drive nor can afford a car anyway thanks to extortionate insurance prices, one quickly becomes familiar with the local bus service. Not that this is an enviable acquaintance, particularly when one must join the masses on the bus home after school when one is unlucky enough to have no free period last thing. Rude, smelly and horrible children, who shove and poke you, swear at you without an ounce of respect for anyone. It’s like I’ve walked into some futuristic thriller, where the inmates of a juvenile prison have been let loose and allowed to rule the streets. Admittedly, I know I am only five or so years their senior, and my height immediately puts me at a disadvantage where most of them probably assume I’m the same age as them. But what has happened? When I was their age, one look from a sixth form student had me running in terror for fear of what they might do, and that applied to even the toughest guys in my year. Still, another rant for another time - the point being here that such arrogant, selfish, icky little toe rags serve only to enhance the already delightful experience.
Not that it is ever helped by supposedly grown adults – and that includes the bus drivers themselves. Now I’m not applying this to all bus drivers. Some of them, such as my regular “Sunday Bus Driver” as he shall be known here (mainly in part to the fact that I don’t actually know his name), are truly lovely and helpful. However others choose to be irrationally rude, such as driving off from the bus stop five minutes early, despite the fact you are clearly running to catch it, and refusing to accept £10 notes, when it’s all the cash machine gives out, you are disinclined to waste money on something just to get change and there is a large sign on the bus itself stating that they only have a problem with £20 notes or over. As a fellow worker of the public sector (retail counts, right?), I know that the general public can often be stressful and frustrating – but that doesn’t mean you have to be downright rude, especially when the customer has in no way done anything wrong.
My experience yesterday only served to emphasise my detestation for this mode of public transport. Having arranged to meet someone, I specifically woke up and left early in order to catch a bus - a task that anyone else on their Easter break knows is arduous enough. And yet I was rewarded for my good-natured efforts by having to wait an hour for one bus (by which time, there should’ve been three of them) in the freezing cold with a woman who insisted on standing upwind from everyone else waiting and smoking, forcing everyone out of the bus shelter (which incidentally, I’m pretty sure is illegal – the law prevents anyone from smoking in areas covered by three walls – if one counts the fence that met the bus shelter roof (which I do), that’s three walls and therefore illegal). If it weren’t for that fact that she looked a bit crazy and I feared for my safety, I would have said something; still I was forced to make do with muttering loudly, to much approval from those around me. Still the icing on the freezing cold, smoky cake was the bus driver’s response to me politely asking whether there was traffic on the roads this morning – a caveman like grunt, which only served to entirely concrete my opinion that buses are the metal hounds of hell.
And yet, surrounding us are encouragements to use said public transport! I am forced to contest the government’s reasoning for this: they are barely cheaper, and things such as passes and week tickets and inconsistent and hard to come by and I doubt that the huge, fuel guzzling monsters are better for the environment, especially with the development of green technology for private transportation. And, to a great extent, they are a complete waste of money. In some areas, buses run every twenty minutes, entirely empty. The fact is, they are completely unattractive to anyone trying to travel. They are entirely unreliable, unpleasant and unclean – and let’s not even start on the driving that has now caused me permanent whiplash. Those who hopefully put faith in them or, like me, are faced with no other option but their use are thought of as excellent examples to use in statistics, but realistically, we are just warnings to other potential users of the dangers of public transport.
Realistically if the government want the public to use the buses en masse, they will have to do an entire overhaul of the service. Personally, I suggest some futuristic tram system in the air – anything that is not subject to overly frequent break downs, operators that belong in solitary confinement and the horrors of morning traffic. Until then we are faced with the travesty that is the bus service; but to all transport ministers who are encouraging us to use them and yet have never placed one shiny polished shoe aboard a bus in their life – bus off.