Another one from the archives – written on Tuesday November 30th 1999
Public-bloody-transport. How did it come to this? Me. Having to catch a bloody bus of all things. It’s my fault I suppose. By my age you’d think I’d know that you have to do something to earn a living. I mean, you get up in the morning, you go to bed at night and you have to do something in between. That’s why work was invented – to fill the gap.
Most people know that instinctively, they just get on with it. But me? No, not me. I’m so bloody stupid; I don’t know where I get the ideas from. It’s as if I thought I could live on thin air or something.
That’s why I’m on this bus. Look, there’s another pair – fellow-travellers, I’ve seen quite a few in the last two weeks, since my car broke down and I couldn’t afford to get it fixed. Couldn’t afford it – me? After all the money that’s passed through my hands in my various (failed) business ventures. Perhaps one day that poor bloke will start a business of his own – he might as well. At least then he’d have the illusion of doing something useful for a while, until he goes bust.
There he sits, with his equally miserable other half – grey, downcast. The types you see on the bus. A pair of losers like these, that’s one type – there they are, barely twenty, the woman is probably even younger. Yes, there they are, sad miserable faces, facing a bleak few years – until he decides he’s not going to make it after all, and starts going down the pub every night, while she stays at home with the baby, or babies by then, getting more and more bitter, more and more downtrodden.
Then there’s the old women, you see them creak up the step, holding the smalls of their backs, huffing and puffing. Wispy grey permed hair, a good coat they bought in the warehouse sale last year, and they sit down with a sigh.
The old men are different, they’re a bit greasy, a bit shabby. You can tell they smoke, and occasionally put a bet on the horses. They’re not the same people as the old women, not in the same choir. Where are their respective other-halfs? That’s what I’d like to know.
So, there’s the young couple, poor and grey, the wispy-haired old women, and the greasy, grumpy, old men. Who else catches public transport? Well – buses anyway, in this part of Wales. Perhaps it’s different in cities, or in the country, I don’t know. I only know what’s it’s like in this semi-rural, semi-urban, community, where the lack of an internal combustion engine places you in a netherworld of the dispossessed and the disenfranchised.
Who else catches buses? – Ah! I know, it’s the kids, the children – in that other netherworld between being driven everywhere by mothers in Volvos, to getting their first Golf GTi’s.
Children, or young people, between the ages of 12 and 17 say with – a usual age of fourteen or fifteen. Girls plastered with make-up or boys saturated in their old man’s after-shave. Wearing Adidas or Nike or Reebok, chewing gum, and staring at the world, with dead, scary eyes.
And the buses themselves, they’re crap. Well it’s not the buses exactly, they’re all right for a short trip to town. It’s the bus companies, the drivers, the people that run the pantomime.
I mean, there’s supposed to be one bus every thirty minutes from my village to town. Something like 12 minutes past and eighteen minutes to the hour – something like that. You’ve got to get to the bus stop at least 15 minutes early because sometimes the buses come early – they don’t give a shit, they just trundle up when they feel like it and they expect you to be here waiting for them.
And, of course, if they’re not early, they’re late, they’re never on time, oh no, that would be breaking some unwritten rule, that they all laugh about back at the depot, in their Christmas do.
‘You should have seen the pile of plonkers waiting on the bus-stop yesterday,’ they say. ‘Bloody miserable lot – they should be glad we bother to turn up at all.’ That’s what they say, they laugh at us. They do.
And sometimes – they don’t bother to turn up at all, or drive straight past or they come in pairs – that’s taking the piss, isn’t it?
Then there’s the cars – other people’s cars – there must be a few hundred grand’s worth of plastic and metal parked in the few hundred yards from my house to the bus stop outside the co-op.
Parked – yes – parked cars, cars that are left there all day, day after day – good cars, you know – T Reg Rovers, those new funny looking cars with huge roofs – little cars, the noddy cars for the new millennium,. Useless lumps of plastic and metal doing nothing all day. Why can’t I just borrow one of those? I’ll be in town and back inside half an hour, be able to get on with my life then, instead of bumping along in buses with poor sad people.
It makes you think like a criminal; you start to think about liberating one of those vehicles – I mean why not, they probably wouldn’t even notice.
So what am I doing on this bus? I ought to be able to afford to keep a car on the road at my age – even an old banger? OK, OK, I’ll sort it out – rejoin the rat race, get myself kitted out, a car, a mortgage, holiday in Tenerife – the works. I give in. Hang on, what’s that drunk doing – ah, that’s another type, I forgot drunks, mostly middle-aged men – losers I suppose. He’s talking to himself. Talking crap.
No, hang on – wait a minute. That couple behind me, in the back of the bus, I can just about hear one or two words of their conversation, What are they talking about? Hang on – I’ll strain my ears. Ssh – ah – something about keeping a pet – dogs.
Now the drunk is shaking his head at his imaginary companion – ‘No,’ he’s mumbling. ‘Don’t get a dog – they’re too much trouble.’
So, that’s what they do – that’s the first time I’ve been able to make out the words. The guy must be picking up the conversations around him. But he’s right in the front of the bus, how could he hear them? I’m in the middle and I can just about make out the odd word. Perhaps alcohol gives you super-sensitive hearing . . .
So, public transport – it’s crap – it really is. But you do get used to it, and you do see a bit of life I suppose.