First blog of the Year.
This is a mini blog as I’m working on a bigger one about embarrassment and my ongoing association with it. This little effort was conceived on the top deck of a bus… a particularly mental bus I was on this Monday.
These blogs came about as a result of my Facebook posts of observations on a bus journey I took daily through North London. I was bored riding the same journey every day and so started observing the freaks on ‘The Bus of Dreams’ as I called it. If you look about on a bus you can, and I do, have a field day. Bus dwellers are fuckin’ odd and I’m proud to be one of them purely from an Anthropological perspective.
Of course some routes have better freaks than others. Some buses have so much ammo you could assassinate all their characters ten times over from multiple angles. I started doing it out of boredom but I kinda like it and imagine that we all do it to different levels… somewhere on a bus or in a pub or on a blog I’m having the piss ripped out of me so I don’t feel too bad about it.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been getting a particular bus for a particular reason….The ins and outs of that can wait for now but it’s not a fun journey and I don’t I don’t relish it in any way. I get this bus from the depot so I’m one of the first on the thing.
Getting a bus from its start end point is a joy in itself. You are wholly beholding to the prick behind the wheel. The cock with the timetable controls the doors and won’t let any fucker on the thing before his allotted departure time. They sit alone on the bus in darkness, farting and smoking while we the proletariat stand in the rain and cold begging to be welcomed aboard. And then the magic moment. In the gloom the shadowy figure lurches towards his driving cage, the bus shudders into life, the lights explode and the oaf at the wheel turns the destination board to somewhere else, somewhere wa are not and the doors open.
We cheer a weary cheer and all slope on apologetically so we don’t annoy our saviour. For a split second he is our God….
Bus drivers are a miserable, pot noodle eating rabble. They never smile, they rarely speak and they mostly have a carriage which suggest that the bus was built around them. Some of them attempt kookiness. Badges, kangol caps on backwards, leather waistcoats or worse the leather driving Jerkin, string back driving gloves and on one occasion I saw studded leather driving gloves. They seem to all wear shades of some description but I’m noticing a leaning towards Aviators like they are controlling some form of fighter plane. Perhaps in the piss stinking, Razzle Readers wives poster infested canteen they frequent they have names like ‘Ice man’ and ‘Goose’ and spout on about a ‘a difficult manoeuvre by the pedestrian area’ or a ‘a difficult disabled passenger’. These people are professional drivers…The men and women of oil and diesel….y’know…. morons, power crazy morons…
I’m at the stop and the plum is sitting alone on the bus. It’s cold out but I’m a happyish so continue listening to Mastadon which warms the bones.
The bus bursts into life and an entire herd of craggy, old women appear from nowhere like an outtake from ‘The Walking Dead. I’m a gentleman. I assess the scene and realise that none of them will physically make it up the stairs so I let them all on before me with a fake smile. I see them thank me but can’t hear it as I’m engrossed in ‘Blasteroid’ a particularly explosive piece from the Mastadons. Out of the corner of my eye I see one final old crone heading towards the stop at pace. She knows the Oaf at the wheel will scoot off if he can before she reaches the door threshold so I delay my entry out of pity for the old bat. She makes it but I ain’t letting her on before me. I’m on, facing out the goon behind the wheel. He stares forward not even a passing glance. Knob.
I’m up the stairs like a shot. Empty. I can sit anywhere this is rare. Years ago I got on a bus about half five in the morning as I needed to be in work early. I went up the stairs and was confronted with a cloying waft or some magnitude. I looked about and saw the issue. I went down the stairs and had to actually speak to the driver.
‘Good morning Oaf… Are you aware that lying upstairs there appears to be a street person or as we used to say in the 70’s ‘a tramp’?’ says I.
‘So what mate?’ he spits.
‘Well he appears to have delivered about 4lbs of fruit and nut based shit into both his trousers, such as they are, and the entire back seat…. Are we continuing or shall I alight? ’
‘Yeah…. I know…. He did it about an hour ago. But I’m on a schedule’ he says and off we go at speed.
Great, He’s on a schedule so a bus of shit it is…. He didn’t give a monkeys.
This is what I’m talking about. An uncaring world where shitting on public transport is acceptable and a bloke is happy to transport the shitter about.
I take a seat and the late old bird freak appears at the top of the stairs.
She’s Rothmans craggy and appears to be covered in dust. The entire top deck is empty but she wants to sit behind me and cough….marvellous. I contemplate a polite ‘Will you fuck off please?’ but can’t actually be arsed so I suffer in Metallica based silence.
We move off from the stop and head towards a place where people will be. I’ve done this route a number of times like I said so I know the real freaks are imminent. I always sit nearside so I can see the true glory of the people at the bus stops. Nothing like a crutch or some crossed eyes to warm the cockles….. If we’re lucky a drunk builder will appear.
First up the stairs is a young girl carrying a Minions back pack. She doesn’t actually make it cleanly up the stairs but falls face first two stairs from the top. Behind her is the mother. Lank hair and lank clothes but she seems a decent type until she tells the little girl to stop ‘fucking about’….lovely. The kid isn’t shocked or phased so I’m assuming it’s a regular occurrence which she will pass on to her kids and so on for generations.
Next up we get the prize freak…. A weapons grade professional bellend. Bearded, mid 20’s, builders shape. He’s wearing white-white trainers and low slung jeans and is ready for a night out. The prime rib… the Big Kahuna…Le Grande Fromage of bus freakdom on this bus, what a time to be alive.
Like Lank Mum and offspring he takes the top front seats of the bus. The Art Student once told me that you have to take the front seats in order to pretend that you are driving the bus. He’s a grown man and he should know better but I humour him and pretend to be the co-pilot on our many trips together.
Beard freak takes the seat and starts to get his phone out. I’m two seats behind him on the angle and can almost decipher his text messages as they seem to consist solely of emoji’s and upper case expletives. He probably writes with a blunt crayon and so requires most answers in the modern day hieroglyphics of smiling faces, dog turds and hearts. He’s holding his phone (iPhone 6 naturally) at eye level to view it. No discretion, no crotch level viewing, no sheepish glance around prior to opening it…. It’s straight up so we, the innocent, can witness the contents.
His photo library is up first. Multiple crotch shots of some woman he has no doubt imprisoned in a basement. She looks like she’s literally enjoying herself and I find myself impressed that she’s actually managed to take the photos herself from that angle. If we are not viewing her naked ‘noo noo’ we are treated to the double breast push in an ‘I can make one big one’ way.
In my job I see the contents of a lot of other people’s phones and this practice of having a photo of a loved ones ‘special place’ is unbelievably common. I don’t understand it. It’s like a 21st century trophy wall. All different shapes and sizes, shaggy ones, groomed ones, angry ones, happy ones, empty, full you name it I’ve seen it, all stored on a memory card for immediate viewing. I’ll be honest with you, I’m not really interested in seeing one unless I’m in the room with it and am preparing to engage with it in a number of ways. Call me old fashioned but it’s not really my bag.
He continues to peruse and starts on the videos.
First up we have a video of some football hooligans knocking the shit out of each other. He likes this so views it again. Then he shuts it down and opens another. Cage fighting. Two overpaid ponces knocking the shit out of each other with some choking and rolling around…. Two views back to back. Lastly I get some more football numskulls knocking the shit out of each other. I’m spotting a theme here… Fighting and Fucking. Classic Bloke….Classic thick bloke, probably drinks Pils and likes Adele and Coldplay.
In between songs on the headphones I hear an anguished cry behind me. I look round and see a bloke with a homemade haircut and hubble strength specs. He has a long head and judging by the broadness of his forehead and the thickness of his neck he has been incarcerated at some point. He’s lightly rocking back and forth and is letting out the occasional scream and random laugh. It reminds me of Vinny Jones when he was interviewed after beating Liverpool in the cup final in the 80’s. He was so taken by the moment that he lost the ability to form words and simple said ‘OI!!’ to every question asked of him while drinking a pint of milk.
I didn’t see this bloke get on as I was busy watching skin and punch up films on some bearded freaks phone.
I look ahead and see a familiar place. I can walk home from the next stop so head to the stairs.
I get to the lower deck, usually a refuge for the old, infirm and twitchy but it’s banged out with shouty people all talking different stuff at the same time.
Do you remember that scene in ‘One flew over the Cuckoo’s nest’ where McMurphy hijacks the bus and takes all the nutjobs on an impromptu trip? Well I’m on the English version of that bus but as I don’t want to go on a fishing trip prior to some electrotherapy and a lobotomy I exit via the middle doors and leave the insanity behind me.
A twenty minute journey containing Porn, fighting, shouting, swearing and insanity…. The Bus of Dreams…
Next time I’ll tell the embarrassing tale of The Pencil Thief and other moments of my social downfall…