I remember a time when I took a break from buses. It was about ten years ago and I was drawn away by an attractive job offer from a firm that I had previously worked for. It didn’t turn out how I planned and I ended up back on the buses. This is not what this post is all about however. While I was away, the thing I missed the most was the camaraderie ( A word best spoken while giggling your head from side to side with each syllable ). Back then It didn’t matter which bus company you worked for, you still offered a smile and a wave at other bus drivers as you passed by. Nowadays things are different. I am not saying that drivers don’t wave and spread cheer amongst themselves to help relieve either the boredom or the stress, which ever happens to be plaguing you on any particular day, but what I am saying is that it isn’t always the case anymore. You used to be able to rely on a at least a smile if you managed to catch an eye but now a particular form of Russian roulette exists.
I understand that everyone favours those closest to them, it’s human nature, which is why I can relate to drivers from the same company giving each other a quick nod and a grin. I don’t get it, however, when a driver from a different company tries to add to their show of comradeship and only receives scowls in return. Yes the bus companies are in competition with each other, each trying to secure more routes and ultimately more profit, yet the drivers have nothing to gain by ostracising each other in the same way. I have even overheard talk of how the drivers from this company are this or that. Talk of how every driver from one particular company are just the rejects from all the other operators. I have even heard it said, of one service provider, how all their drivers are criminals on parole.
The problem is that this new attitude goes deeper than just a division between the companies. Each individual bus depot within a single company has its own form of segregation as well. This is unwittingly exasperated by the powers that be as they often post rankings that can cause a sense of competition between the garages. I would love to say that was a far as this situation goes but there is a further, lower level to all this division.
This is where my mind boggles at the shear narrow mindedness that people can adopt into their own psyche. Individual bus routes and even the day and night shifts within that one route can end up pitting themselves against each other.
“He’s my mate, he drives the 162. I don’t like him though, he drives the N62”.
I have now adopted a strategy that I implement whenever I meet one of these particular individuals. They are easy to identify by their reaction to your wishing wave of good will. They will go beyond the scowl and raise a single central digit and aim it’s knuckle in your general direction. My uniform response is simple. I will raise my own hand and with three fingers touch my bottom lip, slide my palm under my chin, pucker up and blow. I Usually follow this up with a wide, eyed, sparkling grin and then watch as their faces turn read and their heads inflate like a novelty balloon. Now I don’t consider my gesture as significantly abusive. In fact I have often performed a similar action towards my beloved wife and she has never taken any offence to it. I see it as akin to my other, newer gesture of affection I bestow towards her. It is something I have grown a habit of doing ever since reading William O’Brien’s excellent fantasy novel Peter: A Darkened Fairytale. I will slip my fingers into my shirt pocket and the lift them back out and up to my lips. Much like blowing a kiss, I then puff imaginary fairy dust at her to defend her against weaker evils.
I will now tell of one particular bus driving incident. I should have known as the bus approached. The driver was staring at a cyclist in front of him, with blood curdling hate in his eyes, as he approached a busy bus stop but I offered a wave anyway. His hair was shaven as short as possible, obviously in an attempt to disguise the bald spots. His face looked like the cross between a pit-bull terrier and a pinkish red avocado. His bulbous nose was so pitted and scared it looked like he had been scratching it with a cheese grater for the past twenty years. He also had so much gold in his mouth that he must have had to brush his teeth with Brasso®. There was a stocky look to him, the look of a man who once had rippling muscles which had now turned to fat. He probably told people that it was all just relaxed muscle. Relaxed! Any more relaxed it’ll be dead. Muscles so relaxed that the biceps were now hanging loose from the wrong side of his arms. I must admit that I knew the type well, he was the kind of man who would begin to smell a bit like pork scratching if he was left in the sun for too long.
He saw my wave and, as predicted, the middle finger of his right hand stood alone and erect for my appraisal. I then responded with my trade mark gesture.
His eyes had then bulged to the point of popping out onto his lap. His forward facing attention was completely diverted to my direction and with both hands he performed double, back handed victory signs. This left me wondering how he was steering the bus while both his hands were busy doing more important things. As we passed each other I heard the sound of rubber against curb. A second later I heard the cries of many voices and, as I looked through my rear view mirror I saw a dozen or so people chasing the other bus as it missed the stop and continued down the road still bumping up and down the kerb. I would love to say there was a moral to this story and perhaps there is; I, however , have no clue what that moral could be.