I go on public transport most days. I went on some today. It was a bus, as you’re asking. Historically, buses have been my least favourite of all the distressingly undesirable methods not owned by myself of getting from one place to another. They stop every two seconds. Mums crush your feet under piles of their screaming progeny strapped unnecessarily into prams that would give most heavy plant machinery a run for its money. There’s always a man on there that smells of biscuits.
As of seven o’clock tonight, London’s transport network will be sent into meltdown due to an irritatingly inconvenient strike by some people asking for some job security and a couple of extra pictures of the Queen in their pocket. How unreasonable. Still, it’s a recession and all that, so they’re unlikely to win any fans among those who get the boot for being late for work for the rest of this week. Interestingly, both sides in the dispute reportedly turned up ‘early’ for the pre-strike crisis talks. The irony.
So with the threat of no tubes running until Friday, good old London mayor Boris Johnson has racked the bird’s nest perched precariously on top of his neck for answers and rattled out a few baffling solutions ranging from the ridiculous to the inexplicable.
Speed down the Thames to your office on one of the ‘extra river services’ anyone? Oh no, sorry, you’re not bloody James Bond. Perhaps, then, you’d like to complicate your already traumatic enough commute by travelling Tour de France-style as part of an ‘escorted cycle ride’? No? Didn’t think so. In which case, it’s one of the 100-or-so extra buses, then. You lucky people.
That means on top of all the usual pushchair-riding snot bubbles and machete-wielding chip throwers that load themselves on to buses around London every day, there’ll now be a few million Metro-reading suits miserably choking swine flu into each others’ cadaverous faces for the next few mornings.
Seriously, as if drudging around on one of these brightly coloured drone-shuttles wasn’t bad enough. Today, for instance, a young lad uniformed up to the hilt in a comedy combo of too-big blazer and inappropriate-for-the-weather shorts was sat opposite me. He was listening to a song through the speaker on his phone, pressed right up to his ear. He was in some sort of trance, chanting the chorus, over and over and over and over again. Loudly, and with increasing volume. My fellow travellers dealt with the events unfolding around them, as is usual behaviour on any public transport, with reactions ranging from annoying insouciance to silent, manic screaming behind the eyes.
I’m not currently chugging on a pipe, or sporting either a pair of moccasin slippers or some of the thickest-grade corduroy known to man, so I won’t go into a rant about what the kids are listening to these days, but this was a little too much. Having any amount of drab, Jamster-sponsored dirge forcibly piped directly into my grey matter using a minute speaker that spits out music so tinny it may as well have been recorded in a half-eaten can of Spam does not a pleasant journey make.
I don’t know what the song was. But I hate it. And yet instead of doing the honest, decent and perfectly reasonable thing of stealing the offending phone, donating it to the man who smells of biscuits, kicking him and his new phone out the door at the next stop and then ridiculing the chanting boy for his ludicrous choice of leg wear, I kept quiet. Screaming behind the eyes.
So there it is. In the interest of balance I could say buses are convenient, regular and inexpensive. But despite these things, they’re still a bit on the shit side. I’m packing my tux and taking the river tomorrow after all.