Riding in buses with people

I commute to work by bus every day. I take a ten-minute walk to my stop, hop on my favoured ride, and sit among the good and the great, the quiet and the noisy. Usually I catch up on texting my friends or family, or I read my book. Sometimes I sit and listen. Other times I just sit.

Last week, the American President paid an official state visit to these shores. Barack and Michelle Obama were welcomed by both Queen Elizabeth II and British Prime Minister, David Cameron. In the midst of the pomp and ceremony and formality, David and Barack went to visit a south London school to play table tennis. And to meet the schoolchildren. Apparently the area was a no-go zone for most of the day, as security measures ensured the safety of the two highly competitive table tennis players.

The day after this school visit, which was splashed across all national and international media, I travelled on the bus with a bunch of schoolchildren who were clearly part-time political commentators.

“You know they went to that school, yeah? They chose that school, right, because them kids, yeah, they’s well bad, right? So they went to that school to make them good, innit?”

I hope they were successful.

So these are the things I observe as I ride in buses with people:

1. Some people bash everyone’s heads with their bags as they walk up or down the aisle of the bus. It looks like they have either a small washing machine, or an old-fashioned television set in the bags they carry on their shoulders and, systematically, they will bash the head of each person sitting on an aisle seat on their route. I am not sure how many points you get for a whole row of commuters, but there must be some high-fiving happening somewhere.

2. Some people like to take up two seats on the their own. They will sit on one seat and their bag on the other. (See above.)

3. Some people who travel with their friends or partners or spouses, love to speak loudly and sometimes to argue. I sat on the bus once listening to a young couple argue for forty minutes about the same subject. When eventually I got to my stop, I was tempted to say, “For goodness sake, do the freaking exam tomorrow. He has a point – you’ve got nothing to lose.”

4. Some commuters are very British. And others aren’t. One morning, as I walked up the stairs to the upper deck of the bus, I heard a young man seated at the back of the bus having a conversation on his cell phone. Clearly, he didn’t need a phone; I think his friend would have heard him from Edinburgh. He finished his conversation, and then began to strike up a conversation with the guy who had sat down beside him. I thought it was an entirely one-way conversation because all I heard was the young guy, at the same number of decibels as his phone conversation, tell his neighbour about what had happened on the bus the night before. After a polite pause, his new friend said to him, “Would you mind calming down, please?”

5. Some people don’t mind having inappropriate conversations that everyone on the bus can hear. One evening, I was joined by a chubby and jovial young man who came to sit next to me. He was already having a conversation on his cell phone, which he continued at full voice for the entire journey. As hard as I tried to concentrate on reading my book, I couldn’t focus for the incessant yabbering from my neighbour. My book was much more interesting than the fact that he argued with his partner for three hours on Monday night because, as he was ironing, he forgot to tell her when Glee came on television.

6. Some people are fruit murderers. The other day, I sat near a guy who wasn’t so much eating an apple, as beating it to death between his tongue and the roof of his mouth. Loudly.

Despite how it may sound, I do love travelling to work by bus. I have a scenic walk along the docks, the river and then a treed walkway to my bus stop. And it is fun getting to know some familiar faces who catch the bus at the same time as I do. Once I’m on the bus, I make sure I don’t forget to look up at the regular sights that we pass, like the occasional uninterrupted view of the River Thames, and the view of Tower Bridge. Mostly I sit there and feel thankful for my job and for this opportunity to live in London.

On the odd occasion – and thankfully this doesn’t happen too often – the journey can be quite different. Once, I planned an entire tantrum in my mind. I had no intention of acting on it, but the process of imagining turned out to be just what I needed. Let me explain …

One day a few weeks ago, I’d had a really full and busy day at work, and I got on the bus feeling quite tired and wearing the hair-shirt of grumpiness. I was trying, unsuccessfully, to send a text message to my husband; traffic was bad; our bus sat in one of the railway tunnels for ages; a young couple was arguing non-stop and a Spanish couple were shouting at each other (I don’t think they were arguing, just trying to get themselves heard above the arguers). In my mind, I imagined the following: flinging my head dramatically into my lap, grabbing my hair with both hands and doing a screen-worthy “aaaargghhhhh!” Once that had got everyone’s attention, I imagined myself storming down the aisle – telling the young couple to “sort this out, one way or the other, for the love of London!”. (I actually thought that.) As I stormed down the aisle, I would also be bashing everyone’s heads with my bag – not on purpose, but just because I had a big bag over my shoulder – and swearing like a pirate at the bus driver for the traffic, before demanding he let me off the bus.

It felt quite satisfying to imagine that drama in my mind, until I remembered that that very morning, I had prayed that God would use me to extend His kingdom in whatever I did that day. Major fail. That made me smile and it loosened the grumpy shirt that I’d been wearing. I breathed deeply, I tried to remember the true meaning of tolerance and chuckled as I stepped off the bus, quietly, at the next stop. I didn’t even touch my hair.

Sunshine signing off for today!


41 thoughts on “Riding in buses with people

  1. Dear.Sunshine,
    I loved it. I needed it.
    Those rude cell-phone talkers & head bashers & big mouths gave you a SUPERB blog.
    xx Thanks for the 🙂
    PS God would be proud of you!

    1. Thanks, Kim – so glad it made you smile! It was a fun post to write … there is so much going on around us all the time here in London, and I just love observing the everyday absurd stuff!

  2. Thanks for the post – this gave me a good chuckle because now with cell phones the reality people exist in publicly is not one they can easily control! I think most are clueless how loud they speak when having a wireless encounter! Like the “grumpy shirt” phrase too as that really describes it! Blessings for tolerance when it counts!

    1. It’s so true – we’re vicarious participants in others’ lives because of wireless technology! I know that I speak more loudly on my cell phone than I realise, but I try not to have conversations in public places! haha! Yes, grumpiness does feel like an uncomfortable shirt, doesn’t it? Thanks for laughing – my work is done!

    1. oh i was going to say now that we live in muizenberg I occasionally catch the train into town a very new experience and I must say I really enjoy it…I feel like I am more Capetonian…does that sound weird….I love feeling like I”m experiencing the real world and not sitting in my car oblivious of all around me…I love walking over Adderley street left into St Georges and walking up through the paved road, right across Green Market Square and up to Loop Street…sometimes I walk down Long Street and wonder at all the wonderful shops and talent that is here… I do love Cape Town…oh and by the way the Green Point Park is absolutely beautiful with its biodiversity garden…you walk up waterkant street all along the fanwalk as if you are going to the stadium and then veer off to the left and there are gates into the most beautiful garden and you can walk straight through to Mouillie Point…some lovely things for you guys to do when you come for your visit…okay bye sorry rather longwinded …bye xxx

      1. How lovely, cathi – I so know what you mean! I have realised since we’ve been here, that I’ve missed out on so much in Cape Town – on so many levels. It must be wonderful to travel by train and walk through the city – I don’t think I’ve ever done that! Thanks for the heads up about the walk to Green Point Park … can’t wait to check that all out when we’re there! Big hugs to you all xx

  3. It’s like that here in Miami, Florida and it goes on in a dozen different languages. Why is it that the screamers couldn’t give a hoot who is listening as if no one else is around but we can’t extract them from our world because of the intensity of their disturbance? Where can I live to get away from this? Anyway, I have crossed London off the list of possibilities.

    1. Sorry to disillusion you, Carl! I think it’s probably like that in all big cities … except the ones where there are no cell phones! (Are there any cities like that?) One of the curses of our age, don’t you think?

  4. Oh the memories of commuting in London on buses! You didn´t mention the way the driver always slams on the brakes really hard as you get near a stop so that everyone ends up in a heap on top of each other…So glad that you can see the brighter side of it all though. As an old advertising slogan said (I think) “Love London, Love Life”

    1. Very true – there’s a knack to remaining upright, especially walking down the stairs when the bus is still going! I have seen people end up in a heap on top of each other – the bus drivers must have a league going, don’t you think? 🙂

  5. Since we moved to the country, I haven’t been on the bus nearly as much…when I go on it now, I wondered how I did it every day for years!

    Fun post, Sunshine!


  6. Hi Sunshine!!!!

    So glad I took the time to read your post today. Great, funny story. I used to commute everyday on the light rail in San Francisco in the 8o’s and then again here in Portland, Oregon in 2004. The stories are endless, aren’t they? Some are rude, some are hilarious, and some are down right frightening. But they all make for a good story. Thanks for sharing yours with us today!
    xo – Patty

    1. Hey Patty – good to see you again! Glad you enjoyed this post – commuting is an interesting pastime, isn’t it? So much to take in – endless entertainment! I can imagine you have loads of stories too! Hope you’re well xx

  7. What a great post!

    I’m with the ironing man’s missus on this one – if the Hub let me miss Glee, it would be serious grounds for divorce 🙂

  8. Boy, commuting tales are the same whether by bus or subway. I can completely relate to your stories! One major difference: at least in the subway there is no cell phone service! Sweet relief!

    1. Very true, jacquelin – I love your commuting stories! One of the cell phone networks here is talking about soon being accessible on the tube – I can think of nothing worse, honestly!

  9. Can you imagine carrying on a loud argument on the bus! That’s amazing! If I recall correctly your post that was FP-ed 6 months or so ago was also about riding the bus–or was it about something that took place at the bus stop–flossing? Cleaning teeth? I forget. That was a good one too!

    1. Isn’t that bizarre, Kathy – without a hint of embarrassment? Yes, you’re right – my FP post was about PTDs (public displays of toiletry) inspired by seeing someone clipping her fingernails at the bus stop! 🙂

  10. No commuting for me, as I’m blessed to be working out of my house. And don’t I feel blessed indeed, especially when you’ve reminded me so humorously of why I work out of my house! But what interesting characters you’re meeting, Sunshine!

  11. Love this post Sunshine. It reminded me of our recent trip to Orlando. My husband and I road the city bus for an hour.

    On our bus was a couple in about their 60’s obviously drunk and the women kept trying to crawl onto his lap as they sat across the aisle from my husband and I.

    She kept tossing her long gray hair from side to side and he totally ignored all her displays to get his attention.

    I was never so happy to off a bus in my life.

  12. Hello sunshine – I have only recently started riding the bus but only in the off peak times so the ride is not nearly as interesting as yours.

  13. Still catching up. And it’s not a washing machine in my backpack; it’s a file cabinet; and I try not to bash anyone with it. Your wonderful “fruit murderers” phrase conjured up an afternoon with my high school classmates, having an afternoon snack, one friend turning to another who was nibbling a large sandwich, and plaintively asking, “Ginny, are you eating that or torturing it?”

    1. I can imagine how the sandwich eating sounded! Sorry for not recognising the file cabinet in your bag … all big square heavy things look and feel the same! 🙂

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