There’s an annoyingly catchy children’s song that’s spanned multiple generations here in the UK. It’s full of tinkly, inane repetition and silly actions and, for the last 8 months, I can’t get it out of my head.
For the record, I can’t stand it, however I’m the kind of person who can’t help matching songs to situations, and then have a devil of a job removing them.
That’s exactly how this particular irritating earworm invaded my consciousness every time I set foot on a bus.
And I have been doing much setting of feet too. Being unable to drive or cycle with a broken wrist, public transport has become de rigueur if I ever want to leave the bubble around my home and/or get to work.
Prior to a few months ago my bus using experiences had mostly been consigned to my school days, a tortuous 20 mile round trip on a dilapidated double decker, filled with the fug of hormones and teenaged smokers. Cigarette consumption on a public bus gives you just some idea of how long ago that was!
Since then, excepting a few, eye watering journeys abroad and an epic 72 hour marathon on Greyhound with my bike , buses and I have been happy, distant strangers.
However, in the spirit of sharing and the hope of ridding myself of this monstrosity, here’s both the original song, brought to you courtesy of You Tube, a man in drag and a bunch of schools kids and my first hand notes on ‘The Wheels on the Bus’. Feel free to sing along and do the actions…..
The Wheels on the bus go…
Very slowly. Contrary to the title, the wheels seem to spend a great deal of time not going round and round, especially when one is waiting, impatiently, at the bus stop for the bus to arrive.
In 8 months I’ve learned that timetables are remarkable works of fiction, or hope as are the not-so-helpful electronic screens in bus shelters.
I’ve also learned that no amount of cursing or pleading with the universe produces a bus which arrives on time when you really need it to, i.e. when you’ve a connection to make, a meeting to get to. So relax, take a deep breath and a good paperback novel and plan an additional 60 minutes into each trip.
After months of research I can confirm as true that, when waiting for a bus, none arrive for ages and then 3 do indeed come along at once. If you’re lucky, one of them may be yours.
The Driver on the bus…
Stops if you’re lucky. I learned the hard way that one is required to stand in the road, waving like a loon if you require them to actually pick you up.
Some of the drivers are amazing, friendly, polite, helpful to the elderly and nice to the mums with prams.
Some of the drivers appear to hate their job and the world at large.
The former will slow down gently in time for those disembarking, will leap out to open the disabled ramp and will sail smoothly through traffic.
The latter appear to be mourning a lost career on the formula one circuit, pulling away when passengers still have one foot on the pavement or charging up to stops, applying the brakes so last minute the bus fishtails to a halt, shopping bags flying, elderly people rolling in the aisles or being catapulted into the walls.
Don’t be fooled into thinking drivers know where they’re going either. One particularly frazzled one pulled into a drop off point and then left it in the direction he’d just come from, going to who knows where? It took the entire passenger body, shrieking loudly to alert him to the fact he had gone the wrong way. Maybe he just fancied a change?
The Horn on the bus….
Is used liberally by the driver to indicate his/her displeasure at other road users, along with a number of other universally recognised gestures.
The horns from the car driving population may also be heard often as the bus regally cuts them up, pulls in or changes lanes unexpectedly or just generally impedes progress.
The People on the bus….
Are an odd bunch (present company excepted of course). The non-car driving population is a general mix of:
- Mothers with small children – “Sit DOWN Tyler, do not climb up there, DO NOT touch that, How many times have I told you DON’T throw your food at your sister etc”. I’ve learned quickly to avoid those seats and the corresponding sticky hand prints and biscuit crumbs.
- Elderly people braving the wannabe racing drivers, doddering tortoise-like up the aisle on sticks and frames. The old ladies are my favourite, decked out in head scarfs and winter coats, whatever the weather, weighed down with bags, sweets and wheeled shopping carts. I love listening to them benignly greeting other passengers and then gossiping loudly about them, with the impunity of age, once barely out of earshot. “That child over there should be out of a pushchair at his age” or “did you SEE that shirt she was wearing, honestly, if you could call it a shirt, more like a handkerchief if you ask me” and so on….
- The great unwashed. People whom for whatever reason, have a minimal interest in personal hygiene and a great interest in bus travel. It’s constantly amazes me how smells can travel, especially those of sweat, body odour, dirty laundry and stale tobacco. The strategic shifting of seats and opening of windows can become a necessity, especially on a journey of some length. However, when pressed, I’ll still opt for the smell of B.O. over some of the eye-wateringly strong perfumes favoured by certain commuters. All I’ll say is that Mr Calvin Klein and his Obsession have a lot to answer for after 30 minutes in close proximity.
Still, the wheels on the bus do occasionally go round and round and in it I’ve discovered a whole other world which has, at times, been a whole lot of fun. People talk to you at bus stops as you share that ‘we’re all in it together’ mentality, the joint eye rolling at late buses or kamikaze drivers. I’ve been offered sweets, newspapers and advice on everything from cake making to relationships?!
I love also seeing the world from a different perspective, watching from the huge, high-up windows, seeing the town and country roll by and having the time to look, something which you don’t as a car driver. I’ve even walked far more, to and from stops and it’s been enjoyable, it’s been liberating.
It seems that although buses can be maddening, slow, crowded, noisy, smelly they can also be friendly little microcosms, a hidden society of people you wouldn’t ever meet when travelling by car. And, whilst I can’t wait to have the freedom of driving again at some point, when I do, there’s a bit of me that will miss my bus adventuring.
Image credit: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/Ks-M4Ns6Q6A/maxresdefault.jpg