Buses: Heads and Tails

There are two types of people in this world : those that run for the bus and those that don’t run for the bus.

Put me in the latter category. The possibility of chasing a bus and not catching it would be too embarrassing for words. I’ve a friend who disagrees. He maintains that if you don’t run for the bus you won’t catch it but running for it gives you a chance. And the embarrassment angle, he says, is not as bad as you think. Sure, there will be bystanders that will be laughing inwardly as you are left eating the gravel the bus has left in its wake but as embarrassments go it’s near the bottom of the Beamer scale. In fact, he says, it’s so fleeting you soon forget about it just like you instantly can’t recall the pain of childbirth!

Armed with his ideals I went out looking for a bus to catch. I stared with an easy one. A bus was at a stop and lots of passengers were embarking, I ran the thirty yards and joined the queue. It felt good catching the bus even though I had no idea where it was going. Nonetheless I paid my fare and took my seat.

I got off God knows where and scanned the horizon. The road had a few shops with some people milling about. Then I heard the unmistakable drone of a bus getting closer. I searched for the nearest bus stop. It was one hundred yards away. With the Chariots of Fire theme tune in my head I bolted like Usain. The scene that panned out seemed to be shot in slow motion. The bus and I were moving through our respective flight paths and the vehicle was gaining on me. It was closing in on the next stop. I had a look over my shoulder. No one was getting off. The bus accelerated. Using the last of my energy I pushed for the line and threw my hand out. The bus braked, stopped and opened its doors.

Not having a clue where I was going again, I paid my fare. As I strode down the gangway I could feel an admiration emitting from the other passengers. They were exchanging looks that said “this man raced for the bus and he caught it”. Women were staring at me with love and lust in their eyes. A man said “respect, brother”. My chest was puffed out with pride. Now I know how the guy that wins the Krypton Factor assault course feels.

And then the bus broke down.

We all had to get off and wait for the next one. All my bus fans had turned grumpy as they complained about their lot in life. My exploits were forgotten. I was about to join them in their sorrowful ring of surliness when I saw a bus coming in the other direction on the other side of the street. It was time for shock and awe tactics.

The bus stop was fifty yards away. Firstly, I crossed the street then began to run. My chest must have been puffed out from the last race. I was moving at half-pace. This chase was over too soon. The bus overtook me and disappeared into the distance. I was left eating its gravel. Across the road my old buddies were doubled-up with laughter. All manner of insults were thrown my way. What happened to the inward laughing? This was top of the range Beamer scale embarrassment. The old dictum that you are only as good as your last bus race ran true.

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10 Comments on “Buses: Heads and Tails”

  1. RUNNING for a bus… what an alarming thought.

    I could probably manage a sort of stiff-legged Quite-Briskness (laughabe enough), but not snapping the heels is Paramount.

    Fond memories of Krypton Factor… I was a minion behind its scenes briefly when it started – they tested the Observation questions on me & I scored 0/5. (They didn't suggest the assault course)

  2. Expat Says:

    I have very fond memories of double-decker buses. Always sitting upstairs. Only old peole sat downstairs and besides you could smoke upstairs and if it was raining the windows got all steamed up and it was like sitting in a fog. My bus fare to the town center was tuppence and the conductor came around with his little machine where you turned the handle and the little buff colored ticket popped out. Last time I was home, it was a more than a pound and gawd forbid you didn't have the exact fare or you got glared at by the driver who didn't speak any English.

    Back in the day, too, the platform didn't have doors and the boys would run to catch it after it had already pulled away from the stop, grab on to the pole and nonchalantly swing on board. Try that in stilletos! And if you'd had a few too many schooners at the Sherry Bar of an evening, you stayed on the platform for the whole ride home, just in case you felt a touch of the “motion sickness” coming on.

    Buses just aren't the fun they used to be.

  3. I share those memories, Expat. My regular bus trips began when I was 11 years old and caught the No 159 bus along the Abbey Road (yes, the one of Beatles fame) on my way to and from St Marylebone Grammar School. Alas, I never saw the Beatles, but I did have a stag beetle as a pet which I kept in a large Swan's matchbox. Unfortunately it fell out of the matchbox when I was showing it off to a friend on the bus. We searched under all the seats and I saw it run up a lady's leg …

    Years later, as a sixth former, I was allowed to bring my bicycle to school. The fun for me was to race the bus up Abbey Road. The disadvantage of pedalling uphill on the morning run was largely compensated by the bus needing to halt at the several bus stops along the route. Bliss on the occasions when I won!

  4. JW10 Says:

    Hello Dolores,

    The Krypton Factor, now that's what you call TV. The observation round is difficult though I would have breezed through the puzzle section. Brute force would have inserted the square block into the round hole. Viola!

  5. JW10 Says:

    Hello Expat,

    The top deck was for the hard cases at my school; I was always a lower deck traveller.
    I have great memories of coming back from Rangers games with the bus crammed pack full of blue noses. The window at the back of the bus would have a huge flag draped from it.

    You're right, cameras and all that have taken the fun away.

  6. JW10 Says:

    Hello CI,

    I didn't know you were from Liverpool. My wife's going there (Abbey Road and more) on holiday next month. I'll tell her to look out for some old graffiti of yours.

  7. Expat Says:

    CI, if my math is on track, the Beatles were also in school when you were “on the buses”.

    JW, my son and daughter in law did the Rock n' Roll tour when in London the year before last. Abbey Road…walking across the zebra crossing, was the highlight. It's on camera, so if you're quick you can catch Mrs. JW on the internet before the loop is erased and it starts again.

  8. JW and Expat – Liverpool???
    The Abbey Road with the zebra crossing of Beatles fame is in North West London, not on Liverpool. I even know the address by heart !

    Abbey Road Recording Studios
    3 Abbey Road
    St. John's Wood
    London NW8 9AY

    As I said, I never saw the Beatles there, probably because they picked the wrong days to try and watch me and my stag beatle pass by by bus or bike. (That's a rare sentence containing the phrase “by by”).

    And Expat – the dates of birth for all the Beatles (in UK dd/mm/yyyy) format) are:

    07/09/1940 John (oldest)
    09/10/1940 Ringo
    18/06/1942 Paul
    25/02/1943 George
    01/01/1954 Stag (youngest)

    By the by, I'll be seeing you by and by. Bye-bye !

  9. George's formative years were in Liverpool, and he saw the Beatles at the Liverpool Odeon in December '63 – after that gig they whizzed out the back to play another gig across the alley in the Empire.

    He took me on a nostalgia trip and insisted I spend an embarrassing moment leering (for the Camera) at the Statue-exceedingly-bare outside John Lewis.

    CI – was flummoxed by your 'youngest Beatle'… then George explained. Hee Hoh!

  10. JW10 Says:

    Thanks for the heads-up, CI, your correction will tell you that I know nothing about Beatlemania. By John, Paul, Ringo, George and Stag, Abbey Road is not in Liverpool! Next you’ll be telling me there’s no ham in hamburgers.

    My wife told me they will be going on a Beatles Magical Mystery Tour, which will take in The Cavern, Penny Lane, Strawberry Field but not Abbey Road. Now that I have been outed as a non-Beatles fan I hope you will Let it Be and still Love, Love me Do.

    Dear Dolores, Wouldn’t it be Nice (that’s not a Beatles song, is it?) if George had a cassette player on him that night and captured the Fantastic Four on tape. A bootleg recording would be worth a few coins…

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