Friday, July 9, 2010

Bless The Local Bus Drivers

I'm basically terrified of buses.  If you get off too early, you're screwed.  If you get off too late, you're screwed.  So when my dad came over to visit, I told him not to get on any random buses unless otherwise instructed (by me) - especially since some of them don't announce the stops (most of the London buses do now, although the 15, which I frequently took when living in East London, didn't - and it happened to be the bus passing through all the biggest tourist attractions, so I spent most of my bus ride home helping French and Spanish tourists find their way to the Tower of London).  Nowadays, I'm familiar enough with (most of) London that I don't mind getting on a random bus, even if it only takes me halfway to my destination, as long as it means I can change to another bus or tube. 

Local buses in smaller cities like York or Leicester, for example, are no exception to my fear.  In fact, they're slightly scarier because everyone except for me knows where they're going and the areas are more remote or unrecognizable to me.  But the drivers are generally nicer than central London bus drivers.  They usually don't mind helping you get you to your destination, whether it's reminding you at the stop or advising of a better route to take.  London drivers grunt and don't tend to make eye contact (then again, they're probably traumatized by London traffic and Londoners, so I forgive them).  So I like taking local buses whenever I can.

Today, I took the 5 outside Guildford train station to Royal Surrey County Hospital.  I like seeing all the little old ladies with their wheelie-shopping-bags and the way they greet the driver by name.  My favorite bus story (about myself, obviously), was the time I took the local bus from Alison's house in Wigston to Leicester city center because I wanted to go shopping and neither Alison nor John could accompany me.  Rather than be left home alone, I decided to brave the bus.

Getting there was fine, but I got a bit disoriented on my way back.  First of all, I couldn't remember where Alison lived.  Uh oh.  Slowly, I sidled up to the driver.  "Um ... like ... are we anywhere near [Alison's street name]?" I asked, gingerly.  I was the last one on the bus.  "Yes, we're nearing that street, where would you like to be dropped off?  Top or bottom of the road?" he asked cheerfully.  "Oh ... um ... well ... I don't really know, actually," I said, which I realized sounded stupid only after I had uttered it.  "Um ... it's like ..." and I trailed off.  "Well, I can take you wherever you'd like on the road, but you'll have to know where you live, unfortunately!" the driver laughed.  "Thanks," I said, "That's helpful.  Actually, you can just drop me off here," I said, when the street began to look familiar again.  "Here?" he asked, as he braked abruptly.  "Thanks so much," I said, hopping off.  "You have a nice day now, love," he replied.  I looked up and was relieved to see Alison's house in full view.  Door-to-door service - you can't get much better than that.

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