Great lessons in using public transport. If only I could find a timetable..

April 9, 2013

I stood on the platform, doing a fair impersonation of someone with absolutely no idea.

You wouldn’t think catching a bus would be too difficult. I’m told lots of people do it every day.

They know where they’re going. They have studied timetables. Possibly with the help of an academic.

I had made no such preparations. Foolishly, I decided it would be a simple task. Men don’t need timetables. Everyone knows that.

What I didn’t realise, was that a bus travels through my local busway about every four seconds. Each with a different number.

Of course, I had no idea what number I was looking for, to get me to my destination. There were no timetables on any of the walls. Staff members are no longer employed to help dumbos like me.

At this rate, I would not get to enjoy the cool drinks on offer a few suburbs away until around midnight. And that wasn’t an option.

I decided that the only thing I could do, was to stop one of the buses whizzing past me. Surely a kind driver would point me in the right direction.

It will come as no surprise to you, that I chose the wrong driver. This fellow was obviously at the end of a long shift. Or he was just a prize nark.

The fact that he had been delayed by a confused passenger annoyed him greatly. He told me this, loudly. Explained that he wasn’t going my way. Hadn’t I seen his number?

I advised that his number meant nothing to me. This enraged him further. By this time, bored passengers were uploading our colourful conversation onto YouTube.

He eventually sped off, leaving me alone again on the platform. About now, I was reflecting on what a great decision it was to decide against catching a cab.

Help finally came, in the form of a mother struggling with a pram and four small children. Her keen eye detected a big kid in strife.

She showed me the App on her phone, that came up with the timetable I’d been looking all over for. The elusive bus number, that was nowhere to be seen at the actual bus station, had been in her phone all along.

I thanked her, and waited for the 111. As it turned out, it got me close to my destination. But not quite there. This meant I walked up a large hill, cursing the bus system all the way.

When I made it to the pub, late and sweating, my friends managed to have a giggle at my misfortune. It was around then, as they made fun of me, that I noticed the purple bus.

It was driving past us every fifteen minutes. Like clockwork. And stopping just metres away. After all that, I didn’t need to know a number. Just a colour.

I’ve now established that the purple bus can get me to my second favourite hotel on any given day or night. And get me home.

For all I know, there may be a fleet of coloured buses criss-crossing the city right now. I don’t need to know where they’re going. I’ve found my bus. And I still don’t have a timetable. Just how men like it.

Memories of schoolboy survival. Why the back of the bus was a dangerous place.

October 4, 2011

Forget having your head flushed down the dunny. It was the bus that terrified me on the first day of high school.

I thought of this, as The Teenager whined to me about her travel habits.

Granted, she embarks on a fair trip. It goes via the absolute longest route, as buses tend to do. And she has to get up early to catch it, which is difficult for one who believes there should be no resting before midnight.

She could catch a train. I drive past the station every morning. But because her friends prefer the road trip, it’s a more social occasion.

Her complaint was more about other passengers. Apparently, ‘weirdos’ find the bus a handy way to travel. I assume this includes anyone over 25, those in suits, and the unwashed.

If only she knew. Back in the day, we risked life and limb just to get on board. Terror for a 12-year-old.

This wasn’t a private school. Public and proud. Rough and tumble. We knew no different.

The bus company had advised that it would no longer carry boys and girls on the same vehicles. Too dangerous, apparently. So while young ladies compared nail polish on one bus, we walked the gauntlet on the other.

Older boys were always up the back. For early morning fun, they would belt the tripe out of the Year 7 kids. A ritual that had gone on for ages.

From day one, we were warned NOT to get on first. Do that, and you were a sure thing to be pushed all the way to the back seat. And that meant you’d be fighting in the opening bout.

The trick was to let someone else get on, while you fumbled for your bus pass. It was always overcrowded. With an ounce of luck, you would end up in relative safety, jammed up the front.

It didn’t always work. So you took your lumps. Character building apparently. I can’t remember anyone complaining. I guess we thought the consequences would be far worse the next morning.

The bus bouts were a good incentive to ride your bike to school. It took a while, but I finally convinced mum it would be safe. If only she knew that dodging morning traffic was a breeze compared to backseat beltings.

My second-hand bike was a beauty. It had high, up-turned handlebars. I thought that was incredibly cool.

What wasn’t cool, was when those handlebars broke. As I was rocketing down a hill. I looked like a trainee unicyclist, waving the former steering device madly in the air.

I crashed, of course. Laughter echoed around the neighbourhood. I had to push my now bent and buckled machine to class, minus large chunks of skin.

A few years later, life became easier. While others had bus battles and bike bingles, I cruised into the car park in my trusty old Kingswood. There’s something very special about a Senior driving to school.

My new mobility had other advantages. It gave me lunchtime options. And every now and then, that involved a quiet flutter.

As ludicrous as this sounds, I would drive a few minutes down the road, to the local TAB. In my school uniform.

It all went well, until the Friday I bumped into a geography teacher, cheering home a favourite. Nothing was said. We were both caught out. He didn’t tell, and neither did I. The education system was different back then.

No need to let The Teenager in on any of this. She has her own problems. Until she gets her licence, she can stick to the bus, weirdos or no weirdos. She’ll be fine. As long as she stays away from the back seat.