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The Joy of Public Transport

July 23, 2013

The ‘what’ of public transport I hear you asking with incredulity. Well, I stick to my point, there are ways in which travelling on public transport is a joy. There are lots of ways in which it is not a joy, overcrowded trains, late buses, yobbish behaviour and rudeness from staff and passengers alike. But I always try to travel with the anticipation of a pleasurable journey because fellow passengers rarely disappoint.

Travelling from Wolverhampton to Edinburgh recently there was an argument between two women who had booked seats alongside each other. Janice, sat down nearest the window (not that there was a window in this case because it was the one seat without a window.) plugged in her mobile phone and settled down. At the next station, Helen boards and says to Janice ‘Excuse me but you are sitting in my seat.’ Janice is not going to move. ‘You can sit there,’ she says, pointing to the aisle seat. ‘No, that is my seat that you are sitting in.’ Helen replies. Janice continues, unimpressed, ‘I need to sit here because I have to charge my phone.’ Unwillingly, Helen sits down and a stony silence prevails. You could cut the atmosphere with a knife. It is icy. But all the while there are spare seats, the carriage is less than half full. Meanwhile this couple sit squashed up alongside each other in a ludicrous game of stubborness. It rumbles on, mile after mile with the occasional tut and grumble interspersed with long periods of silence. I am sure they would be happier if one would graciously back down but they don’t.Then the ticket collector arrives and Helen says to him, ‘I am sorry I am in this seat but my seat (gesturing to the right) was already taken.’ Whoosh, there is an explosion as Janice gets up and says to Helen, ‘That’s it, you have done nothing but grumble about your seat – have it.’ And Helen says, ‘No, I was merely making the point to the ticket collector …’ And on and on it goes it goes until they do eventually swop seats with each other and continue to  inflict mutual misery until their journey ends.

Mobile phone conversations are often so loud that you simply can’t shut them out so you might as well enjoy them. The other day I was on a bus and sat  in front of Amber who was about eighteen or nineteen. ‘I am such a naughty girl,’ she giggled as she described in far more detail than we all wished to know, the nature of her naughtiness. Parties seemed to be a large part of Amber’s life. …I was at one of Brenda’s parties (she treats me like a daughter) and Jason got so drunk he sat on a wall and fell backward. I said to him, can’t you do that again, but break your arm so that you can claim compensation. There’s a party there again this weekend but I said to Brenda I can’t come because I have got no money. Brenda said, “Don’t worry, I’ve got money, I’ve sold my sofa.”’ I just about control myself from laughing out loud.
Then there was Tina whose conversation focused on her depression. The friend on the other end of the phone didn’t realise she was on anti-depressants. ‘Oh, I have been on them about a year. They have helped me so much. Do you remember how I used to get the hoover out every day. Well now I only do it once a week.

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