Thursday, 13 March 2008
A recent Twitter tweet reflected my masochistic joy at taking an early morning bus ride in the sort of storm conditions we've recently experienced. I don't wish to dilute the majestic poetry of my tweet by explaining it, but there will be some value, I feel, in distilling my preference for bus over tube for the daily commute, especially at this time of year.
Mostly, it's about control. On the tube, you enter an environment in some ways akin to a hospital, though probably with higher levels of cleanliness. We surrender our physical freedom to a higher power. We lie back and expose our anaesthetised bodies to the care of the authorities. Within minutes, we can be rendered helpless by the might of the machine in which we are immersed. On a bus, it's not the same, because - if the traffic's heavy - we can press the bell and get off. The journey takes a little longer, but it's worth it. Trust me.
So, for my journey to work, I leave the house around 7.00. The majority of fellow travellers are (for want of a better word, and bearing no pejorative overtones, I assure you) immigrants of one sort or another. Eastern Europeans, Africans. Cleaners - middle aged or older if black, late 30s if Caucasian - snoozing in the back seat corner, security guards in uniform with trainer shod feet, builders carrying spirit levels and large Stanley toolboxes. Mobile phone conversations in a Babel of hushed tones. And me.
The wet; the barely revealing lightness of the day; the orangey flashes of passing cars and the incessant beeping of the door exit alarms; the susurration of tyres through the kerbside puddles. No children. And the punctuation of occasional heated arguments outside or in. There is a cloistered feel about the whole experience, as of a secret shared, a huddle beneath an umbrella with the patter of raindrops overhead.
All truly wonderful, I'm sure you'll agree, particularly in the early morning when you are faced with a day of stress and bullshit. However (with apologies to those among my readership who are uncomfortable with my misanthropic tendencies) my most recent journey was disturbed by the vile habits of the man with a seriously thinning, yet seriously greasy, barnet fair who occupied the coveted - front upper left - seat on the 91. I heard a methodical clicking sound as I climbed the stairs to the upper deck.
Initially disgruntled, as I was forced to squeeze myself into a seat next to someone, I soon settled, checking my Blackberry and absorbing the condensation filled atmosphere. I knew that within a few minutes, seats would become free, and I bided my time with patience and fortitude. The clicking continued. The worst thing was that somebody (a woman also) was actually sitting next to him while he did it. And he did it for ages - at least 3 stops. When he got off, somebody (who had witnessed what he was doing) casually brushed down the seat before sitting in it. Dee-sgusting!