As I was getting on the bus to go home this evening, I was waiting politely for the woman in front of me to board before shuffling through the bloody snow to stroke my Oyster on the reader. I realise that this (I mean the waiting politely part, as getting on buses after work is probably something I share with many people, whereas stroking Oysters may not be quite so shared an experience) is something of an alien concept for many, but - what can I say? I yam what I yam. First of all, another woman half-barged past me from behind just at the moment that I saw it was clear to move forward, which meant that I - unintentionally - blocked her path.
"Right, OK..." she said, in a very tutting sort of way, before stepping back to ostentatiously peer at the display panel, clearly changing her mind about the desperately urgent need to get on the Number 3 before anyone else did. I resisted the urge to smack her in the mouth and meekly followed the first woman on board. I could tell by her backpack that she worked in the same place as me, though I had never seen her before. And then came the dreaded error bleep. Plain for all to see, quite blunt in its language, the Oyster reader displayed the 'Not Enough Money' message. For a brief moment, my eyes met those of the driver (if I too had been sporting a moustache, who knows what might have happened?) and I hesitated before executing my own Oyster stroke. The cheapskate woman in front of me blithely proceeded down the bus after a brief double-take at the machine, and the driver knew that he had no option but to act.
I Oystered myself out of the situation, but could not move forward, so stood watching her majestic progress towards the exit doors as she ignored the question. I had been in enough public transport stand-offs to know that - basically - anything could happen, so my breath was, as they say, bated.
"What?" the woman replied - rather rudely, and (incidentally) Germanically I thought - glancing owlishly around as she stalked back to the driver. I slipped past her, dreading the possible outcome, and ensconced myself on the rear-facing back seats.