‘Hang on, mate. Can you tell me where this bus is supposed to go?’
It’s not a request you expect to receive from your bus driver. I was late for my 7am shift, and had made the all-too-familiar half-dressed dash to catch the bus just as it pulled up. Being the last aboard, the driver had singled me out for his confession. I looked at him with some confusion.
‘The thing is, yeah,’ he said, shifting uncomfortably in his seat, ‘I don’t know where this bus goes.’
A number of possibilities raced through my head; the bus had been hijacked by a mad man who any second would order me to pull down my trousers and dance; there was a bomb on the bus which would explode if the urine content of the back seats dropped below 50%. I considered running for the doors just as they hissed closed behind me.
All I could say is, ‘But you’re the bus driver.’
‘They’ve called me in from Southampton. I’ve never been here before. Can you help me out?’
I looked to the other passengers, none of whom would meet my eye. ‘Um, alright.’
The driver waved away my fare and pulled off the curb. I stood beside the cockpit, navigator of the good bus Confusion, and pointed out the next turning. A frisson of pleasure ran its fingers along my spine. I was in control, at the helm of my very own city bus. I could go wherever I wanted; Europe, Route 66, Scunthorpe; the possibilities were endless.
I hear Scunthorpe is nice this time of year
Only, I was still late for work. And after a few more stops the bus was due to turn into a winding housing estate that always took twenty minutes to clear. I glanced back at the other passengers. I usually sat as far back as possible, following the time one of my testicles dropped through a hole in my work trousers and I didn’t notice until I had disembarked. Now I was at the front of the bus. My testicles were safely contained. I could do as I wished.
The bus approached the turning into the housing estate.
I checked my watch, puffed out my chest, and pointed straight down the main road. It took every ounce of my self-control to restrain a maniacal laugh as we glided past the crowded bus stop on the corner.
'Truly, this is our greatest victory.'
Now, with a defiant glare, I turned on the passengers, ready to put down an uprising, to seize any mutineers and hurl them bodily through the doors with the bus still moving. They saw the hardness in my eyes and stayed seated, undoubtedly cowed by my fierce authority.
I guided us the remaining distance into town, until the driver recognised the streets from having earlier collected the bus. We arrived at my stop twenty minutes sooner than usual.
‘Thanks for that, mate. You’re a real help.’
‘Please.’ I waved away his praise.’ I’m no hero.’
Relieved of duty, I ran from the stop before anyone could exact revenge on my person for having made them miss their stop.
I arrived at work almost exactly on time. The doors were locked. After twenty minutes wait my manager trudged into sight.
‘Sorry I’m late,’ she said. ‘My car wouldn’t start and the bloody bus didn’t show up.’