Cash? Pah! Forget about it, sonny jim. Cash is over. Think you're gonna take a bus journey and pay for it with normal money? Sure. Sure you are. Then what'll you do for an encore, you bloody relic? Yell, 'What ho, buskeep!' and have your butler shower the omnibus povvos with doubloons?
Nope, the future is not having cash. You've probably noticed that yesterday (Sunday July 6th), TfL have stopped welcoming coinage on buses. Apparently only 1% of payments were made via real-life currency, so there was no call for it. Plus, it speeds up journeys if you can boot off grannies for rummaging after farthings in their petticoats. Time is money, guys! Time is money.
So let's cut to the chase. Yes TfL has started letting you bus it even if you have only one penny's worth of credit. And sure, if you're lucky enough to have a contactless debit card, you're probably fine. But let's face it: at some point, most of us are going to want to get a night bus, having run into negative Oyster balance. And then what, eh?
Then you're screwed. Really screwed. Allow me to demonstrate, via this emergency checklist:
1. Oh shit, you're stranded. Quick: is there a 24-hour shop nearby?
2. There is? Great! Time to top up your Oyster card. Ooh, except that you can't do that at shops after midnight, as the Oyster system goes offline to 'update'.
3. Okay, next step: does your bus stop have one of those street payment boxes? You know: the ones that look like postboxes from the future?
4. It doesn't? Oh, that's right: TfL decided to junk them as part of the cash-free scheme. But hold on! You can top up online! Just grab your phone, add money via the internet and it'll automatically transfer the funds to your card as soon as you swipe in at... a tube station. Bugger. How do you feel about eight-mile walks?
Now, I'm no expert in transportation systems. But there's something I'd like to point out to TfL's Official Panel of Bus Guys (did I mention I'm no expert?). 'Hey, Bus Guys,' I'd say. 'May I call you Bus Guys? Okay, okay: I'll get to the point. If something's a useful safety net for the public, then isn't it a good thing to hold on to? After all, you know what else isn't used in 99 percent of bus journeys? The emergency door release. See where I'm going with this?'
What are TfL expecting here? That we'll accept being booting off a bus? Have they never encountered the cream-crackered tenacity of the London commuter? Newsflash: We thrust our faces between closing tube doors to avoid waiting for a train that's due in one minute. We are MENTAL about not missing public transport.
So at 3am, do you think credit-less Londoners will embrace a night on the street as a small price to pay for a futuristic transaction system? Nuh-uh. We'll do what anyone would do if they're facing a night under a bench and going to work in pavement-besmirched togs. We'll barter like motherfuckers.
'Half a kebab, Mr Bus Driver? What about this copy of the Evening Standard? It's not even been read! Hey, I've got nice shoes! Do you want my shoes? Here, have 'em! Take my shoes! Go on, take 'em! Please! TAKE! MY! SHOOOOOOOSE!'
Some futuristic payment system...