As a starry eyed Northerner from Doncaster, I made my way down to the big city full of tube and underground wonder. 'I can't wait to ride the tube to work' I'd say, packing my framed graduation photo into my case. 'I can't wait to advise people on the best line to take when there's part closures on the Northern Line' Little did I know that working for minimum wage and living nowhere near a tube station would ultimately mean waiting in the wind and rain for a bus that was due ten minutes ago. As I was soon to discover, £1.30 off my oyster card would also mean 1.3 years off my life in bus-related frustration.
Just getting on the bus is hard enough. I hurry my way up the stairs in a bid to out-run the driver before he ploughs his foot on the accelerator. As expected, I'm thrown into the lap of a rather disgruntled gentleman attempting to read his leather-bound Kindle. 'Sorry about that,' I huff, trying to elegantly cover my pants with the dress that has landed around my head. 'I forgot Lewis Hamilton was driving the bus.' Utter Silence. Never disturb a kindle reader.
You could say that riding a London bus is almost like riding The Nemesis at Alton Towers (especially if you sit upstairs at the front, - you should always sit upstairs at the front) Thanks to a clear inability to ever use the clutch and brake at the most appropriate and safety conscious time, the London bus driver chooses to slam them on right at the last minute, sending you, your shopping and the guy who was sat far too close to you anyway propelling forward. Upon getting oneself back together and from thereon choosing to hold an imaginary seatbelt around you for the duration of the journey, one might expect to look around and be greeted by a sea of disapproving looks, or at least a few tuts and sighs echoing around the top level. Instead, the London commuter's eyes are glued to the window, no look of horror or shock in sight. This kind of world is all too familiar to them
Getting on a bus in Doncaster was always painful, but that was largely due to the fourteen year olds shouting from the back seat of the bus and scaring me to ever venture past the seats for the elderly or disabled. There are much bigger worries for the London bus traveller...
First there's the cyclists. It's always nice to see some high-vis rider flipping the driver the bird as we cruise past at a respectable 55mph. I look down from above, displaying my best 'I'm so sorry we almost ran you over' face, but we're long gone by the time the cyclist finally regains consciousness. Then, of course, there's the many, many bus stops along the bus route. Your bus will undoubtedly stop at them all. But if there's anything about London buses that really does grind my gears (I was always going to use that line at some point), it's the dreaded announcements that come flooding in just as you've successfully warmed up your seat.
'The destination of this bus has now changed, please listen for further information
One by one, the London bus commuter removes their headphones (a bold move in itself) and awaits the damning announcement that will ultimately take them a mile or so out from where they first thought they were going. It was only minutes ago that my woes were restricted to the odd music selections that were playing on my iPod as a result of choosing the shuffle option. Now I'm not gong to Tottenham Court Road and I am most displeased about this.
Yes, it seems that the life of a London bus commuter will always involve elements of misery and anguish, no matter which route or replacement bus you hop on. Perhaps all you can do is smile, take a deep breath and jump on fully aware of the fate which may or may not come your way.
*Beep Beep* No money left on Oyster Card.