Thursday, 14 January 2010

On the buses


Is it just me or are London bus drivers the dregs, I repeat DREGS, of society?

Every day I trudge along to the bus stop to catch the bus to work. I stand at the bus stop, knowing, just knowing, that the bus will take half an hour to arrive. I live in central London; the buses are supposed to be every five minutes. How is it then that my bus runs so late, every single day of the year?

Not only does the bus run late but the bus decides to change destination half way through the journey. I say “the bus decides” because a woman’s automated, robotic voice blasts out of the speakers announcing the destination change because, of course, the driver can’t actually talk to the passengers.

This drives me apoplectic with rage. My eyes start bulging, my forehead throbs, I start breathing heavily as I tell myself that today is the day that I will make the driver answer the little old lady’s question about where to get off for the museum.

But no, I sit there in a state because whatever any of us do I know that it is no good. He won’t answer; he just turns his head slowly and pushes the button: “The Victoria and Albert Museum,” the woman’s voice menaces at the little old lady.

But, this rudeness is nothing compared to the sheer audacity of the bus driver who decided he was a little parched and fancied a nibble during his ‘arduous journey’. He pulled over next to a newsagent, alighted and went in. He left behind a seething mob of commuters packed into his bus like caged animals whilst he toddled off in the middle of rush hour to get himself a packet of crisps and a fizzy drink.

I don’t know what staggered me more, the fact that he did this or the fact that he conducted himself in the obligatory bus driver silence throughout the whole criminal act.

My mouth was agape with fury and I looked over at my fellow, stressed, tired passengers and in that moment I realised that this was the final straw. The fight had left them as they were so used to this sort of behaviour that it now seemed normal to them. Where has customer service gone? No, scrap that; where have basic manners and human decency gone?

I was late for work that day – and I was late for work the day that the driver turned us all out as if, yet again, he was changing destinations. Only he wasn’t changing destinations, and we watched as he went on his way leaving us all behind at the bus stop, in the rain. One woman had the balls to scream after him “You are so evil! That was a wicked thing to do” – but I don’t think he heard. The whole thing was completely inexplicable as he could not tell us what was going on (because bus drivers don’t speak) and the button didn’t have a woman’s voice behind it for that particular scenario.

I decided to do something about the shocking state of London’s buses. So, I went onto London Transport’s website. Can someone please tell me how I can speak to a real person on the phone as I have emailed and emailed again to no response?

Do you think BoJo will sort it for me? The Mayor’s wonderful bus which is ‘going green for London’ doesn’t work when it is really cold – as it has been recently; funny that, seeing as it’s winter and all – they conk out and, again, there is no woman’s recorded voice to keep us informed. So the bus driver resolutely sits in silence as he is blocking traffic, we sit in resigned silence as we notch up another late entrance into the office and I feel trapped in a nightmarish dream that I am going nowhere.

I now stand at the bus stop and hope with all my might that the bus to come around the corner will be the knackered, old, polluting tank of a bus which is certainly not green. Funny, at least I know I will have a chance of reaching my final destination – even if the bus driver can’t tell me where that is. Read more by Naomi.