Those of you who get public transport will know that it is often an interesting, colourful and sometimes educational experience.
Sydney buses are no exception.
I get the bus a lot because I hate driving into the city. It is completely congested, courier vans and delivery trucks are constantly trying to drive you off the road and hipsters (metrosexuals) in their buffed and gleaming Audi A6s are so busy looking at themselves in their rear view mirror or taking photos of themselves while driving with their Instagram App that they brake late causing the people behind them to become uncomfortably intimate with their windscreens.
Also there is nowhere to park. The cost of parking can range from ten dollars to over a hundred and who wants to fork out that?
No thank you, Ma’am.
So I get the bus.
There are always lots of stories on my bus. I live in an area that spans a wide socioeconomic range of bus-going people – we have wealthy corporate types, arty types, boys who want to be gangsta, girls who want to be Rihanna, fretting Mums who worry their toddler is disturbing the other passengers by singing the ABC song twenty times in a row, anxiety-ridden Asian teenagers who are frightened they are going to miss their stop and keep asking the bus driver where they get off until he screams in frustration: ‘I’ll tell you where you can get off.’
My kind of bus driver.
My kind of bus route.
The other day was no exception.
It was a chilly, blustery Saturday morning. I was enjoying sitting up near the front of the bus, looking out the window at all the people in the streets in their trendy coats and brightly coloured scarves, listening to the two elderly ladies across the aisle from me discussing how Margie’s grandson Jono had got yet another girl pregnant and had shot through. ‘It’s disgusting,’ said one. ‘He can’t keep it in his pants. Randy bugger.’
‘They should cut it off’, said the other. ‘Cut it right off.’
I was in the middle of doing one of those choking, sneezing things where you are trying to stifle a laugh when a woman got on the bus and sat next to me. This woman had big hair. BIIIIIIGGGG hair. Jerseylicious, Jersey Shore BIIIGGGGG HAAIRRRRRR.
I don’t know what she had done but the parts of her hair that weren’t reaching for the sky were extremely lustrous. I have never seen hair that shiny before; it was as if she had a spotlight trained on every silken tress. And those tresses loved to be swung through the air. She was talking on her mobile and kept flicking her hair, turning her head this way and that like she was in a shampoo commercial.
‘My boyfriend,’ she said as she ended the call. ‘He won’t leave me alone. It’s because I have a great imagination.’ She then proceeded to outline how great her imagination was.
‘You do that with that?’ I asked. I was beginning to think I was in the presence of not only someone with a great imagination but someone who took being limber to a new, previously unattained level. The woman must have been a professional contortionist. She nodded sagely, shrewdly, getting off at Chinatown.
A young guy got on. He was very pale, slightly green at the edges. He had that stale, musty smell people have who have slept in their clothes and drunk too much beer the night before. He kept clearing his throat and swallowing rapidly.
The guys sitting behind me latched onto the green guy straight away.
‘He’s gonna blow,’ they said. ‘He’s gonna blow.’
The green guy was carrying an umbrella. He began to cough, swallowing even more rapidly than before. He partially opened the umbrella which incongruously, was decorated with a jelly bean print. Very jolly. As the bus lurched up George Street he threw up into the umbrella. The jelly beans suddenly didn’t look as jolly. As the rest of the passengers retched and the guys behind me shouted: EPIC FAIL – I couldn’t help but be impressed by the accuracy of green guy’s aim and his resourcefulness at utilising the umbrella.
The busdriver pulled up nowhere near a bus stop.
‘Get off,’ he shouted to green guy. ‘Get off.’
Once again I was impressed. That busdriver really knew how to tell people where to get off.
My bus route never lets me down. Oh, how I love it. Colourful, interesting and educational all in one. I don’t think I’ll be taking the car any time soon.
Ha! The experience of riding public transit sounds pretty universal. I’ve had someone sitting in front of me totally retch and vomit all over the floor before, among other incidents…hmmm. Methinks some of these warrant a blog post or two.
And notice how friendly people are to each other on the bus compared to how unfriendly and impatient they are in adjacent cars. No point in hurrying each other on a bus.
Wow, that’s some adventurous bus route you are on Sel. I actually like taking the bus too, but it’s never that entertaining!!! Too bad you didn’t get a photo of that hair, sounds amazing. :<)
The drama and comedy of travelling on public transport makes it great fodder for writers.
Many years ago I was sitting opposite a lady that was spraying herself constantly, from one of those plastic refillable spray bottles, with something that had a distinct ‘flammable’ smell to it. I was rather concerned because she had a pack of cigarettes and a lighter in her other hand.
I had worked out two strategies in case something explosive was to happen.
I would either grab the winter coat that a businessman, two or three seats along, had folded on his lap and throw that around this lady in a selfless attempt to put the flames out.
I would jump up and very selfishly climb over anyone and everyone in order to get out of there unharmed.
Which strategy would I have followed…? It would give a great insight into this tubby bear if I knew the answer to that.
You have more patience than I do for the whole adventure of riding the bus lol I tend to blast my mp3 player so I don’t hear the freaks and geeks going on and on and on adnauseum and just what is it about transit riders that they assume we are dying to hear about how old Jono can’t keep his zip closed? \Occasionally funny things happen but for the most part I look at riding the bus with dread lol
And here I go again rambling mindlessly on about the smokers and how freakin BAD it smells when they flop down beisde you….Yea ya need a hazmat suit to survive. lol and a modicum of patience which clearly I don’t have. I should use the energy I expend BITCHING about the bus on walking home lol…except it’s 9!! freakin kilometers hahaha
IRON FIST – You should do some posts about it. I would love to hear them. Sometimes it can be quite gross what other people get up to. It’s as if they don’t realise anyone else is there. 😐
SQUIRREL – People are much friendlier, for sure. That’s what I like about it!
GERALDINE – I regret not taking a photo because I had my camera on me. I’m sure the Big Hair Lady would’ve posed away quite happily. I shoulfd have asked her!
DAVID – It really does, doesn’t it? There is always some kind of drama going on. Sometimes it can be annoying, but most of the time I love it!
BEAR – Or you could follow the 3rd alternative and throw the flammable woman out of the bus. The busdriver I had the other day would just have told her to ‘Get ORFFFFF!!!’ and that would have been the end of that 😆
CATHY – To be honest, sometimes I’m not in the mood for the shenanigans, but as I am a chronic people watcher I usually get into it quite quickly. But yeah, I must admit I’m not keen on sitting next to smokers. I start top wheeze by the end of the journey. You crack me up 😀
I agree the bus is the only way to go into the city, and a lot cheaper as well, I know here in Brisbane parking is very expensive anywhere in the city. It’s the only time I travel on a bus, but I should imagine if you are on them all the time you certainly would see some strange things.
Hilarious – you should have a column in the National papers 🙂 Love the EPIC FAIL!
LOL, and at Bear’s comment too!
I was on the bus the other day. With the driver was a young lady who was learning the route, and she was assisting the driver by working the ticket machine and inspecting passes.
May got on … she’s nearer 90 than 80 … and said ‘Isn’t that nice! They’ve brought back bus conductors!’
(Health and safety rules say bus drivers mustn’t help with prams and wheelchairs … I’ve never seen a rule broken so often!)
Vive la T-way! Or, don’t they have one on your route?
Oh the joys of public transport! I used to love the bus in London for the same reason. And I like the train. Hated the tube though – too many journeys spent squashed like a sardine with my nose stuck up someone else’s smelly armpit.
I’ve never had that much fun riding a bus. And, I wish you had taken a photo of that girls amazing hair!
Bwahahaha, lovely write, Selma! I am a people watcher too and used to love riding the buses in Durban. Great one!
You can’t make this stuff up! there’s nowt as strange as folk LOL :o)
and thank you for the birthday wish xxx
Seriously – taking the public transit – my BMW (bus metro walk) is definitely an adventure. I could tell you stories or just have a blog dedicated to all those stories. I take the express bus home and there is a group of women, who talk very loudly and one off them is very vocal – their stories are what make that bus ride interesting! Keep those stories coming
love it selma! it was just like being in the seat behind you. it is like making the ordinary sort of thing extraordinary. i find more often than not, the extraordinary is right there to see. right in my face often. little things, that resonate. today a white balloon was floating
ahead of me while i was driving. everyone on the road saw it. it was bouncing around between cars. you’d think it would hit the pavement at some point and burst, but no. this persistent little balloon just kept jumping. at the intersection i looked back. way in the distance there it was still bouncing, airborne. i dont know why it seemed so extraordinary, but it really made an impression.
and i have felt that same sort of feeling while observing everything in motion while sitting on the subway in the city. noticing all sorts of fascinating things and people. colorful for sure.
Oh that’s fantastic. I shall have to remember the positive ‘colour’ of public transport the next time I get stuck sitting near a strange character.
I do a lot of people-watching on trains and buses … it’s excellent fuel for a writer’s mind I think.
As you would probably know by now, I’ve been using long bus rides to get from home to the office and back (which will end somewhat due to me finding a place to stay closer to the office). I always notice the other people on the bus and find peculiarities for each one, especially the regular ones.
Just got off the bus … someone was sat behind me who was obviously a heavy smoker. And, all the while, I thought … did I smell that bad when I smoked?
The last job I had before leaving the USA I had to take a bus every morning. My workmates always pestered me at break to tell them my “bus stories”, much like yours they were colouful. I love public transport!
MAGS – I could write a book about everything I see on the bus. It really is an amazing, rich source of material. I enjoy it a lot!
GABRIELLE – Wasn’t the EPIC FAIL perfect? I couldn’t stop laughing. For a moment I thought my son was there because it is something he would say. I would love to have a column. It would be so much fun. Maybe I should schmooze some news editors…..
DAOINE – Bear has the best comments. Always cracks me up!
TRAVELRAT – I miss the bus conductors. Some of them were really entertaining. We have a part T-Way the closer we get to the city but the older streets in Glebe don’t have them. So that means we stop at every single stop 🙄
KATE – I haven’t been on the Tube for many years but I do remember how squashy it was. The train is fun too but the bus will always be my favourite!!!
MELEAH – I really regret not getting that photo. That hair was amazing and gorgeous!!!
ADEEYOYO – I think writers have to people watch. We often can’t help ourselves, can we? I have developed many characters from people I have seen out and about!
DEBORAH – You really can’t make it up. It’s priceless stuff. Glad you had a good birthday ♥
TBALL – I would love to hear some of those stories. You have to write some on your blog. I want to hear about the colourful characters!!!
TIPOTA – Have you seen the French short film ‘The Red Balloon’? It is a great example of turning the ordinary into the extraordinary (one of my favourite things.) Here’s a link to it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYxIPhjDcf8. I think it’s the small things in life that are the big things, if you know what I mean !!
TRACEY – You put that so well. People-watching is excellent fuel for a writer’s mind. Sometimes it can be intrusive and and slightly annoying to have all those colourful characters on public transport, but most of the time it’s kind of cool!
ROSHAN – You do get to know the regulars, for sure. I am very excited about your new place!!
TRAVELRAT – My husband says the same thing. The other day he sat next to a heavy smoker then emailed me saying: ‘Why didn’t you tell me I smelt that bad?’ 😉
LAURI – Oh, now you know I want to hear those stories. Collectively, we could write a book….
Oh my gosh, Sel! Now, THAT is a bus story! I take the bus to or from work if I’m too tired to walk, or am running late. Chicago busses are interesting in their own right, for sure. …but, thankfully, I’ve never been on one where someone tossed their cookies.
The burning question here is WHAT could that girl do with WHAT?? 🙂
Hi STEPH, great to see you. How have you been??? Oh, the cookie tossing was not something I want to experience regularly *gag*. Talk about there never being a dull moment on the bus.
I cannot say what that big-haired girl could do. It would make Heidi Fleiss blush. She was very creative, I’ll give her that 😆
Wow, I thought Chicago parking was expensive, but what kind of parking garage in Sydney is charging $100? Also, sometimes I forget that our seasons are opposite — for a second I was all, chilly and blustery? People are wearing scarves? What’s up with that?
Thanks, too, for using the phrase “shot through” — I learned something new today! 🙂
Finally, a number of years ago on St. Patrick’s Day, I saw a girl vomit green beer on the train. Unfortunately, her accuracy was not so good. She puked in her friend’s purse, all over herself and managed to get some on the seat as well. Not a pretty sight.
Hi KATE, a friend of mine works in the CBD and has to drive because he ferries clients around and so on. He recently asked me to help him with his weekly budget because he knows I can live on the smell of an oily rag (doesn’t sound like such a good thing, really. Haha); well, he was paying over $200 a week in parking fees. I nearly fell over. So we’ve devised a strategy where he uses the car less and he incorporates the cost of parking into the fee he charges the clients (don’t know why he didn’t do it before…)
Oh yes – SHOT THROUGH. Or doing a runner. The most popular baby daddy option. I should’ve explained that in the post. Sometimes I forget that not everyone uses the Aussie vernacular 😳
Green beer will do it every time. Beer and green food colouring mustn’t combine well. The results are usually quite spectacular!!