There has been a flurry of letters to this paper of late complaining about rude bus drivers. I’ve had a few incidents, including one who refused to believe my stop was called Comfortable Place. Which it rather unbelievably is. And another who wouldn’t let me off, quote, ‘because you didn’t ding the dinger’!
Mostly they are a cheerful and polite lot, considering the ghastly people they have to put up with (i.e. us) and the piles of discarded newspapers, takeaway litter and melted ice lollies adorning their vehicles at the end of the day.
Unlike some experiences I’ve had abroad. My Natural Theatre colleagues and I were briefly kidnapped by a bonkers bus driver in Turkmenistan. He drove us miles into the desert, laughing manically and refusing to speak. We eventually reached our destination but never discovered why we were taken on this scary detour. We only meant to go two stops to our hotel!
In one country, the bus got stuck on a mud slide on a remote mountain road. My pal had spotted a road works and ran back to fetch a wheelbarrow full of grit which he heroically shovelled under the spinning wheels of the very full coach. Suddenly the tyres gripped and without so much as a thank you, the bus drove off without him.
In Nevis, West Indies, the driver of the local mini-bus refused to carry a lady in the front because she was too fat. ‘Me don’t want she to mash up me new seat’ was his rather brusque explanation. Miraculously, with much squeezing and prodding, we managed make room for her in the back.
Most bus drivers in the West Indies are real characters and go out of their way to deliver parcels of pigs trotters, small unaccompanied children and lost tourists to the correct destinations, whether on their official route or not. An exception was the formidable lady driving the last bus from the airport one night. As the packed vehicle shuddered to a wheezing halt in the middle of nowhere, steam pouring from under its bonnet, she announced to all and sundry ‘This bus broke!’ Whereupon, she jumped out, hailed a passing taxi and disappeared into the pitch black night.
I’ve yet to see that happen on the Number Thirteen!