Monday, October 29, 2007

School buses...

Dan at All That Comes With It has foisted this excellent subject onto you today with his reminiscing yesterday of what transpired on his school bus route.

Like his school, our school didn't have a dedicated school bus service which is strange when you think of it as 1000 strapping youths left our all-male grammar school all at the same time and at least half of them wanting to go int he same direction - thats a hell of a lot of pimply, over-energetic youths to try and cram onto your regular service buses.

I have heard stories of bus drivers taking sick leave when they noticed that they had to run the 30, 33 or 36 routes at or around 3.30pm, I have also heard that some drivers would refuse to stop at the bus stops leading up to our school in an effort to arrive at our stop a few minutes earlier and miss us rabble turning out, I've even seen bus drivers accelerate hard when they approached our school and saw 500 or so of us waiting to get on, accelerate hard and swerve right out into the middle of the road to avoid us, and then pretend that they'd accidently missed the stop.

But they didn't have things all their own way, oh no, far from it.

You see in the olden days of my youth the buses didn't have doors on them like they do now, you didn't get on at the front like you do now, oh no, you got on at the back of the bus onto an open platform where you could choose to go upstairs or downstairs and there was an unwritten rule that if you were on the platform, or even making the barest of contact with the platform then the conductor (for they had a conductor as well as a driver) could not throw you off.

There is a belief amongst those of a foreign persuasion that the British will queue politely for anything, for as long as it takes, without complaint, and then drink tea - that is how foreign johnnies percieve us to be and by and large that is the case.

Especially at bus stops, if you are 42nd in the queue at a bus stop you will normally stand there and wait politely and if the bus that comes only has 41 seats on it then you will let everyone on in front of you and wait for the next one, its how it works, it the unwritten rule.

But not at our school at 3.30pm, not with 500 of us (at least) to get on a bus that only ever held 70 or so, a bus that might actually be half full before it got to our school.

I have seen such a bus be foolish enough to stop at the bus stop outside our school, a bus stop where we did not queue but hung around in a huge throng, pushing the younger and smaller ones into the road in front of moving traffic and pelting the more expensive cars with ink bombs, for there is easy anonimity in a crowd of 500.

I have seen such a half full normal service bus stop at such an unruly bus stop and seen all 500 youths try and board the rear platform all at the same time with the result that they all get wedged onto said platform and no-one actually gets to go upstairs or downstairs - I have seen such a bus try to set off with all 500 youths clinging for dear life to the platform and to each other, arms and legs flailing behind the bus as it picks up speed, each individual gradually releasing their grip and letting themselves fall to the road to their doom in the same way as those sailors who clung hold of the rope of the airship did in that grainy old b&w film.

I have even seen the effect of 500 boys clinging hold of the chrome pole that divided the platform at the back of the bus, said chrome pole being for the benefit of alighting old people to grasp, said chrome pole once bending under the weight of 500 youths and then actually parting from the platform leaving 500 youths stood in the middle of the road still clutching said chrome pole while the bus made its escape in a cloud of dust.

I have seen bus conductors shelter in fear underneath the stairs of the bus, in the cupboard where you are supposed to store push chairs and I have seen braver conductors swinging punches and kicks at the hordes of boarding youths in a brave attempt to repel boarders in a pirate movie stylee, to no avail.

I have been on buses with an absolute capacity of 70 people trundle slowly up the road with at least 200 bodies on board none of whom would get off when requested and none of whom paid because we were crammed in so tight that the conductor could not make his way down the aisle to collect the fares.

And it was on such a bus that I once flailed in the wind clutching the chrome pole on the platform at the back whilst the bus tried to accelerate away from the throng and I turned to see my recorder, that awful musical instrument of childhood that no professional orchestra would ever include, fall out of my haversack and onto the road to be crushed under the wheels of a following car, how fortuitous that day was, no more recorder lessons for me, but thats another story for another day...


Anonymous said...

Did you read this ?

Gary said...

Yup, saw that, not as scary as playing on the railway lines like we used to, but still :)

Grannymar said...

Gary I loved this post. I grew up in Dublin and had to get a bus like that to and from school.

Wet winter days were the worst where everyone steamed in the confined space of the bus.

Oh the memories coming back... might have enough for a blog post... thanks!

Jeff said...

Holy cow, our bus rides were hardly that eventful. Although I do remember walking all the way to the back seat one day only to find a guy with his girlfriend's head down on his you-know-what. Oddly, he didn't seem bothered by my discovery and she didn't stop. Apparently they were very focused.

Gary said...

We never saw anything like that on our school bus Jeff.

Mind you, it was an all-boys school I went to ...