Category Archives: Bus

Crazy lady

A rainy Sunday morning at a bus stop opposite The North Star pub in Ealing.  Approximately fifteen people wait for the 427, including a woman holding a picture of Jesus and wearing a huge wooden crucifix around her neck.  She’s dressed in a mash-up of clothing.  A baggy brown skirt hangs past her knees, ending about two inches above her ankles – exposing white socks in black sandals.  A frayed purple fleece and a tattered green woollen cap attempt to keep her warm.  She holds the 20 centimetre crucifix in her left hand and the picture of Jesus in her right; staring intently and murmuring at each person she sees, occasionally shouting “Jesus will help you!”

I’ve seen this woman for about the last ten years.  She’s a regular Ealing crazy.

Dressed in a hot pink dress and black knee-high boots, I don’t epitomise wholesomeness.  In an attempt to blend in, I step back into the crowd of people and try to avoid her gaze.  I fail.  For the second time in a decade her radar zooms in on me, “Sinner! You must choose Jesus!”  She stares directly at me but her eyes flicker from side-to-side, reflecting her brain’s faulty wiring.  A nearby couple suppress their giggling and smile sympathetically at me.

Her judgment doesn’t remain on me for long, as the bus arrives and we all board.  I remain standing near the driver, Crazy Lady sits in the middle section, gripping her Jesus picture and clutching the cross.  She selects her targets one-by-one and turns to them, praying loudly for their salvation, “He’s the Way, the Truth and the Light! Let him in!”

At a bus stop close to my home a young woman wearing a full burka boards.  I feel a juvenile thrill at the confrontation certain to take place, though I know my excitement is wrong – like a child in a school yard about to witness a fight.  I exchange a knowing look with the couple who had just sympathised with me: we recognise a new victim has arrived.  The young Muslim woman heads to the back of the bus, passing Crazy Lady who visibly tenses and sits bolt upright.  In my head I hear ten-year-olds chant “Fight! Fight! Fight!

Crazy Lady spins around and holds the cross around her neck out towards the girl – stretching the chain to its limit like she’s warding off a vampire and fervently shouting a barrage of phrases, “Jesus will save you! Let him love you!”  The young Muslim lady smiles (I can’t see her mouth, but I see the twinkle in her eye) and lifts her hand to give Crazy Lady a playful little wave. I look at the Muslim girl and smile.  We both know her presence is sending the already Crazy Lady insane and we’re both finding it amusing.

The bus stops and a Sikh man with a long grey beard and a red turban boards.  It feels like a joke in action: a Christian, a Muslim and a Sikh board a bus …

Crazy Lady spins her head around to confront the Sikh man but she’s then distracted by the scantily clad teenage girls who are standing behind him.  She can’t work out where to focus her energies and the effect has disoriented her.  She’s a malfunctioning robot ready to implode.

The bus reaches my stop and as I disembark from the centre doors I see two drag-queens (one with mascara smudged under his eyes from the previous night and the other with bare feet, holding navy high-heels in his hand) boarding at the front.  It takes a lot of self-control not to jump back on the bus.

The pros and cons of London’s diversity are often debated, but you rarely hear about its comedic value.  This city frequently infuriates me, and then out-of-nowhere brings a smile to my face.

Trains, planes and buses

Some of you have been asking about my trips and I apologise if I’ve not provided enough detail.  I confess that I find listening to the travels of others criminally dull, though I’ve always thought this was a universal feeling and that we pretend to be interested to conform to social etiquette. When I was part of the online dating world I dismissed profiles that included gushing prose about travelling through fear of a boring first date.  I’m not saying travelling itself is dull … but hearing about it is.

I also find writing about travelling tedious, so I’m trying to keep it to a minimum.  In a nutshell, I’ve been trooping all over the country since I arrived, visiting old friends and being introduced to new ones.  In fact, not counting the 10,500 mile flight to get here, I’ve covered 12,000 miles in three months.  My next big trip is to China.  If anything monumental happens I’ll let you know!

Anyway, all that said, I will provide the details of one particular travelling experience in today’s post … (hypocrisy, thy name is Simone).

“Trains, planes and buses”

Jolimont Station, Canberra.  The bus arrives from Sydney and collects the Canberra load to continue through to Melbourne, though I’ll be alighting in Albury.  The driver who’s driven the leg from Sydney hands-over to the next driver, filling him in about the passengers and various stop-off points.  It’s peculiar to see that the new driver’s flustered and confused by the information.  He’s unnervingly jumpy as I hand over my bag.  His eyes dart erratically from his clipboard, to my bag and to the bus as he tells me I’m in seat 13B.

I discover that 13B is at the very back, within touching distance of the toilet which reeks of urine.  As I take my window-seat, a passenger curtly informs me that this seat has already been allocated to her and I’m to take the aisle seat.  It transpires that approximately ten seats have been double-booked by the driver and I begin to doubt his competence.

My faith is further reduced when we stall twice while exiting the bus-bay.  The driver responds to our groans. “Sorry! Sorry everyone! I don’t know what’s going on here. I’ll have it going in a sec”.  Silently we sit while he clumsily turns the engine and jolts the bus forward.  We kangaroo-hop and stall again.  Within fifteen minutes, before we’re even out of Canberra, we’ve stalled eight times – including in the middle of a roundabout and an intersection.  The nervous passengers murmur that the bus didn’t stall once on the journey from Sydney to Canberra which means the problem lies with the new driver, not the vehicle.  There’s a distinct edginess to the atmosphere.

We enter Wagga and stop on a steep hill at a set of traffic lights.  The lights turn green … and the bus stalls.  It stalls again.  And again. It stalls seven times, each time rolling further back down the hill to the nervous gasps from the passengers.  The tension is palpable. The cars behind the bus have to reverse and move out of the way.  Finally someone cracks.

Man (shouting):  Open the doors!

From my position at the back of the bus, I can’t hear the driver’s response.

Man (shouting, more aggressively):  Open the fuckin’ doors, and let me off!!

The doors open and the man leaves, shouting a lot of obscenities on his way.  The remaining passengers (including me) cast worried looks at each other; we’re still on the hill at the traffic lights, though we’ve rolled back quite a distance.  I consider getting a hotel room for the night and another bus tomorrow, but get distracted when I see the driver get a man from the street to start the bus for him!  To understand what’s happening I move to a seat behind the driver who babbles frantically to those near him.  Whenever the bus starts he has to keep moving in third gear as he’s unable to get into first or second.  He’s clearly mentally unstable (drugs?) and refuses to contact his Head Office because he’s only been in the job for three weeks.

The passengers out of earshot have no idea what’s going on and are becoming increasingly irate.  The driver’s so nervous he can barely function and, to my horror, hands me his microphone.

Driver:  Do me a favour and let them know what’s going on, will ya love? I need to concentrate on what I’m doing.

I reject the microphone but stand in the middle of the aisle like a tour guide and, with embarrassment, explain the situation with the gears and that we’ll get help when we reach Albury.  I can’t quite believe this is happening and I’m desperate for the journey to end.

For the remaining stress-filled two hours the driver (“Tony”) asks me which turn-offs to take because I’m “familiar with the route” (I was – seventeen years ago!).  As we finally pull into the bus depot, he compliments me and asks for my phone number – making it one of the strangest bus trips of my life.  I tell Tony that my British mobile doesn’t work here.  Of course he’s seen me texting for the entire journey, but I’m too frazzled to care.

No good deed goes unpunished

An Acton bus stop, Sunday, 12:30pm.  The sun is shining and through my headphones I’m happily listening to the cast of Glee sing Christina Aguilera’s, “Candyman” – the post gym buzz still with me.  A long, bendy 207 bus pulls up and the door opens, revealing the back of a reversing wheelchair.  I wait on the pavement for the passenger to alight.  Nothing happens.  Oddly, the chair isn’t moving towards me, but instead jerking erratically from side to side.  Alarmed, I realise the passenger’s not alighting; she’s clinging to the safety rail.  Her brakes don’t work so she’s gripping the bar with all her strength to prevent the chair from skidding off the bus.  She loses her grip and the chair slides rapidly to the exit.  I jump up and grab the chair’s handlebars to stop her fall. Furious, she hits my hand away.

WOMAN: Don’t fucking touch me!!

ME: (stunned, embarrassed and nervous.): Sorry, I was trying to help, sorry.

WOMAN: Don’t fucking touch me! Why does it always fucking do this?! Piece of shit! (She yells, swears and mumbles a lot of things that don’t make sense).

I take my hands from the handlebars, but keep my body against the chair so it won’t just skid away.  If I move my weight, the chair will slide off the bus and out the open door.  Without a ramp she’ll end up hurt.

ME: Do you want to get off the bus?

WOMAN: No!  He should have answered his fucking phone! (She rants some more and the C word is thrown about with carefree abandon).

I just stand there.  The doors of the bus have closed and we’re moving.  Even though I’m supporting the chair, she’s still clinging to the bar, swearing and mumbling.  The movement of the bus snaps me out of my paralysis and I look at her properly.  She’s wearing a baseball cap, with greasy shoulder-length hair hanging in limp clumps from under it.  Her fingernails have black dirt encrusted under them.  She’s wearing a loose black t-shirt and jogging bottoms.  Her arms have what I initially think are cuts on them, but then I realise they’re track marks.  She smells of urine.  She’s a junkie … possibly homeless.

I look around at my fellow passengers.  Most of them are looking away, a few glance at me with sympathy.  ALL of them know what’s happened:  I’d jumped to the aid of a person in a wheelchair, but been confronted with an aggressive drug addict.  I don’t know what to do.  I’m still pressed against the chair with this woman sporadically yelling and mumbling.  I lock eyes with a man on a seat not too far from me, some sort of message passes between us and he gets up.  He presses the button for the bus to stop and, as it pulls up and the ramp comes down, he speaks to the woman – manoeuvring himself around me so he can grab the handles of the chair.

MAN (to the woman): Would you like to get off here?

WOMAN: Yes!  Fucking hell! (She looks over at me) C***!

I nod thanks to him, move out of the way and he helps her off.

With the screaming woman gone, the atmosphere on the bus is awkwardly quiet.  Feeling self-conscious, I get off the bus at the next stop … three stops early.  My buzz is definitely gone. 

London is a carnival of junkies, though I’ll not be escaping the theatrics when I return to Australia.  My hometown was a hotbed of nutters; the most famous being “Ding, Ding”, an alcoholic ex-boxer who enjoyed air fighting imaginary opponents and chasing my terrified sister through the park during her lunch hour.  Local “characters” are found in any environment, city or rural.

Anyway, speaking of fringe dwellers who are capable of humiliation and intimidation, I’m off to Erotica.