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.