Thursday, 5 March 2009

Bus drivers and travelling in the city

Yesterday when I got onto the bus to go into the city, the bus driver asked me which street he needed to use to get to the city. Considerably startled, I told him, and we had a bit of a laugh. He said he had not done this route for several years.  Then I sat down next to an attractive young woman, who asked me why the bus driver has asked me. I told her it must have been because I looked as though I had been around for a while! The young woman and I kept chatting. She had a lovely Scottish accent, but I had no idea from which part of Scotland. She had been in Australia for a couple of years, and was returning to Scotland soon. The trip to the city is quite short, so we were not talking for long. She got off the bus at the first city stop, and walked out of my life. I wished we could have talked for longer. She made me think of Isabelle

I enjoy the occasions when passengers fall into conversation with each other. I sat down beside a woman once and spoke to her. She recognised my voice - we had known each other since childhood as our parents were lifelong friends. We were most surprised to encounter each other side by side on a bus. 

Frequently you overhear other conversations - about working in a shoe store, complete family histories, buying and selling houses (very Sydney), politics, sport and idle chit-chat. These are somehow so much more interesting than the interminable mobile phone conversations that everyone on the bus is forced to endure. Probably this is because you hear both sides of a conversation rather than the one-sided talking on a mobile phone. On one occasion a young woman had an extended conversation with a friend, and confided to her - and thus to all and sundry, that she was pregnant. It was a weird experience - we all knew she was pregnant, but she was telling the friend that she had not told her family yet.

Because I travel by bus several times a week, I watch the bus drivers, and think about them a lot. They are such a good lot of people - both men and women. Occasionally you encounter a grumpy driver, but for the most part they are competent, efficient, pleasant and helpful. It is not an easy job, it seems to me. Sydney traffic is rather hellish at best. The roads are crowded, motorists regularly speed, won't let others change lanes, or force their way in, and run the red lights. Lots of people don't know exactly where they are going, or quite how they are going to get there. They are constantly asking for directions and help. And the drivers give it, pleasantly and courteously. I admire them greatly. They help keep our lives and society civil, friendly and helpful, and make people aware of each other. Public transport is not merely a matter of moving people around.

There is a bus to the Art Gallery, which leaves from one bus stop in the city, does a loop to the Art Gallery and then back to the city to a different bus bay for the return trip to my suburb. Confusion arises when passengers do not realise there are two separate stops - one for coming and the other for going. It could be better signposted. Today, as I went to the Art Gallery for the lectures on the Baroque, a woman on the bus asked the driver where he was going. He very kindly let her off as soon as he could, so she did not have a very long walk back to the other bus stop. The drivers don't get paid all that much, and I reckon they should be much better rewarded for getting so many people around the city safely. At least passengers do seem to appreciate the drivers, and thank the drivers when they alight. It is a pity you can't thank the train drivers.

What with the computer classes, the physiotherapist, the two Italian classes, the art lecture and a concert, I spend a lot of time on the buses. It is much easier than driving around the city, cheaper than driving, and I am not clogging up the roads. In fact I use the car quite infrequently now - for shopping, choir, to get to the pool, or to drive Dr P occasionally. Bus travel is much easier. And it is good for me to walk to the bus stop.


Relatively Retiring said...

For me, one of the real joys of being older is the freedom it gives to people to talk to me - not always so easy here in UK. In recent years I have had some touching and amazing stories confided to me in public places. A great privilege!
It's interesting that the bus driver chose you as the person to ask!

Pam said...

Yes, I get into conversations with people in buses too. Thank you for thinking of me! I'd love to chat to you, on a bus or elsewhere.

molly said...

We don't use buses where we live very much as it is "out in the boonies!" It was interesting to read your thoughtful observations. One area where you can still interact with a living, breathing human being, instead of a recording! Sounds like you have a busy life with all those classes, lectures, etc!

Mary said...

I love that bus trip from your suburb to the city - fast and efficient but still the bridge and the fish markets and you know - plenty to look at (and to listen to !)

meggie said...

I so agree with you! When my brother was here on holiday, we ventured into the city, & wished to meet my son for lunch. Unsure of where to get off the bus, I asked a fellow passenger. She told me it was the stop after she was to alight, & as she got off, she asked the driver to please alert us! He duly did, & we thanked him profusely. People are usually only too happy to help, if they can.
And, like you, I will talk to anyone willing to talk back!
A benefit of aging, I suspect!