When I was commuting on a daily basis from Liverpool to Manchester and back, trains were the bane of my life. Horrible, old-school, rickety, cold, and deafening boxes which rattled unforgivingly from Oxford Road to Lime Street. Now that I live in Eccles, buses have become the bane of my life, instead.
Compared to Northern Rail’s trains, even their most up-to-date, First Manchester’s buses, my go-to, are like Air Force One. They are much more regular, have at least a modicum of comfort, aren’t extortionate, and I don’t have to go too far to find one. I find living on a direct bus route to the city is one of life’s great pleasures.
As much as they are superior to their rail-bound counterparts though, they do suffer from some of the same pitfalls.
There is something about people when it comes to public transport. Politeness just gets all balled up and launched out of the window, lands in a bin, and somebody sets that bin on fire. Maybe I’m being harsh on all people, I’m not really sure about public transport in other countries. But from my vast experience in the UK, it’s absolutely true.
I’m in a shop, waiting to be served. I line up behind the people who have been waiting longer than me, and I settle in, preparing some witty badinage for the assistant. Who among us isn’t used to this system, and fully prepared to participate? Nobody. Would you ever dream of just flouncing past 10 people in a queue, throwing money at the server and racing away?
When you’re boarding a bus, it’s a whole different story. There is no system. If there’s a gap in the door, and you fit in it, you go for it. In fact, there are plenty who go for the gap even when they patently will not fit in it. You can be first at the bus stop, and still, somehow, end up getting on last. Not that it really matters, there are usually enough seats if it’s a double decker, but it’s just common courtesy to wait your turn.
From apple cores to ragged copies of the Metro, from empty Lucozade bottles rolling on the floor to half-full cans of Stella lodged in the gap between seat backs, the bus is the perfect place to find all manner of waste. Again, the bus seems to be immune from public decency.
Fair enough, there are usually no bins to hand when you’re on a bus. The demise of the in-vehicle ashtray has done away with the last possible receptacle for your small rubbish. However, I don’t think that’s an excuse to finish with your apple, look around you and just let it drop, probably with a gentle cough of excuse to mask the thump of apple meeting sticky floor.
The fact that there are actually instances where you’ll find cans of beer with beer still in them, either rolling round the floor or trapped in any gap that can be found, absolutely baffles me. To such an extent that it seems fruitless to discuss it. It almost makes fun of itself.
If you’re going to get on a bus, you need to be prepared to sit directly beside someone, and you need to be extra prepared for that someone to be a complete stranger.
There is no excuse, in my book, for the 3 types of “seat hog” that you’ll find. The first is the “bag on seat”. These people, usually women, but not always, will sit down and immediately place their handbags, shopping bags, kit bags, or whatever sort of bag they have with them, on the seat beside them, as a sign for you to find a seat elsewhere. You will incur a wrathful stare if you ask to use that seat, causing them no end of hassle as they huff and puff their bags to the floor between their feet, where they belong.
The second type is a development of “bag on seat”, called “No bags! Better sit awkwardly.”. These people will, as the name suggests, not have a bag with them at that time, so will resort to stretching their legs out to cover the whole double-seat space, usually with a diagonal slouch. They may decide that future back problems are not the way to go, and instead just sit on the inside seat. Either way, the behaviour is totally inappropriate and highly annoying. There’s a perfectly good seat beside you, let me use it!
The third and most “laddy” type is the “feet on seat”. These people will, without question, have a baggy pair of sweat pants on, a black McKenzie t-shirt, and a rolled peak cap pulled down over their eyes, as if that excuses their behaviour. You know their eyes are packed with fear of being “called out”. If asked to move their feet, they will do it desperately slowly, probably in the hope that you, now bored of wanting a seat, will just go away.
I don’t mind graffiti, when it’s done well and with a touch of class. I don’t know about you, but any graffiti I’ve seen on buses has been done terribly, usually with a marker pen that’s about to run out, and with absolutely no class whatsoever.
Lude sketches, smutty messages, and blue jokes abound, but they’re all desperately difficult to read and lack any sense of wit or whimsy. I was going to start a series of pictures on Instagram that would detail bus graffiti I came across, but after discovering my lack of touch with photography, I decided to give it a miss. I didn’t really want that sort of content strewn across my account either, as if I enjoyed or condoned it. It’s ridiculous and unnecessary.
More annoying than the badly-done graffiti, however, are the burn marks. Sit on a bus in Manchester 10 times, and, at least 1 of those times, you’ll find burn marks on the seat in front of you. This is where some lout has taken a cigarette lighter and held the flame on the back of the seat until it’s started to melt slightly. Pointless, you’ll agree. It’s the pointlessness of it all that is so annoying. Like, what goes through your head that would make you think that was a good thing to do.
That goes for everything in this blog really. The UK is becoming a more divided place, and I don’t think it’s unfair to say that if people would just be more courteous on public transport, we’d all get along much better as a society.