Things I’ve learned from travelling on the Wessex 16 bus

From Stoke Bishop with love?

Seven months on and it’s hard to imagine the Briz fresher experience without contemplating the sheer amount of time spent either on, or indeed waiting for the Wessex 16 bus. But while filling out the feedback survey yesterday, I started to question not just what I thought about the service but even what, in fact, I had learned from it. Voilà, an ode to the number 16…

Timetables are ridiculous

Bus timetables are the transport office’s bureaucratic joke of the year. Yes, they look organised but they’re nothing more than a token of false hope for naive freshers. Most of the numbers on the page (apparently departure times) are produced by a random number generator so you have about as much luck of the bus leaving on time as you have of winning the lottery.

If you do find yourself in the scrum of hungover students attempting to clamber onto the bus, make like the French and sharpen your elbows as if in a queue for the chairlift in Val d’Isère; this Darwinian ‘survival of the fittest’ is a must if you wish to actually depart the transport hub. Those that don’t make the bus aren’t cut out for this world.

What’s more, as soon as you congratulate yourself on catching the correct bus (one that’s given you long enough for a leisurely breakfast* but ensures you arrive at lectures on time) karma will undoubtably leave you either in rush-hour traffic or waiting for a geriatric lady to transverse a zebra crossing.

*n/a for science students

8.30 start: Absolute scenes

Keep your eyes peeled and your ears open

Bristol, the unofficial epicentre of edge in the South West, boasts a wealth of hidden gems from Banksy artwork to midnight falafel destinations for the inebriated student. Sitting on the bottom deck allows you to connect street-level with fellow Bristolians, but travelling on the top deck gives you a greater vantage point for spotting places you wouldn’t otherwise be able to see. Places like the greengrocer on St Michael’s Hill where AVOCADOS ARE SOLD FIVE FOR £1 *hyperventilates*.

An homage to Mac Demarco’s 2011 album?

What’s more, it’s not only passing visuals that distract the Stoke Bishop commuter but also the odd jokes aural soupçon such as

“Yeah the one from Badock, he was aggressively posh” – A northerner

Did his Barbour have metal studs on the shoulders? Did he possess a Schöffel fleece gilet in a particularly offensive colour? Did his accent cut more than just metaphorical glass? Alas, we shall never know for certain…

Trust no students in snapbacks

These apparent street-dwelling people are unlikely to actually be from a deprived community. In fact, if you look close enough, you may see the glint of a signet ring as they reach for the “stop” button to disembark. Wealth is inversely proportional to the type of clothes that the roadmen 2.0 wear and the estates that they talk about probs have more acres than ASBOs.

Not that this is an issue as such. Indeed quite the opposite. The fact that the local mayor wears red chinos sets the tone for the hoards of public school kidz who descend on the University of Bristol every year. As Mr G from Summer Heights High says, “anything goes”.

Accept the things you can’t control

Accept that the bus drivers’ cigarette breaks are more important than your degree. Accept that a separate space-time continuum exists from Stoke Bishop along Whiteladies and therefore no bus, whether in rush-hour traffic or not, will ever leave you satisfied with the past 20 minutes you’ve spent wedged between gap-yah Freddie from the second floor and the pensioner you disdainfully disagree should be allowed ‘on board’.

At some point we just have to accept these things and move on (except for when Waitrose stopped producing their clotted cream ice-cream). It is this aspect of Stoic philosophy that enables even the most impatient student to realise that they cannot control everything in their life and thus eventually find their inner peace.


Appreciate the fact you’re not walking

No matter how annoying the lack of speed, style or frequency of the Wessex bus, it’s in this scarlet chariot we’re carried across the Downs in the pouring rain or where Donervans are eaten post-Bunker. The number 16 is as much a part of Stoke Bishop life as the John Lewis advert is to Christmas: both have the potential to cause tears but where would we be without them?