The Perils of Public Transport

BRYONY GLOVER talks us through the alternative and alien world of public transport…

bell bike bryony glover Bus bus stop Inbetweeners late passenger public transport red seething stop bus tourists traffic

Nine am lectures were always going to be bad.

But for some of us, things were about to get even worse: we were catching the bus. Shivering in silence, we waited at the stop. And waited. A man in a van shouted a foul obscenity made famous by “The Inbetweeners”, a generally derivative term for those who foolishly decide to take this form of transport. Not even the thought of freezing cyclists could bring us comfort. Bright-eyed, they flashed us cheery grins as they whizzed into the distance, happily trilling their bell. How depressing. How utterly lowering.

We checked the board.

Three minutes.

Three minutes to make small-talk you’ll instantly forget. Three minutes trying to smile without having ice form on your lips and freeze them in a permanent grimace. Five minutes. Twenty. And then the hopeful surge (it’s too late, we might as well return to bed) followed by the dashed dreams (here’s the bus crawling along now, slower than a girl in heels). Inescapably British, we jostled politely though its doors.

Mates all in it together

Mates all in it together

The driver barely glanced at my proudly presented University Card. I crumpled the ticket into my bag, adding it to the rapidly growing pile of souvenirs from these torturous journeys. At least there they were hidden from sight. I had barely taken a brightly patterned seat (the nylon really scratches your legs) when we lurched off, overtaking those smug cyclists (waiting for the bus was worth it!) before they caught us up again at the traffic lights (can’t believe I paid 80p for this.) Despite the scratches on the window, you could just about make out their healthy glow as they worked off last night’s Formal Hall. I adjusted my waistband anxiously. It was definitely time to move off again, but the lights were still rudely glaring red. Come to think of it, the sheer density of traffic lights was getting ridiculous. I was sure we were spending more time stationary, mindlessly ejecting CO2, than we were moving.

Never did the colour red have so much power

Never did the colour red have so much power

I checked my watch. Time was scampering horribly quickly towards the start of the lecture. In fact, given that it was in the enigmatic “New Museums Site”, I only had a vague notion of where the lecture was at all. I tinged the bell. Someone else did too. Unnecessarily. So did someone else. I seethed. Once the bell has been rung, the bus is already going to stop without its passengers making incessant pinging sounds. Obediently, the bus juddered to a halt, and with a half-hearted “thank you” I escaped my portable prison. I checked my watch again. We were late.

I struggled through the streets brimming with tourists, students and a couple of residents, trying to get away from the bus stop as quickly as possible. A reputation for taking public transport would only add to my isolation. I turned another corner. I didn’t know how late I would be. I didn’t know how many faces would stare as I awkwardly shuffled into the lecture. But I did know this: I had to get a bike.