Bussing It

Experience any of these problems on the 24?

What’s your favourite bus seat? I’m sorry, that’s a ridiculous question. Unless your inner child is truly dead it’s the upper deck, at the front. You can pretend that you’re driving. And you can ignore the fact that there are other people on the vehicle, which is a proud tradition of British public transport.

Of course, some people like the back of the bus. Unless you’re with a group large enough to colonise it, I don’t really understand why. You have no option but to sit face to face with a total stranger and touch knees every time there’s a pothole. You have to aim your eyes everywhere except towards theirs, and if you make eye contact with someone, everyone knows it’s a sign of weakness to break it. Gazing in to someone’s eyes from Waterloo to Brixton seems to lend more meaning to the knee-touching, and then you have to deal with the heartbreak when they leave.

Some buses come with a single seat for the terminally antisocial. It’s sort of built in to the wall, just behind the driver, and above it is an inscription that says ‘Don’t Fuckin’ Touch Me’. If the sitter has enough luggage with them, they can wall themselves in. In believe this is the only bus seat with fort potential, but I may not be trying hard enough.

I personally try to avoid the ‘conditional’ seats. As in, the ones you are allowed to sit in until someone in greater need boards the bus. It can be really hard to tell when you should offer these seats. I watch potential candidates (such as pensioners and the possibly pregnant) carefully, and try to make an objective judgement. If they seem to be moving pretty well, I don’t offer the seat. They should take this as a compliment: it means I think they could survive in the State of Nature. If they seem like they do need it, I can offer it and feel self-satisfied all day. Either way, everybody wins.

If you are turfed from the conditional seating, standing may be the only option. This is fine if you are tall, because you can comfortably reach those swinging handles they have above the wheelchair/pram area. Although, yes, it may be a design flaw that handles which are meant to help you keep your balance swing with the motion of the vehicle. I’m not entirely sure what the logic behind that is. I wouldn’t really know, because I am slightly too short to partake in handle holding without actually dangling from them. When the bus is crowded and you face this problem, it’s quite easy to become stranded with no support in reach.

This is an incredibly stressful experience. You know the bus is about to lurch forward, but the railings are covered in hands and those handles are an unrealistic goal. A large part of the bus experience is balancing a dislike of touching strangers against a desire to remain standing. Usually, fellow passengers will relent before the bus starts moving and give you some railing space. When you’re so closely packed, if one person goes down, everyone goes down. If people don’t have the commonsense/aren’t polite enough to give you room to hold on, comfort yourself with the knowledge that you’re about to take them to the ground with you.

Ultimately, the upper deck front seats are the best- and if you’re willing to walk briskly, elbow indiscriminately, and never ride a single decker, they can be yours. You can pretend that you’re driving.