It was a grey day in London town and I found myself sliding into a slough of despond.
I had to phone my editor to say I’d fucked up. Oh god I hate doing that. Imagine saying to someone who you envisage to be a beautiful portal to everything you ever wanted ‘blah I’m an idiot blah.’
I worked up the courage to do it from inside a Clintons card store where the soft inoffensive music made me think ‘ahhhhhhhhhh, everything will be ok. He’ll tell me about a time he was an idiot, chuckle drily and quite possibly ask me out.’ Hello pop-music induced delusion. He was off sick so I mumbled a slightly hysterical message to one of the reporters and then binge bought cards to ease my ailing conscience.
It was still a grey day when I walked out onto the streets of Clapham. I tried to shop away my blues but the dress I tried on gave me the shoulders of an Olympian athlete. I fled into the shopping precinct that holds Clapham Junction station motivated by the thought of Old Street cafes, The Guardian and my ipod. I know Clapham Junction to be an overland station but wasn’t sure if it was a tube as well, so I asked one of the blue and white jacketed London transport ladies who were talking to each other beside the gate. She was all, ‘no, you need to buy a ticket.’
I was all, ‘I’d prefer to just travel using my Oyster card, where’s the nearest tube station?’ She stared at me agog, as if I was the most unreasonable person she’d met in her life. I was quietly melting under her ferocity but was saved by her colleague who said, ‘Clapham Common.’
I scurried out of the shopping precinct and back into the grey. Energy at a slumping low, I discerned a bus stop that said: ‘towards Clapham Common and Vauxhall’; a 337 stopped and I got on.
‘Excuse me?” I said to the bald, bespectacled driver, ‘do you go to Clapham Common?’
‘YOU KNOW WHAT?’ he blared at maximum volume, ‘PEOPLE ALWAYS ASK ME THAT AT THIS STOP.’
Before I had a chance to do anything but act startled he continued:‘Get on and I’ll take you round the corner to where the 37 and 35 both go from.’
I stood in front of his box pondering whether he expected me to use my Oyster card for this short trip. As I stood there a new passenger boarded and asked if he went to Tooting Bec.
‘YOU KNOW WHAT?’ blared the bus driver with what I now recognised as good humour, ‘I DO! YOU LUCKY LADY’ adding, as if he was astonished that anyone could experience the kind of luck she was enjoying, ‘YOU LUCKY LADY!’ Me and the she drifted down the bus, grinning we took our seats.
A second later we had rounded the corner and I got up. I waved my thanks to the driver in his mirror which caused him to rapidly mime the stop gesture with his hands. For added measure he pointed at me and yelled, ‘YOU, STAY RIGHT THERE!’ I did the thumbs up sign and sat back down but he carried on gesturing madly so I skittered down the now mobile bus.
In a conspirator’s whisper he told me his plan: ‘See ahead there, that’s a 35, we’re going to see if we can catch it up at the next stop.’
In the space of time it took him to say that we’d arrived at the next stop. The 35 had already shut its doors but by fluke there was a red traffic light holding it stationary.
‘Right,’ said the bus driver like a General addressing his troops, ‘you’re going to run up to the 35, bang on the doors and smile at the bus driver. Run to the doors, smile at the bus driver.”
‘Thanks,’ I said hotfooting it out of the door.
I ran, knocked, smiled. The electric doors folded open. I walked down to the back of the bus and waved at my cockney angel in the vehicle behind. He smiled broadly and with that I was in a good mood.
Had any run ins with bus drivers? Let us know..
Image by E01 courtesy of Flickr