“We can’t stop here, this is Cat country!”
It wasn’t the ideal line to hear from a bus driver, especially as he overshot my stop and picked up speed on an increasingly mad dash through Catford. I tightened my grip on the seat in ahead of me, getting a wary look from the man in front as he watched my knuckles turn white. Why he wasn’t panicking I don’t know, especially as a booming ‘YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEHAW!’ rang out over the speakers on the top deck. Usual behaviour for London bus drivers perhaps? It seemed unlikely, they never did that sort of thing back home, not as far as I can remember. But then back home I never got the bus, so perhaps this was the norm in all big cities and my fear just marked me out as a newcomer.
I ducked down as the bus screamed through traffic lights, not much of a defense against the possibility of a t-boning truck, which we narrowly avoided to the maniacal laughter of the driver downstairs. Still nobody seemed bothered, in fact a mother and daughter were even playing a game of ‘I Spy’ behind me. A routine past time made worse by the little girl’s loud and excited guess for ‘s’ – ‘sudden death’ she shrieked as the truck that had narrowly missed us spun out of control and flipped over in a spray of sparks. We’d missed the two stops after mine too.
“Do you have a valid Oyster card? Well, do you?”
The driver’s voice had suddenly grown sad, a good thing I reckoned as it coincided with the bus slowing down to a more sedate rampage down the road towards Lewisham. It was ok, I figured, I could walk home if I had to, plus my Oyster was valid, which had to be a good sign, right?
It was also irrelevant, apparently, as the now crawling bus continued to avoid every stop it passed. My grip had loosened on the seat in front, the wary looking man visibly relaxing as my minor physical invasion at the periphery of his vision went into retreat. I could, I reckoned, jump off the bus now, hit the emergency button downstairs and make a running landing, or at least a stumbling and non-fatal roll along the pavement. That’d be sensible, that’d be sane, given the circumstances, I should escape before the maniac in charge perked up and decided to start racing with death again. I didn’t move though, in fact if anything I relaxed into my seat, on the edge of a panic attack on the inside but somehow anchored by the gentle swaying of the bus. Besides, everyone else still seemed completely calm, they must have known something I didn’t and it would have been rude to start acting all crazy and jumping out of moving vehicles. I didn’t want to be rude, and the bus had to stop eventually, right?
“This is the 185, terminating at termination. Please remember to take your bags with you and, for the love of God, don’t put your feet on the seats…”