The E bus   Leave a comment


I live at the end of one of the E numbered buses. On rainy days, or when I’m feeling lazy, or just when I’m in the mood, I take it. I love it. It is a rare thing in London these days. Drivers smile and talk to people. Little old ladies (and sometimes young men with hoodies) say ‘thank you driver’. Women with children and older people are usually given seats.

Some journeys are adventurous when the driver is at the end of his/her shift and wants to get home. Then it becomes a computer game bus, dodging around traffic islands and orange traffic lights to get to destination asap.

The stop near my house at the end of the route is my favourite place. It is where human nature at its rawest can be seen. The veneer of courtesy is dropped and replaced by intense competition among drivers about who goes first.  Or rather,  last.  The aim of the game is to be the last to leave the stop, in order to do the least amount of driving on your shift.

The game involves manoeuvring your bus into the space where you are least likely to have to move out first, deliberately ignoring passengers and other drivers. This is a fine art and an entertaining game to watch. But occasionally when it does not work, the situation descends into open warfare between drivers.  Then peoples’ mothers names are taken in vain and bad language is used.  I love these days.

Or the days when there are five E buses all parked on the narrow suburban street, three on one side and two on the other, with barely room for a motorbike to pass and no driver willing to leave, with a huddle of angry passengers mumbling about calling someone, but not sure who to call. A regular Mexican standoff.

On Friday a bus was parked at the stop. Another one was just pulling in behind it. But it didn’t. Instead it drove around the first bus and stopped in the middle of the road. Cars were having to drive up on the pavement to get around it.

It was lashing rain (the drought continues). A skinny little schoolgirl waited in the rain under an umbrella. She dashed up to the bus in the middle of the road thinking this was going to leave first. The driver ignored her. Nothing happened. Her head swung back to the parked bus. Her body language made her agony clear. ‘Which one do I go for?” it said.  She decided to go for the one in the middle of the road. Logically it had to be going first. Why else would he have stopped in the middle of the road? The umbrella was not much of a defence against the rain and she was soon dripping. I stay at the bus stop, a veteran of the E bus.

A young Somali man in a hoodie chatting on the phone strolled past. Our eyes met and we nodded.  I recognised him as the driver of the parked bus. He opened the door of the bus and then shut it behind him, leant against the glass of the door and stared out at the dripping passengers and continued his conversation.

About two minutes later, the doors of the bus in the middle of the road burst open. A tiny little man, full moustache, dark sunglasses (in the rain), open shirt and big gold medallion on a hairy chest emerged. There was a quickness and irritation in his walk. He knocked on the door of the parked bus where the young Somali man was still absorbed in his phone conversation. The young man opened the door of the bus. A very curt conversation occurred. The moustachioed man turned on his heel, looked at the poor dripping passengers, jerked his thumb at the parked bus and said ‘that one’ before marching back to his own bus.

The young Somali driver reluctantly ended his phone conversation and we piled on.

The other bus was still parked in the middle of the road.  We had to drive around it and up on the pavement to get away.  I saw the driver as we went past. He was reading a newspaper, oblivious.


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