Routes, The Sequel
by Heinz Hammer
A Kaleidoscope of interesting, unusual and amusing Adventures on or about Public Transportation by Land, Rail, Sea, or Air from all Corners of the World.
This is an ongoing project, freely to be enjoyed by all members. New stories will be added upon approval.
©All rights reserved.
Public Transit Systems have permission to reprint any stories from Routes, The Sequel in their newsletters in return for the following:
a:) notify Routes International prior to print
b:) credit given to source Routes, The Sequel, by Heinz Hammer, on the net at: http://routesinternational.com
c:) forward a copy of the newsletter to Routes International.
Copyright© 2019 by Heinz Hammer
Note: Many new stories are “inserted” into a subject oriented slot, rather than added to the bottom. Stories not fitting an existing chapter will be added to this page.
George Easton of Brantford, Ontario, Canada, submitted the following story.
My dad was a conductor during the war, working for West Hartlepool Transport, in the North-East of England. His was mainly assigned to routes carrying workers to and from ammunition factories, and he was always on night shift. He had many amusing stories to tell us kids, but one in particular stands out in my mind.
Dad had taken a bus out of the garage to start his run from the factory. That night, he had forgotten to change the destination signs before leaving the depot. As he arrived at the factory, an irate passenger complained loudly to him that the front sign said “Haverton Hill” while the rear displayed “Billingham”, and the bus was not supposed to go to either one of these destinations.
“What’s all the fuss about?” replied dad, “it says ‘India’ on the tires, and we’re not going there either!!”
The Offending Tail
John Cusick of Sun City, Arizona tells of an embarrassing experience he suffered back in 1934 when he lived in New York.
I boarded a Madison Avenue bus and was soon joined by an attractive young woman wearing a fur stole trimmed with silver fox tails.
Something, probably a draft, alerted me that my zipper was down, so I very swiftly zipped it up. At 50th Street, my seat partner stood up to get off the bus when she realized that one of her tails was caught in my zipper.
It was really jammed – stuck!
I had to get off the bus with her several blocks beyond her intended destination.
We attracted such a crowd that a policeman took us into a ladies’ dress shop, where the manager used scissors to cut off the offending tail!
The Kneeling Bus
Kneeling buses have been around for a few years. They basically have the ability to lower the entrance to make entering and departing easier, especially for older patrons.
The following story was forwarded by Colin R. Leech, an internationally acclaimed civil engineer and transport planner.
The bus had pulled up to the curb, and the old lady insisted that the driver lower the steps for her. Since the lady was standing on the curb already, the driver did not see the need to lower the bus.
Instead, he let the air out of the driver’s seat which lowered his position by several inches.
The woman saw him drop, said “Thank you very much”, and boarded the bus without problems.
Hamburger Mary’s Special
The two elderly tinted haired women rode Brian Krueger’s bus each Saturday. They often spoke of the eating establishments they were planning to visit that night.
On this day they told Brian they didn’t have a particular place in mind, and they would welcome his suggestions. He said that he had heard of a place called Hamburger Mary’s in the West End of Vancouver, and that their food was supposed to be excellent. The women decided to take Brian’s advise and proceeded toward the West End, chatting up a storm along the way. As they were nearing the restaurant, Brian suddenly had a feeling of remorse and decided he’d better tell them the truth about the restaurant he suggested. As they were exiting the bus he said:
“I think I should let you know before you go in there that Hamburger Mary’s is a transvestite restaurant”.
“Oh, that’s ok, driver”, one of them replied, “we like ethnic food”.
(Story recalled by Isabel Krueger, Brian’s Wife)
The Customer is Always Right
When I was working in bus information I overheard one of my colleagues on the phone. She was having difficulty locating the address that the caller was attempting to get to. I went to assist her in her search, and looked in maps and the crisscross directory. We decided that the woman had the address wrong and it should be “Street”, not “Avenue” at the end of the number. When asked if this could be the case she replied that her friend had given her the address and her friend would never lie. My colleague responded that if the address supplied were correct it would be in the middle of the Fraser River.
“Well, can you get me there?” the caller asked.
(by Isabel Krueger)
A anonymous contributor shares the story about Florence Whiting which was told to her by Florence herself.
It was in the early ’50s. At the time I was a single mother living in Winnipeg. After a long, hot, mosquito-filled summer I longed to move to Vancouver, but there was no way I could have saved the bus fare on my meager salary.
Then I saw an ad in the local paper: “Money paid for your hair – must be at least 12 inches long and light colored.”
Well, I had nice shoulder-length, strawberry-blonde hair, so I answered the ad. The advertisers were quite impressed with my mop of hair and said if I would let it grow for another year, they would pay me $150 for it. (A hair-raising amount in those days…). But no way, I wanted the money right now.
Well, for the present length they could pay only $30. Done. $30 would cover bus fare to Vancouver for my son and me.
That’s when I got the “haircut from hell”. It didn’t matter, I was off to the Greyhound bus depot and came out with five cents change.
Arriving in Vancouver I immediately got a job in a restaurant. Working as a waitress, I ignored the giggles from some of the customers when they looked at my cropped head. However, a few days later, the boss looked at me, puzzled, and said:
“I just have to ask you, who the hell cut your hair? Your head looks like a coconut.”
“Ah,” I said. “That’s a long story, sufficient to say that if it were not for this awful haircut I wouldn’t be here working for you, in Vancouver.”
Well, my hair grew back quickly, but I’ll never forget that $30 crop and the kind of boss who gave me a job despite of it.
Rob Kenig, a transit operator for BC Transit in Vancouver, Canada, submitted this amusing story.
One evening, back in December 1996, I was working the 135 run which goes to Simon Fraser university, when I got a dose of that wonderful free entertainment that can only be found on public transit.
I had just arrived at my terminus at Kootenay Loop around midnight, and was loading passengers for my last trip of the night. It is a known fact among transit people that ‘stuff’ happens often on the last trip.
The first passenger to board was an elderly gent in his 70’s, quite inebriated after a night out at the local Legion Hall. He staggered his way onto the bus and slumped down into the “Chatty Cathy Seat” as it is known to us drivers. This is the seat closest to the driver where the majority of “chin waggers” always sit to talk to the driver. He was mumbling away at me for a couple of minutes, when another fellow with a case of the 28 Ounce flu stumbled up the stairs. Stopping at the fare box, he started to fumble through his pockets, and then looked at me with a distant glare.
“One dollar and fifty cents please, sir.”
Well, he probably hadn’t taken the bus in many years, because he seemed to take offence to the amount. In an obviously irritated tone of voice he said, “A DOLLAR FIFTY???!!!”
I was ready for trouble and started scanning the radio area for the panic button, just in case, when suddenly the elder drunk pipes up and says, “Yeah, a dollar fifty, but if you sit in the very back of the bus, you get a longer ride!”, to which the fellow responded “Oh, ok”. He paid his fare and headed straight for the back seat.
Musical Bus Stops
Bus Driver H. Reed of Red Deer Alberta recounts the following anecdote.
A while back, our management in its wisdom decided it might be safer to run our buses through the Bower Subdivision clockwise instead of counter clockwise. All the bus stop signs were covered even though the benches remained in place, and temporary signs placed opposite the street.
Baird Street has one of the busier stops, and on my first run after the change I noticed anxious passengers on both sides of the street, huddled like chickens in the pouring rain. One particular passenger, with a strong presence about him and always dressed in an expensive business suit complete with impeccable tie and hat, had read the new signs, interpreted them correctly, and was waiting with a smirk on his face while looking across the street at those on the wrong side.
By the third morning all my passengers were finally on the correct side of the road, which was easier, because I didn’t have to yell at them all the time to cross the street to the new stop.
That day, however, our management decided that they should have left the route the way it used to be, so at daybreak the following morning a supervisor removed all the covers from the original stops and placed them on the newer stops across the street. Now I was going counter clockwise again.
As I came down Baird Street, there were my people, half on one side and half on the other. My well dressed friend, however, was on the wrong side. As passengers boarded the bus, I glanced across the street to find my friend just standing there staring at me. I finally opened the window and asked him whether he was coming with me. He responded by asking: “Is there another bus coming to my side soon?”
“No sir, I’m sorry.”
He walked across the road, came aboard, paused, looked me in the eye and said:
“If the CIA has engaged Canada in some more scientific research, this time to determine how best to confuse the public, well, they can stop it now, it worked, I’m totally confused…”
Mike Slavin recalls the following story.
One day I was riding the bus to the Whalley Exchange in order to start my shift there. As it turned out, the bus I was riding also happened to be the same coach I was to take over later. The driver of the bus, Darcy, is a very friendly person who interacts extensively with his passengers, and is well known for his practical jokes.
A young lady boarded the bus who was easily recognizable as a person unfamiliar with procedures and fares on public transit. She informed Darcy that she is trying to get to the Guilford shopping center. Considering who the driver was I was surprised that he gave her the correct directions. When she paid her fare and asked for a transfer, Darcy went to ‘work’. he proceeded to tell her that she needed a “female” transfer, but unfortunately, he only had “male” transfers left. He further suggested that when she boards the next bus to quickly flash her pass, that way he might not notice the wrong gender transfer. She agreed and sat down.
When we got to Whalley she got off the coach and walked to the stop for the Guilford bus. Darcy left and I took over. Upon checking my schedule I noticed that my bus’ next trip was destined to, you guessed it, Guilford. I changed my signs and pulled up to load.
As the owner of the “gender challenged” transfer boarded the bus she followed Darcy’s instructions, quickly flashed her “male” transfer to me and sat down. Now was my chance to have a little fun too. I called her back, took a long look at her ticket, and informed her that she had a “male” transfer, and she certainly didn’t look like a fitting owner. She appeared a little flustered as she tried to explain to me about the previous driver running out of female transfers. This went on for a couple of minutes. Finally, I couldn’t keep a straight face any more. I explained the whole thing to her and, believe it or not, all she could do was laugh.
Bob’s Booze Cruise
The following story is presented by Bob Green, a retired transit operator. It has the potential to become a classic.
It must be safe to tell this story now as I have been retired seven years and most if not all of the others involved have passed on to greener pastures.
Back in the mid seventies I worked the local bus in a small coastal resort called White Rock, in British Columbia, Canada, where the population is largely made up of retired people. Often, I did small favors for the locals like mailing letters or picking up something from the drug store in the center of town. Consequently, I had a good rapport with most of them.
It was a few days to my holidays, and I was looking forward to three weeks sailing in my Tahiti ketch sailboat along the coast of British Columbia, however, there was a storm cloud overhead in the form of a brewery strike. No beer is worse than no wind to a true sailor. The prospect of a dry holiday was not too appealing.
As I sat at the uptown terminus thinking up ways to smuggle some suds up from the States, one of my regulars came on the bus with a case of beer. I questioned him as to where he got it, and he told me the liquor store had a shipment in from a brewery in the interior, but they were limiting sales to one case per person. I checked my wallet and realized I needed cash. I ran over to the bank and took out enough money to buy beer and my groceries for the trip at the same time.
I started the bus and left the terminus, and as the liquor store was almost on my route, I decided to drive right by. When I double parked the bus just past the liquor store I explained my dilemma to my passengers and said I would be back in a few minutes. The man who had the beer said he would come and get me another if I wanted it. I thanked him and gave him the money. Next, an old lady volunteered the same, and so on until I had eight people ahead of me in the line up all buying beer for my trip.
Back on the bus, with the help of my “team”, we stowed the beer under the front seats away we went. Down the hill to five corners and a hard left turn. Whoops! Beer cases sliding across the bus, old legs trying to restrain them…
I lived five blocks away, but I’d never get that bus down my street. What to do? Then, out of the blue, an angel of mercy (she was well into her eighties) called out:
“You could store it in my garage until your shift is over, sonny, you can pick it up on your way home.”
“Fine with me,” I said. I knew her stop so when I got near it I asked where she lived.
“The fourth house on the right, down 14th,” she said. “Fine with me,” I replied, thinking what’s half a block, I’ll just hang a left onto 14th. One, two, three houses then space. “Err, which one is it?” I asked meekly. “Next house down there in the trees,” she replied, pointing at the last house before the bush swallowed up the street.
‘What the heck,’ I think, as we run out of blacktop. After all, a beer is a beer. We got to the house, and with the help of my aging “crew” we stowed the beer in her garage. I backed up the bus a block and a half with no problems accompanied by lots of laughter from my delighted team.
There were fourteen passengers on my bus that afternoon, and their combined age was over one thousand years.
I drove that route for a long time after until the run was changed, and in all that time we had many good laughs about that day.
This story was reported from England and could not be verified. It is the tale of a young woman who boarded a bus in Liverpool while highly pregnant. Embarrassed about her condition she was very conscious about people around her. She noticed a young man looking at her and smiling. She felt humiliated and moved to a different seat, which only broadened the man’s smile. She moved again, and on her fourth move he burst out laughing. She complaint to the driver who called the police, and the man was arrested.
When the case came before the court the judge gave the young man the opportunity to defend his rude behavior. He explained his action this way: “When the lady boarded the bus I couldn’t help noticing that she was pregnant. She sat under an advertisement which read ‘Coming soon: The Gold Dust Twins’, then she moved under one which read ‘Sloans Liniments Remove Swellings'”.
“I was even more amused when she sat under a shaving ad which read: ‘William Stick Did The Trick’. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t control myself any longer when, on the fourth move, she sat under an advertisement which read: ‘Dunlop Rubber Would Have Prevented this Accident'”.
The judge acquitted him.
When working as a management trainee with Eastern Counties bus company in England, I lived in a bed sit and had to do my washing in a coin operated launderette up on the Heartsease Estate, a tough council estate on the eastern side of the City. One night I took the bus up there to do my laundry and went in to find a gang of teenagers dancing around the floor, smoking, playing loud music, climbing over the machines and generally making a nuisance of themselves. There were three or four people also doing their washing.
I washed the clothes but then found I had no change for the dryers. I checked with the other people doing their washing, but none had any spare lOp pieces. So I checked with the teenagers, none of whom could help. Not wanting to take home a pile of wet washing, I was wondering what to do, when I suddenly realized that the bus I had travelled up on would be making its way back into the city, and I could get some change from the bus driver, who, of course, was a colleague. I left my clothes in the dryer and went out in the street. The bus was just pulling away from the stop about 100 yards away and coming in my direction. I therefore stood in the middle of the road, raised my hand in the air police-style, and the bus came to a halt right in front of the launderette. I boarded briefly and obtained the necessary change from the driver, and then, of course crossed back into the launderette as the bus set off again.
All the kids saw was me going out into the road, holding up a bus between stops and walking back with the change! They smartly parted to let me through, mightily impressed, and I made some nonchalant remark about just knowing what to do, put the change in the dryer, and then asked them to turn down the music, a request to which they agreed to immediately. A few minutes later I left with my dry laundry to some hearty good byes from the youngsters who held the door open as I left, and probably would have carried the washing back home if I had asked them to!
It was my best ever experience as a bus user! Story by Alex Nelson
Colors for the Blind?
The following story also originates from Oslo. Hans-Petter Lyshaug, Marketing Consultant for AS Oslo Sporveier remembered this particular story from his driving days.
Norway is a small country. So small that it is often presented as one of the larger cities in Sweden. Needless to say, Norwegians don’t appreciate this sentiment very much.
AS Oslo Sporveier, Oslo’s – and Norway’s – largest public transportation company, has a fleet of approximately 200 buses. 66 of these buses are equipped with a special interior color scheme, blue and yellow. These colors were chosen as a service for people who’s eyesight is weak, because these two colors present the highest possible contrast. The problem is that they also represent the colors of the Swedish national flag, giving our buses a “touch of Sweden”. In addition, our buses are made by Volvo…
One night I was driving the 29 line, a route connecting a local ferry line with Oslo Central Station. The ferry arrived, and four passengers entered my bus. It was obvious that they were infected by alcohol, because their walk was not very steady, and their talking was a bit on the loud side. It was also apparent that they were not experienced bus riders.
They soon started to talk about the bus interior. I overheard them contemplating the reason for the Swedish colors? Could they have caught the wrong ferry ending up in Sweden? After a lively discussion one of them was chosen to be the spokesman. Finally he got up enough courage to come forward and talk to me, the driver. I did not want to add to their confusion and told them the truth about the effect of the colors on people with reduced vision. He nodded and returned to the others to convey his new wisdom to his companions. But he only told them the short version of my explanation:
“The bus is blue and yellow so that the blind people can see it!”
Apparently, they accepted that explanation, but not for long. Just before we arrived at the Central Station, I overheard the new burning question:
“But why are all the Swedish people blind?”
Too bad I didn’t have a chance to hear the answer to that question, because they left the bus heading for a local train with a different color scheme.
What’s in a Name anyway?
Sweden is the origin of another story by Jens Möller, who works for the regional transport authority. When this company first took over the old bus routes in the country, one of the first decisions made was to modernize the old bus stop signs. Among other things, each stop was to receive a name to make it easier for passengers to identify all stops.
Just outside the small village of Fogdarp, a name had to be given to this particular stop. It was situated between two big farms, and the authority chose to name the stop according to the closest farm to the stop. The sign was printed, naming the stop “The Fogdarp Farm Stop”.
The very next day after the sign was in place the owner of the other farm, The Elise Farm, phoned the authority. He vented his anger at the company who dared to name the stop something other that “The Elise Farm Stop”, since his farm is so much bigger, so it would only be natural that the stop should be named after his farm.
The owner of the Elise farm was very influential, and the authority decided to change the stop accordingly under the motto “no bureaucracy”.
When the owner of the Fogdarp farm saw the new name at the stop he phoned immediately. His farm was so much older, actually dating back to the 17th century, a fact which could not be argued with, especially since his farm was much more known than the Elise farm.
The management people thought long and hard. They sent a letter to the parties suggesting the two farmers get together and decide on a name acceptable to both. Their answers were almost identical essentially saying that it would be impossible to talk to their respective neighbors.
More long and hard thinking had to be done by the authority. Realizing that this was a case of “hate thy neighbor”, someone finally came up with the idea to name the stop “The Neighborly Friendship Stop”. The name was changed accordingly, and since then, none of the two farmers has phoned to state their opinion.
Gordy Partridge of BC Transit shares many of his driving experiences in this book. Here is the story of an encounter with two little girls.
Some children riding public transit can be a real pain in the butt, but on occasion a delightful exchange between the driver and some children makes up for the bad ones.
As I was driving the 239 Park Royal Bus just before Christmas one year, two little girls boarded the busy shopping special.
“Hi! I’m paying for both of us, how much is it?” inquired the older one.
“Well,” I said, “that depends on what you are”.
With big confused eyes she looked at me and asked, “what do you mean?”
“Are you a turtle or are you a monkey?” “No, no”, laughed the little girl, “we’re people, I’m eight and she is seven!”
“Well, in that case you have to pay 70 cents each.”
“How much does that add up to?”
“Don’t they teach you arithmetic at school? How much is seven plus seven?”
“That’s easy,” she answered after a few seconds, “14!”
“Very good, now, what do get when you add a zero?”
“Oh, I get it! One forty, so we pay one dollar and fourty cents, right?”
“There ya go. That was easy, wasn’t it? But too bad you didn’t say you were turtles, they only pay 25 cents each!”
My passengers had been listening with amusement at the conversation. Two trips later, when arriving back at the shopping center, the same two little girls were waiting for the bus to go home again. As soon as they realized they had the same bus driver, the older one dropped 50 cents into the fare box, and with a big smile she proclaimed proudly “Two turtles, please!”
Not So Smart Girl
Gordy Partridge seems to attract the extremes on either end. In another one of his stories he recalls the rare occasion when he actually arrived at a transfer terminus five minutes earlier than usual, giving him a brief chance to retrieve his favorite novel while waiting for a connecting bus. He changed his sign to read ‘LONSDALE QUAY’. When the bus arrived, several passengers lined up to board his bus. He overheard a lady at the tail end of the line asking: “Is this the end of the line?”
“No, lady”, a man answered, “this is the front of the line, and we’re all facing backwards!”
The quick response resulted in a few chuckles, and the lady, also laughing, responded by saying: “I guess, that was a rather stupid question.” As she made it to the top of the stairs, she looked at Gordy, who was sitting behind the wheel, in uniform, and posed another question:
“Excuse me, are you the driver?”
“No!”, yells the quick witted man who was just sitting down, “he’s Santa Claus, and we’re his elves and reindeer!”
This brought more than chuckles, everyone on board was in stitches, including the lady with the Einstein questions.
“Oh dear,” she went on, “I am a bit absentminded today, but tell me dear, your sign reads ‘LONSDALE QUAY’, please can you tell me which bus to take?”
Nobody laughed this time, nor where there any smart replies, he just noticed that the whole bus load of passengers were shaking their heads.
The Absentminded Tourist
Another example from the same author tells about a tourist and his wife going for a sightseeing trip on Gordy’s bus in North Vancouver. While heading out to beautiful Deep Cove, the man came forward and asked: “We would really like to see the Space Needle, you know, the one that was built for World’s Fair in 1962.”
Always obliging, Gordy proceeded to give the man directions of how to get there by car.
“Oh my, that seems like an awfully long way to go, maybe we should just go and see the Boeing Aircraft Tour.”
“That’s even further down the Interstate 5,” explained Gordy, “and the wait at the border might slow you down as well.”
“The Border?!” exclaimed the man, “where are we? I thought we were already in Seattle!”
The young man with the bad attitude stood at the bottom of the stairs of Gordy Partridge’s “239 Capilano College” bus and angrily demanded:
“What bus to Capilano?”
“Whaddaya mean, Capilano what? I’m going to Capilano, Mister, so stop jerking me around and tell me how to get there!”
“Okay, what would you like, Capilano Road? River? Mall? Canyon? Village? Esso? Shell? Volkswagen? Golf and Country Club? Or maybe Capilano Nursery? Dry Cleaners? Rock and Gem? Jewelers? Barber? Brake and Muffler? Maybe you are looking for a Chinese Restaurant? Community College? Community Center? Driving School? Optical? Furs? Hair Design? Daycare? Interiors? Or Capilano College, the name of this bus? And there are more yet, would you like me to go on?”
The man, somewhat meeker now, replied: “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that there were so many Capilanos on the North Shore. I guess if I’m going to the Capilano Mall, I get on your Capilano College bus?”
“No, you want the 239 Park Royal bus in bay number six!”
The looks which can kill were dampened by the applause of his passengers.
Cameras Calm Kids
Reports from Paris, Tennessee, indicate that kids on buses have turned into angels. Elementary school students are on their best behavior since new video cameras were installed on school buses.
It seems that everybody – with the exception of the kids – is happy about the results. Parents, teachers, school officials and drivers are delighted that city schools Supt. Larry Vick came up with the idea.
“It helps enforce safety and discipline,” Vick said.
All buses have been equipped to house a camera behind a one-way mirror cabinet. No one is excluded from the eye of the small cam corder which records all activities aboard. The tape is saved and, in case of trouble, can be viewed by school or bus officials to identify possible culprits.
Cost factors have only allowed for one camera to be installed, but all buses look identical, giving students no clue which camera is the real McCoy, instantly improving behavior on all buses. Parents were notified of the program beforehand and agreed to support it. School board members recently watched a “before and after” demonstration, and were amazed at the difference.
Syl’s Sly Slip
It is Monday afternoon, and I am driving my “Fraser/Granville #8”. I pull into the stop Westbound Broadway across from the Kingsgate Mall. I know this stop to be popular for people trying to sneak into the back doors, so I watch the back carefully when I stop here.
Well, today, I see a man – seemingly intoxicated – climb up into the stairwell, and sit down in the stairs. Since I can’t move the bus as long as he remains here, because the doors won’t close, I apply the brakes, and go back to ask him what he thought he was doing there. He puts a finger across his lips and, without looking at me, says, “Shhh! I don’t want the driver to know I am here”.
I realize quickly that he has no idea who I am, so I tell him, “Hey buddy, if you stay there, the driver will see you in that mirror up here, and kick you off, so maybe you should get off, and go to the door just behind the mirror where he won’t see you. Go ahead, I will hold the door open for you”.
“That’s great man, I really appreciate that,” he mumbled, and with that he stumbles off, the back doors close, and I return to my seat and continue on my way.
Watch out for the Blind
While doing a driver commentated city tour this summer, I was asked by a passenger what the noise was at an intersection. I replied that the “noise” was an audible signal so the visually impared would know when it is safe to cross. Her response was,
“They let blind people drive in Canada?”
Submitted by John Merryweather
In Bristol, England, the old saying was: “Ship-shape in Bristol fashion.” What it means is: “Everything in good order.”
Not any more.
Police in this West Country metropolis are so cash-strapped they have to take the bus to crimes.
“It’s very embarrassing, turning up at an anxious victim’s home late, because the bus is usually late,” said one officer.
Mrs. Flo Holden had been observing the young couple ever since they met. Over several months, on her way to work, she couldn’t help notice the young man showing considerable interest in this young lady who always boarded the bus a few stops after he did. As soon as she stepped on the bus, the young man would get up, walk to the front, gently take the lady by her arm, and guide her to a seat. He would then sit beside her and became her tour guide.
After a few weeks Mrs. Holden observed that the young man tried very carefully to take her hand and place it in his, which led to a shy smile and a big blush. After a few seconds she removed her hand slowly, still smiling. As the days went on so did the amount of time he was allowed to hold her hand. After a couple of weeks, they held hands the entire trip.
On subsequent trips, Flo watched as the paramour opened the girl’s hand and started tracing letters on her palm which she could easily recognize. One day, when Flo had the fortune of sitting right opposite the two, he started tracing letters on her hand again.
“Again,” she said, “I didn’t get that.”
He started again with stroke of “I”.
“I,” she responded. He drew L-O-V-E Y-O-U.
She turned toward him, slipped her free hand around his arm, snuggled up to his shoulder, smiled, blushed, and said: “I love you too”. As far as Mrs. Flo Holden knows, they lived happily ever after…
In Renton, Washington, a Metro bus was standing at the end of the line empty while its driver was across the street having his break. Upon leaving the bus the driver had left the front door open because while he was on his break he was able to watch the bus.
He saw two elderly ladies board the bus and take their seats. Finished with his break he crossed the street to his bus making sure the ladies couldn’t see him. He opened the engine compartment and switched the coach to rear run and activated the ignition. He then crept up the left side of the bus and reached inside the drivers window and carefully, without being noticed, pulled the microphone down. He then made the following announcement over the PA.
“Welcome aboard Metro Transit’s new automated coach. In a few minutes this coach will leave for downtown Seattle without a driver. This is a first in Metro’s history and will soon be an every-day occurrence”.
After making the announcement, the driver then returned to the back of the coach and pushed the rear start button. Upon hearing the engine start the two ladies came rushing out of the coach only to find the driver standing there doubled over with laughter.
Needless to say, the driver got a written complaint in his file over this one.
Story submitted by Jim and Linda Walker.
Getting to Work on Time
Times certainly have changed. Picture the following scenario, and try to imagine the following story on today’s streets.
The streetcar rumbled down Main Street in Vancouver, British Columbia, on a summer day in the late 1940’s. Mrs. Mann of Port Moody was one of three passengers on board as the streetcar gathered speed going down a slight hill. She noticed that the driver was frantically trying to slow his vehicle down to no avail. The brakes failed.
“Hold on, everybody!”, his voice trying to overcome the shrill squealing and clanking noise of a streetcar running amok.
“Hold on! Brace yourself!”
It seemed that his desperation of trying to slow down was met with limited success. A slight curve caused the streetcar to jump the tracks. After hobbling along for a while it finally tipped over and came to rest on its side.
Everybody climbed out the window and dusted themselves off. Mrs. Mann and another passenger walked the rest of the way, but one of the passengers walked over to the conductor who stood slightly dazed on the sidewalk.
“Could I have a transfer, please?”, pleaded the man, “I’ve got to get to work on time.” And as far as everybody else was concerned, it was all in days work…
Lets Play Ball
Terry Smith, a transit operator for BC Transit in Vancouver, Canada, recalls a recent event where he picked up a youth soccer team heading to the game by bus.
On his 100 line destined to Vancouver International Airport he picked up 16 boys clad in soccer uniforms and their coach. After wishing them luck for their game, he let them off close to the field of play. They all departed by the back door. Making sure that all the boys would get off the bus, the coach departed last, carrying about a dozen soccer balls in a large netted bag on his back. One of the boys held him up sligthly on the bottom step and the automatic door closed between him and the bag trapping the latter inside the bus. A young passenger seated close to the back door noticed his predicament and yelled to Terry:
“Driver, driver, that man has his balls stuck in the door!”
Needless to say everyone got a big kick out his remark.
“Same as this one?”
It was the route 16, Jasper Place/Meadowlark Mall. Sunday night, around 10p.m.
He was alone at the stop, and I had that bus driver’s instinct that this guy had no money. Sure enough,
“I’m short of money, can I get a ride to Stony Plain Road, I’m going downtown, my buddy owes me a dollar, I’ll pay on the way back?”
Regardless of the lack of logic of this arrangement I said, “O.K., but you’ll have to pay next time.” He asked me for a transfer to catch the #1 to downtown, but I said, “I’m short of transfers”, so he got off.
Next Sunday he was at the stop again, same time. This time he was meeting his sister in the Cecil Hotel beer parlor.
“They are not open on Sunday,” I said, (the beerparlors were closed Sundays back then.) I gave him a ride, but told him no more, pay or walk next time.
Next time was the following Sunday. As I opened the door, he started to climb the steps. “No money, no ride,” I said. He looked at me and said, “Maybe I’ll wait for the next bus, how long is it?”
This, of course, is the question bus drivers the world over like to hear.
“Forty feet, same as this one,” I replied, delighted at the chance to give the answer.
“Oh, and will it have an ass**** driving it, same as this one?”
I gave him a ride.
Submitted by Brian Brady
I was driving the ‘nickle’, the infamous route 5 on Jasper Avenue. It was a Sunday, fairly quiet.
The bell rang as I approached 117 Street westbound. An older oriental gentleman got up and stood at the front door on the second step. He was carrying a violin in a case.
I tried to tell him to step back up, so the case wouldn’t get caught in the doors when it opened.
At the sound of my voice he turned around, smiled, and said something in Chinese. Of course, I don’t speak that particular language. I tried again to tell him to move back, to no avail. I stopped, and decided to open the door anyway, maybe he had done this before, and did have enough clearance to have the door open.
Wrong! The doors opened, and the violin case got stuck between the edge of the door and the grab rail on the right side. My only option was to close the door, which I did.
Now the gentleman started yelling at me! I must confess that I have used this ploy – to no avail – when I was in Germany. The theory is that, if you don’t speak the language, just yell. They will understand you!
Doesn’t work, of course. Didn’t work this time, either. As he had got the violin caught in the right side of the open doors, he moved the case to his left side, and I opened the doors again. Guess what? Got it caught again. He finally realized that he better move back, so he did.
This time, he forgot that he was in the stair well, and promptly fell backwards, the case flying onto the lap of an old lady sitting in a front seat.
As the case landed on her lap she said,
“Oh, no, thank you, I don’t like violin music”.
The old man retrieved his instrument, muttered what I assumed to be a oriental apology, and exited the bus.
“I hope he plays it better than he carries it”, the old lady said.
Submitted by Brian Brady
“Mister, can I spare a dime?”
Driver Dave Murray recalls an event which took place some years ago as he was driving his regular route into a fairly busy mall.
Several people boarded my bus, paid the fare and went to sit down. One young lad who looked to be about 10 years old came up the steps, looked at me and said:
“Mister, can I get on for a dime?”
I think the fare at that time was around fifty cents. As I looked at him in a pair of torn jeans, an old torn jacket and runners I couldn’t help feeling sorry for him. In addition, it was a really lousy day outside with lots of rain and wind.
I asked him where he was going, to which he replied:
“The other end of town”.
What kind of a person would have denied the kid a ride under these circumstances?
“Sure thing, kid” I said.
He then reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of change which looked like several dollars, sifted through it, found a dime, put it in the fare box and proceeded to the back of the bus.
Talk about being had! This young fellow is probably running some big company by now or at least should be. I definitely won the idiot of the day award that day.
Sunshine on a Rainy Day
On the wettest May day on record, a young woman, (about 20-25) boarded Hal George’s bus in Coquitlam BC, Canada. Since she was fairly good looking and seemed like a very nice person George initiated some small talk commenting about the weather. Her response was a bit unusual, to say the least.
“I know it’s a very wet day”, she said, “but I can put some sunshine in your day. Would you like to see a tatoo? Just got it yesterday.”
“Sure, why not”, the good natured bus driver responded, expecting to see a small rose on her arm or something similar.
Without hesitation or inhibition she turned around, dropped her jeans to her ankle, pulled her T-shirt over her head and displayed a giant tatoo on her back which reached all the way from the small of her neck down to…, well, this is a family book.
For a few seconds George had a hard time steering the bus in a straight line. The two snickering guys in the back seat yelled: “Can we have a look too?”
With her pants still planted around her ankles she shuffled to the back while the two guys chuckled at each other.
“Here, do you like it?”
“Yup, it’s fantastic,” gulped one of them. After the girl left George asked the fellows how they liked the tatoo. Neither one was able to describe it….
And come to think of it, when telling me the story, George was also vague as to the actual image.
Must have been the rain.
Finding the Spark of Life
John Strachan, an operator for BC Transit in Vancouver, had no problem recalling every second of an incident which happened on August 6, 1997.
I was driving coach number 2775 on the #14 Arbutus line down through Hastings Street. While travelling beside the old Woodwards building there was a sudden very bright flash accompanied by a deafening crash sound. The interior lights of the bus brightened to an enormous level, the dashboard lit up at the same time almost blinding me. I found myself bending over in pain, unable to move and “tingling” all over.
When I looked out the window I could see the reflection of the bus in one of the large store windows. The entire bus was engulfed in a dancing blue, white and orange sparkle of licking flames. I watched stunned and amazed how the dancing light slowly made its way to the top of the bus climbing up the trolley poles, illuminating the shoes which touch the overhead wires until they were bright red and finally, with a last bright flash, disappeared into the wires.
As quickly as it had appeared, the light, the pain, the tingling vanished at once. Now the coach was dark and powerless. I managed to stop the bus a bit further down the road.
I found out later that a forked lightening bolt had hit not only my bus but another one on a parallel street a block away at the opposite side of the huge Woodwards building, a spectacular sight which was witnessed by many people from nearby office towers.
It was also considerably later that John found out that he had been hit in the shoulder and that the lightening bolt had travelled through his arm to the steering wheel and then jumped to his left foot resulting in six months of extensive physiotherapy.
Today, John is still driving, loves his job, and is about to be promoted to become an instructor. One of his duties will be to explain to his students that his co-workers have called him “Sparky” since that fateful day in August 1997.
Humble Heroine Harper
71 year old Betty Harper became a true heroine when she managed to stop a run-away bus after the driver collapsed with a fatal heart attack at the wheel in Canada’s national Capital Ottawa.
After having finished some grocery shopping she was on her way back to the senior’s home. When the bus neared her stop she rang the bell and walked toward the front door. She couldn’t help notice that the driver was leaning slightly to the right and his eyes seemed focused in a direction unrelated to the task at hand.
“I thought right away that there must be something wrong with the driver,” recalled Mrs. Harper, “and when the bus started to speed up and slowly drifted into the other lane I knew that he was unconscious and something had to be done.”
The driver’s right foot had wedged itself firmly between a part of the frame and the gas pedal causing the coach to accelerate. His posture also prevented Mrs. Harper from coming close to his leg.
“I knew I had to do something quickly, otherwise we would have crashed into other Car Rentals coming at us, so I took my cane, found the brake pedal and pushed it as hard as I could. With my other hand I turned the wheel a bit causing the bus to move back into our lane. It took all my strength to move that wheel, but thank God I managed to stop the bus before it hit anything.”
While Mrs. Harper was busy keeping pressure on the brake pedal with her cane the other passengers, mostly senior citizens, quickly left the bus. Some tried to attract attention by flagging down Car Rentals, others pounded on doors and asked people to call 911. When she looked back after what seemed like an eternity she realized she was all alone with the driver. She also knew that she couldn’t let up with pressure to the brake pedal because every time she did the bus would start to move forward.
At last, someone jumped up the steps, leaned over Mrs. Harper and managed to turn off the engine.
The next day, Ottawa-Carleton Transpo, sent Mrs. Harper a bouquet of red roses expressing their sincere gratitude for her quick action in preventing a major accident.
The following story was recently distributed by United Press International
Friday July 24 3:43 PM EDT
Device defused in NJ building
NEWARK, N.J., July 24 (UPI) – Police in Newark, N.J., say they have defused the explosive device discovered in a building housing courtrooms as well as federal and Essex County offices.
City of Newark Police Director Joseph Santiago says firefighters used a water cannon to soak the device, which consisted of seven sticks of dynamite wrapped around a timer.
Santiago said someone called 911 shortly before 11 a.m. claiming they had ridden a bus with a man dressed in camouflage and carrying a bag that contained what appeared to be a bomb.
The caller told police he got off the bus, followed the man to 18 Rector Street, then reported what he saw to the authorities.
Police nabbed an unidentified man fitting the man’s description as he was leaving the building, allegedly after planting the bomb on the building’s first floor. Santiago did not release any information about the would-be bomber.
All buildings withing 300 feet of Rector Street, including the nearby New Jersey Performing Arts Center, were evacuated as a precaution.
Bob Schuerle, one of Routes International’s members submitted this story with the following comment.
It turns out the “bomb” was a fake. Seven red sticks labeled “dynamite” (but no explosive material) with a timing device. It seems the guy has done this type of thing before! He saw someone he knew from his local bank on the bus, so he showed the guy what he was carrying. He certainly received the deserved attention.
Terry Smith, a transit operator for BC Transit, recalls an unusual event confirming his wit, good nature, and imagination.
Loading for his last trip from Vancouver International Airport he noticed the strange group of 14 people who carried an enormous amount of luggage, boxes and trunks. He explained to them that it is his duty to inform them of certain luggage restrictions which they politely acknowledge. Once this formality was out of the way he used his scheduled break to assist the group in carrying all their luggage on board. He realized at once that he was not dealing with a “normal” group and by striking up a conversation he found out that they were a group of actors and actresses who were on their way to a performance in New Westminster’s Queens Park.
Terry knew that the group would have had to wait for 2 more local connections, but since he was on his last trip combined with the knowledge that they would have to wait an hour between buses, he decided it would be much wiser to drive the group directly to their destination. And besides, it was only a relatively short detour and not worth the trouble of notifying transit control to ask permission to go off route.
After the rest of the passengers had departed the lively group put on quite a show for Terry by entertaining him with songs, recitals, short skids, and anything they could think of to make him laugh. Naturally, they were quite happy with the personalized service of having their own bus taking them directly to Queens Park.
Everything went smoothly until Terry spotted a supervisor in his patrol car on a stretch of road where no bus has gone before. The supervisor wasted no time in making a U-turn to follow the bus. Fearing a serious reprimand he turned to the group for help. Maybe if they acted a bit handicapped the supervisor might accept his reasoning for going off route.
There was no time for rehearsal, and it seemed that this talented group did not need any coaching to handle the situation.
One guy stuffed a sweater under the back of his shirt transforming himself into the role of the Quasimoto. When they stopped and the supervisor boarded the bus they were ready for action. While the hunchback hobbled right up to the front drooling from the side of his mouth, and in his best stage voice demanded to know the direction to the nearest gallows, the other thespians simultaneously drifted into their favorite roles. One of the ladies performed from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar with a shrilling voice, and the overall scene of 14 people having gone completely nuts had the desired effect on the startled supervisor. He turned to Terry and meekly asked wether he had everything under control.
“You bet, no problem, everything is under control.”
“Carry on,” is all he said, ran back to his van and drove away quickly.
It was a very cold day.
I was driving the #1, approaching the stop at 111st, westbound on Jasper Avenue. I was in the curb lane, slowing down for the stop, when a large Cadillac, that had been following me in the second lane, suddenly accelerated, swung into my lane, and pulled into the curb, right in front of me. There was no place to go, and the bus was too close to go around. As the driver got out of the car, I touched my horn. He turned, looked at me, and gave me the one finger salute. This no longer bothers me, because I learned to assume that people who do this are simply telling me that they only have a grade one education. Nevertheless, I found myself a little perturbed.
As the driver went into the grocery store, I was trying to decide if I should wait or back up, a procedure I am very reluctant to undergo in traffic.
On the first seat inside the door was a young man who had seen the whole thing.
“Give me a minute,” he said, “don’t leave without me,” and he got off the bus.
The driver of the Cadillac had left the motor running, the car was unlocked, and the young man got into the driver’s side. He put the car in gear and slowly drove it around the corner, double-parked the Cadillac, then got out and got back on the bus.
We spent the rest of the trip to Jasper Place transit center talking about inconsiderate drivers. He got up to exit the bus at the terminal but before he left he turned around and tossed a set of keys to me.
“Give those to the guy in the Cadillac on your return trip, he’ll still be there, I locked the doors!” he said.
When I did get back to the location an hour later, sure enough, the Cadillac was still there, so was a police car, and a tow truck. It looked like the driver was trying to persuade the police officer, and the tow truck driver, that he was the victim of a ‘phantom double-parking ghost’.
I’m sure nobody believed him. As there were far too many people at the scene, I slid open my window, and dropped the keys on the road, then left!
(Story submitted by Brian Brady, Alberta, Canada)
Just as rush hour started on Monday January 11th, Vancouver was hit by an unexpected storm, thunder, lightning, hail, snow and freezing rain. In minutes traffic packed this down to sheets of ice. Transit services were badly hit. I was the last house in my street with power, to the left and in front of me all was darkness. I turned on a monitor to the transit channels and got a good feeling at being part of the transit industry. In all the chaos there was a sense of fraternity, duty — and humour — on both bus and rail operation’s channels.
Operators, supervisors and SkyTrain attendants were volunteering to stay on after their shifts. The lightning took out a feed to a sub-station and three stations dropped to emergency power which does not run elevators or escalators. Staff tried to get taxis so handicapped passengers could get to a station with a working elevator. There were no taxis and one staffer offered to drive an ill wheelchair passenger.
After a time emergency power was running low, busy Broadway station had to be closed and a skip-station line assignment implemented. Transit Central (T-Com) advised all supervisors to “stay away from Broadway Station if you value your lives”. The station fortuitously regained power shortly afterwards.
T-com to supervisor; “can you attend a stranded bus at ……”; “sure I’ll put it on my list”; “and how long is your list”; “oh, ah, seven stranded buses, three MVAs, a coach with its front end in a pole, and a trolley in the middle of the intersection in front of me with both poles vertical, stuck in the overhead — but I’ll get around to it, ten-four”.
Supervisor to T-com, “we all got an email today saying there was a delivery of salt at the Oakridge Fare Island — all, that is, except the delivery driver”. Whereupon various supervisors, including ones from other garages made arrangements to meet and share their salt. Meanwhile a pool was planned over the air — on which supervisor would see a City of Vancouver salt truck first. (In defense of the city, the storm was not forecast and they had salt trucks out within two hours.)
T-com to supervisor, “coach 2783, 46 on the 9 has called in saying he has pulled over farside, Yukon, eastbound and refuses to drive as he has a passenger swearing at him”; mildly unprintable response from supervisor. The scanner later reported that the incident was resolved in the traditional Canadian way. The other passengers got together and talked/forced the swearer off the bus, which then proceeded on its way.
Later in the evening, as the ice melted, valiant attempts were made to restore service to some resemblance or normality. At one point so many stranded trolleybuses were in one location that a feeder kept tripping and a supervisor was despatched with an order to pull poles.
Suburban supervisor to other supervisor, “where are the operators for the coaches you put on standby until the roads are passable”; “in Tim Hortons at………..”.
T-com to supervisor; “I have three relief operators at the east cloverleaf, they are still there after waiting three hours”. The supervisor put the operators in his van and drove the line putting them on stranded, unattended buses which they freed with salt, so restoring some service on the 7 line (Nanaimo-Dunbar).
Burrard supervisor to Broadway and Granville, “I’ve just despatched a 601 South Delta, doubt if I’ll have another one for an hour so I’m putting three Delta passengers on the next Richmond four minutes behind. Hold the Delta coach and make sure they make the transfer, they’re cold and wet”; “no problem, consider it done, ten-four”.
T-com to supervisor, “can you attend seven number 8 trolleys stuck on the hill at Angus outbound, the operators are all in one coach”; “which coach?”; “the warmest one of course!”.
– by Tom Parkinson
I didn’t quite make it as a driver. I have this thing about roads you see; I get hypnotized by the boring yellow lines along the curb and don’t notice obvious landmarks like bus stops and queues of punters. The low bridge incident all but finished me.
But you have to hand it to LT (London Transport); they know how to suss a worker’s hidden talents. They let me be a conductor for a while, issuing tickets, handling money even. It was the old Gibson ticket machine then, where you cranked a handle and a paper voucher came out. Pretty basic stuff, but tea leaf proof – well just about. I had one or two little fiddles going too, selling dodgy gear in the rest room, that kinda thing, but they ran a pretty tight ship. Fair play to them, management marked my card and made me up to Revenue Inspector.
It goes without saying I was good at it, I just had to use lateral thinking, my specialty you might say. I was just amazes me how thick those fare dodgers are. I even caught a thirteen-year-old school kid with a staff pass, can you Adam and Eve it? But you can’t blame the conductors or the drivers. I mean checking an ID photo, even just to make sure the person is the same sex or colour as the one on the card, isn’t Open University and might make a dull day interesting. Then again you have to think that such devotion to duty can lead to a punch-up, and being a hero is little consolation as you count your remaining teeth.
As with the coppers’ blitz on West End petty crime, I became a marked man, but the irony escaped me then. I wasn’t going soft, just getting carried away with the challenge. In a matter of months I produced so many reports that the paperwork jammed the system. Sure I worked in plain clothes, but on the city’s bus routes I was as notorious as the Cray brothers. When they saw me boarding, crowds of passengers would disembark at the next stop.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m no boss’s man and I have nothing against unions. I realize they’re the only resort a worker has against management taking the piss. But in those days they were so strong that if the union said “jump,” management would ask “high, long or bungee?” I was rocking the boat, simple as that. But who was getting their knickers in a twist? Probably the Garage admin staff who filed all my reports or maybe my Revenue mates who didn’t have my flare for ferreting out fraud. Who knows? Anyway, when the shop steward, who had the build of a bus breakdown-wagon, leaned on me, I knew it was time to have it away on my toes from that billet.
While the guvnors argued about my next placement, they gave me a cushy number in personnel as Invigilator, supervising entrance exams for conductors. Believe me, if you can’t answer the questions in those tests, even in half the allotted time, well, you shouldn’t be allowed out, even in daylight. You’d have to be a right tosser. That’s where I met the lovely Laura.
One afternoon, after all the other candidates had handed in their quiz sheets, I was getting my coat when I noticed this doll, still at her desk. It was already knocking off time yet, stone the crows, she’d only responded to half the pointless puzzles. But her big brown minces seduced me. Against my better judgement I leaned forward, oggling her cleavage, and whispered the correct answers in her ear. She was hardly going to be London Transport material – even by their slack standards. In writing that was barely legible, she still managed to copy two of them wrong. But Laura’s lovemaking skills were in a class of their own, on my mother’s life.
They moved me upstairs after that. My new job title was something they conjured up at short notice and escapes me now, but I was still with Revenue. Sod them, I thought, and argued another pay rise. To put it simply, they wanted me to watch the watchers. Like those conductors whose takings never seemed to square with their hours on duty. In the run up to privatization the public sector was coming to grips with that alien word ‘profit’ and the X Files idea of ‘worker evaluation’ as well.
From the heap of stats they buried me under, I selected Gina for my first case study. OK, she looked great, even in the passport size personnel mug shot, but that aside she had, over the year, paid in only about half what was average for a conductor on that route. The challenge had the adrenaline rushing through me like a psyched-up sprinter.
She worked the 159s, Thornton Heath to West Hampstead. Based at Streatham Hill Garage, she lived near Tooting Bec Common, which, even then, was a classy address. On Monday I went to the garage and had a butcher’s hook at her recent way bills and returns. Her daily pay-ins would barely cover the expense of the bus, herself and the driver, but her paperwork was kosher and accurate to the last penny. Her time-keeping record was flawless and her vehicle was hardly ever the victim of mechanical failure, a popular crew-induced malady favoured by those who milked the system. Copying Gina’s duty schedule and bus running numbers for the rest of the week, I opted for an early night, fancying my chances in what promised to be a genuine challenge.
At Nine on the Brixton Town Hall clock next morning I was at the bus stop, in my commuter suit, holding my commuter newspaper, with my commuter briefcase containing my commuter sandwich. OK, I’d been fantasizing over what this chick would look like and how I’d handle it when I’d figured what she was up to. Yeah, OK, and what was in it for me.
She was better than my best dream image, so help me. More leggy than lanky, she made that normally tatty uniform look like the suits those slinky city girls wear. Then she had this friendly but firm voice like a tour guide as she ushered the punters aboard, pressed the bell and straight away started punching out tickets as if on piece work – or self employed more like.
On top of that she had this your-bed-or-mine quizzical smile which I tried hard to ignore to protect my cover. God it was hard. I bought a ticket for Trafalgar Square then tried to watch her every move on the lower deck without looking like a prawn. She was so efficient and courteous it was like watching an LT promotional video. She even pointed out tourist landmarks as we passed them. The Japanese and Yanks with their cameras lapped it up. I went back to my office but no way could I concentrate on any work. I caught her bus again for the return journey but noticed nothing dodgy. I went home and ‘phoned the garage manager later to check on her returns for the duty. Figures accurate, money spot on, takings like a miners’ whip round for Margaret Thatcher. Well, a thousand times better than that, naturally, but still about fifty per cent light for the shift.
If there’s one thing worse than being a driver or a conductor on a Routemaster bus, it’s being a passenger, especially in the rush hour. I stuck it out for the rest of the week but didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary about Gina’s routine. By Friday I had to admit defeat – and it hurt. So I decided on the cards-on-the-table approach. Anyway, I fancied her so much that every time I looked at her my brain went walkies. She was ahead of me.
“Can I ask you a question, sir?” The bus was stuck in traffic near Brixton Station and I had moved to the entrance ready to get off when we reached the curb. In the milling of bodies I found myself pressed against her on the rear platform, acutely aware of her firm figure, her body scent.
“Do what love?” I said, waiting for the grey matter to function.
“Revenue or stalker?” Matter-of-fact, as if I was a disoriented punter – which I was for a minute.
“Well both, as it happens.” You don’t lose it for long do you? I was relieved, almost euphoric. Which one would she prefer I wondered?
“One of you keeps watching me when he thinks I’m not looking. Is that the jobsworth or the voyeur?”
“The Revenue Inspector thinks you’re in big trouble, but the other fella wants to take you for a drink.”
The red bus spewed out most of its passengers at the station while I clung on to chrome rail, breathing deeply from the crushing effect of stampeding bodies and the thrill of her closeness. When the last one had gone I nodded for her to bell the driver. As the old workhorse picked up speed we shared a rear seat. She crossed her slender, model-length legs and I became aware of all my London Transport ethics vanishing through the small sliding window.
On our first night out together I realized how smart Gina was. I also knew she was playing me at my own game, but it wasn’t too painful. One half of me wanted to get inside her mind to find a clue to the missing money, while the other half just wanted to get inside her knickers. Both halves were disappointed.
On our second date she told me she was a single parent with a one-year-old daughter. Relaxing over our second bottle of wine, I went for it and mentioned the company’s quandary over her low ticket sales. But she only flashed that luscious smile and suggested an incentive scheme might help. As for the other, well there was none of that.
Next time I pushed a little harder. Her girl, she told me, was the product of a drunken one-night-stand following a garage booze-up. The father, a married work mate called Hugo, opted for denial then persistent amnesia. When she got stroppy he started a whispering campaign that forced her to leave her job. After the birth she was reinstated. She maintained that the experience had traumatized her so much that the next man she would ever sleep with would be her husband.
“Right,” I said, removing my hand, which had unconsciously strayed under the table and on to her thigh. “In that caseÃ¢â‚¬Â¦” It was the cue for violins and soft focus, but something I can’t explain made me stop in mid-sentence, like I had quinsy. There would be other nights I reckoned. I needed to think it through. So the Revenue man took over, but his subtle questioning failed to solve the mystery of the short-changing clippie. This one was good.
Meanwhile my basic instincts were being sorted in my cosy relationship with Laura. It was a sort of teacher exchange thing. She’d call at my flat twice a week and I’d try to bring her math up to speed. You see I still felt guilty about helping her through the conductors’ exams. By now she was making so many waybill errors that she was on three verbals and a written warning. In return she continued to surprise me with fresh and exquisite lovemaking techniques that made the Kama Sutra seem missionary. She was rounded, sensuous and generous, whereas Gina was willowy and chaste.
Then came the breakthrough. I had tackled and solved a few cases of simple internal fraud at various garages around Greater London. All the while my mind was on the enigmatic Gina. One night I was settling down with some extra strength cans and a video when Laura arrived in a right two and eight. When I saw the Gibson machine in her Tesco carrier bag, I knew it would be more lager than video. I handed her the glass I had already poured, sat her down on the sofa and waited for her latest tale of misadventure. As usual with Laura, you couldn’t invent it.
In Regent Street her bus had been stuck in traffic coming down towards Piccadilly Circus. Frustrated passengers reckoned walking was quicker, drivers got bored with hooting and swearing and Laura was looking at Hamleys Toy Shop front, remembering she needed a birthday present for her little brother. After a while, with traffic still stacked up, she put her machine in the cupboard, told the driver her plan and rushed into the shop. He promised to wait at the next bus stop if, or when, the river of traffic started flowing again.
The purchase took only a couple of minutes. She emerged from the toy store, spotted the red Routemaster and dived on board. In less than a minute she had opened the cupboard using the steel T piece common to all LT vehicles. She deposited the young man’s present in there, strapped on the Gibson and went about collecting fares on the lower deck. As the bus started moving as she returned to the platform – just as another conductor was descending the stairs from the upper saloon.
“What the hell are you doing on my bus?” she asked.
As the penny dropped Laura panicked, jumped on to the road and ran like hell to the next bus stop, where a load of puzzled passengers and an angry driver were waiting. She collected her own ticket machine and completed her shift pretending the whole thing never happened. But she still had the Gibson she had taken from the other bus. Being in possession of such a piece of equipment, I reckoned, must be the legal equivalent of having a gadget for printing fivers. We slept on it. I told Laura that if she went to work as usual and stayed shtoom, I would get it sorted.
The reason I felt cocksure was the description she gave me of the conductor on the other vehicle. I just knew it was Gina. Laura’s bus was from another garage that shared the 159 route. I just couldn’t figure out why Gina hadn’t chased after her to grab back her property. Well, not immediately I couldn’t, but a ‘phone call to her garage put me completely in the picture. When I tracked her down I relished being in charge of the situation for the very first time.
“Your place tonight at seven Gina.” I said, “It’s important. Trust me.”
I was confused at first because when I searched the garage records I expected to find the machine booked out to Gina. Instead I discovered that, while his vehicle was parked up at a bus stand about a year previously, a male conductor had gone to buy cigarettes. When he returned he found that his Gibson was missing. The fact that the cupboard was only accessible to bus crews meant that it had been an inside job. The investigation drew a blank. The conductor’s Christian name was Hugo. I was holding all the aces.
Gina was ready for me. She had taken her daughter to stay overnight with her parents, prepared an Italian candlelit meal with wine and changed into a long midnight-blue satin robe that turned her into a Goddess. I turned into warm putty. Later I proposed an early night and Gina trumped that by proposing marriage. Mellowed by Chianti that went down singing Italian love songs, my brain was on autopilot as I murmured a grovelling acceptance. This image of elegance would be all mine, for life, but only after the ceremony. Ever fancied a nun? I slept on her couch that night, the frustration driving me bananas.
In the cold light of day I fronted her with my up to date case notes. She cursed Laura as a prime example of the brainless bimbo LT was recruiting these days. But without losing her cool she went on to describe the callous way Hugo had treated her, following the revelation of her pregnancy. She told how he applied pressure on her to have an abortion, adoption, whatever. When she refused, he spread nasty gossip about her until she was almost excluded from works social events, even canteen gossip. Months before the birth, management forced her to give up her job on medical grounds. The company doctor had diagnosed pre-natal depression, but she knew management and Hugo’s union mates were behind it.
After the birth she took her case to a brief, then a works tribunal. She was reinstated, but without compensation. Her plan for revenge, she told me, was formed over months of pain and resentment. She calmly described how she decided to work only half a day for the company and half a day for herself. In her mind, the acquisition of Hugo’s ticket machine justified the fraud. She could implicate him if anyone ever sussed it out and her conniving bosses were getting their just deserts for the way they’d treated her. I bought it.
The marriage was in a registry office, with a quiet reception in my local boozer down the East End. We moved into hers. I’d like to tell you that the union was blissful, but I might as well be up front about it. The thing about ethereal is that you can’t make love to it. Well you can, but you usually feel bad about it after, know what I mean? Like a mermaid, I imagine. Nice status symbol to have on your yacht, but try shagging it. Gina is class, I could tell that from the outset. I ran out of words to describe her beauty when we went out together all dressed up and that. But heavenly bodies, trust me, are a no-no in bed. The lady was still way beyond me. I couldn’t handle it. I think I’d used up all my brain cells figuring out her scam. Maybe it was her subtle way of telling me I was the loser. I done a runner.
The old Gibson is my only souvenir of that cocked-up career move. Now I just think of it as a trophy from a Sherlock Holmes-style five-pipe problem. I often wonder if I should nick a bus from a garage for an evening; they never take the ignition keys out you know. I could do a night run to Trafalgar square, with Laura blagging topped-up fares from club ravers stoned out of their skulls. Then I could return it in early hours all warmed up for the ‘milk run’ driver.
It’s in the genes I suppose. But then again, maybe I’ll just stick to the old ducking and diving. It’s what I do best and it’s gotta be less grief.
– by Ed Bruce, UK
Follow Your Bliss
Author Joseph Campbell often talked about “following your bliss.” I heard of a bus driver in Chicago who does just that.
He sings while he drives. That’s right… sings! And I don’t mean he sings softly to himself, either. He sings so that the whole bus can hear! All day long he drives and sings.
He was once interviewed on Chicago television. He said that he is not actually a bus driver. “I’m a professional singer,” he asserted. “I only drive the bus to get a captive audience every single day.”
His “bliss” is not driving a bus, though that may be a source of enjoyment for some people. His bliss is singing. And the supervisors at the Chicago Transit Authority are perfectly happy about the whole arrangement. You see, people line up to ride his bus. They even let other busses pass by so they can ride with the “singing bus driver.” They love it!
Here is a man who believes he knows why he was put here on earth. For him, it is to make people happy. And the more he sings, the more people he makes happy! He has found a way to align his purpose in living with his occupation. By following his bliss, he is actually living the kind of life he believes he was meant to live.
Not everybody can identify a purpose in life. But when you do, and when you pursue it, you will be living the kind of life you feel you were meant to live. And what’s more, you will be happy.
From Steve Goodier’s JOY ALONG THE WAY
Free Mental Exams
After stopping for a few drinks at a bar, a Zimbabwean bus driver found that the 20 mental patients he was supposed to be transporting had escaped. Not wanting to admit his incompetence, the driver went to a nearby bus stop and offered people in line a free ride. He then delivered the passengers to the mental hospital, telling staff that the patients were very excitable and prone to bizarre fantasies.
The deception wasn’t discovered for three days.
Additions to these pages happen in conjunction with received submissions of suitable stories. Readers are encouraged to contribute material for possible inclusion. Please check back for new stories. I’m looking for people with good skills in drawing. If you think you could supply a cartoon to any of the above stories, please get in touch.
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