Tuesday, September 13, 2005



If there's a reason - other than total unbounded fear - that I haven't learnt to drive yet, it's undoubtedly due to the fact that I've been spoilt with other forms of transportation. In Oxford if I couldn't get there on foot, then my bike would do it. In Leeds my purple bike is considerably less appealing (unless I fancied seeing whether the polution or an irrate driver would get me first), but I live less than five minutes walk from a train station and bang smack in the midst of at least three major bus routes.

In Leeds my public transport of choice is most definitely the train. Yes, you may get squashed, almost end up in Selby and/ or be treated to the disco version of all-the-trains-are-delayed ah-ha ah-ha but it has three things in its favour. One: assuming a train eventually arrives and you don't get stuck just outside Sheffield for over an hour, trains are quicker. Two: I have a young person's railcard. It still remains as my best purchase of the past decade. Once you get out of full time school the bus companies abandon you to full price hell. And I do not like full price. I like discounts. Three: due to some unknown social factor people who travel by train are less scary (or at least people who travel by local train are).
Given that the advantages of train are scientifically threefold when I started at the WYP I'd intended to travel into Leeds by train. This was until I'd finished my first shift and my bargainous black pointy flat shoes from Asda had started to gorge holes in my flesh. Suddenly the ten minute walk to the station seemed less than appealing when there was a bus stop right outside the theatre. So the journey itself would take longer but at least I wouldn't come into contact with the bones in my foot.

And as the bus was near and as I'm lazy, I ignored the threefold reasons of the train and embraced the bus. Last night was no different. Bronte finished around 10:25 and by 10:40 I was waiting for the bus. As usual (if usual can be defined when there's only three lots of statistics to go on) it arrived vaguely on time and I bounced on board. There were slightly more people than normal, but it was still empty enough for there to be plenty of free seats. Five minutes into my journey a bald headed man came down from upstairs and plonked himself on one of the front seats. Now I noticed this because changing seats on a bus that is half empty is an odd thing. Once you're over the age of eight the invisible rules of bus ettiquette state that you stay put. No one likes sudden movement, afterall, least of all those who are on a bus in the middle of Leeds at 11.00pm. Bald guy continued to jiggle before asking what the time was to the couple seated behind him. Nothing particularly odd, except that the second he asked he got his mobile phone out and double checked their answer.

But I forget Bald Guy because I've got a job application to plan in my head and I've ten minutes on the bus to do so. This is why I only notice Bald Guy get up again out of the corner of my eye. But he doesn't just get up, he kind of leaps. And the next thing I know he's standing in the aisle looking at me. I look back and notice he's got a large scar running across his head. I wonder if it's the mark of a lobotomy.

"Can you move..." Bald Guy gestures to my bag which is on the seat next to me.

I look back at him. There's no way I'm moving the bag. I'd rather poke myself in the eye with Lego Snape's foot.


"Because I want to sit there".

I think we can all agree that wanting to sit there, when the bus is half empty and you've got a lobotomy scar, is not a good enough reason.

"There are plenty of other seats to sit in".

Bald Guy looks at me. And because I don't think this situation is up for debate I look back. Ten seconds during which I'm incredibly aware of the silence on the bus elapse before he moves.

And everything is ok for about a minute. Until once again he leaps up. Then he's moved to a new seat, then another, then another until he's in the one opposite me.
"You're right" Bald Guy says "There are a lot of seats".

"I know". But I sense that I don't want this conversation to go on any longer. I don't like the guy. I don't like his lobotomy scar. I don't like how quiet the rest of the bus is.

The Bald Guy gets up again and walks to the end of the aisle, turning to look at me.

"When you have an opinion back it up".

There's a pause.

"Yes, I can see you and you can see me".

"When you have an opinion back it up. Remember that."

I'm no longer looking at him, as I don't see why I should dignify him and his lobotomy scar with a response. And once again it's silent. Then I can half hear him talking to the driver, a murmur, something indistinct.

The bus stops. Bald Guy gets off still making noises at the driver. As the bus begins to move, he hits the window. Once. Twice. Dull thuds that ressonate across the floor.

The couple in front of me exchange looks. They turn to look at me.

"Twat" the man smiles at me.

I nod back. But I don't want to smile. Not because of Bald Guy and his lobotomy, or being on the bus, or even because I ignored the threefold train rules. But because of the silence.

Downstairs on the bus there were seven male passengers excluding Bald Guy and a non-driving Bus Driver. All were bigger and older than me. And it made me wonder at what stage would they have stepped in. How uncomfortable would I have been made to feel before they stopped burying their head into their girlfriend, or listening to their ipod or studiously reading a paper. How far will people simply pretend that they're not witnessing something?

And you know what? That scared me far more than Bald Guy did.


Anonymous said...

It amazes me in how many differnt situations people pretend they are not witnessing something as 'they don't want to get involved'

It's scary to stand up for someting, but to ignore it surely perpetuates the behaviour...if we get away with something, we generally do it again.

Glad you are okay!

Jen said...

Thanks Coza, you just added one more reason for me not to take the bus. I just don't do public transport for many reasons, unless of course it is a very last resort (I would have taken the shoes off and walked LOL )

Val said...

Coza, I'm scared for you - learn to drive! x

shona said...

The silent and 'insular' behaviour is scary - glad you didn't need to find out how far he could push it.

Back to trains?