I spend a lot of time on buses. London buses are generally chattier places than the Tube. You can use your phone for starters, so there are often lots of interesting one-sided conversations to earwig. And you can see daylight, which in my opinion, means you feel less oppressed and more benevolent to the person in front of you, whose armpit is in your face.
Last night on my way home from L’s birthday (very nice Italian meal at Ziani‘s just off the Kings Road) I changed at Clapham Common for the 155.
A good bus, the 155.
The Northern Line is shut at Clapham South at the moment, so lots of people were waiting to get on at Clapham Common and the bus driver patiently let everyone on.
No one went upstairs, and so as new people boarded they assumed there were no seats available upstairs. The bus driver called out to tell us there was more room.
All very boring and normal. Meanwhile more and more people had spotted the bus and were waiting to get on.
Exasperated a French woman started to swear and shout: ‘Can we go now? Just shut the doors and go!’
Most of us on the bus (you’re never entirely sure in London) were British so the first thing we did was ignore her.
The bus driver continued to urge people upstairs, more people arrived at the bus stop to try and get on.
The French lady got louder.
But we are British, so another woman kindly decided to explain the situation to the French lady: ‘Those people want to get on the bus too. You’ve got your place, let them get on as well.’
This did not go down well with the French lady, who got crosser, louder and more swearily impatient. ‘There are plenty of buses after this one – he should just go!’
‘There aren’t plenty of buses, and it’s dark and cold.’
Then the French lady made a fatal error – ‘You British people pay so much money for your rubbish transport system, and you stand here waiting and waiting.’
We are British – we are allowed to criticise our public and transport services. But if you’re not British and you don’t like it, you’ve made the choice to live here so suck it up. We suck it up, because we are British. And that means we are stoic in the face of disappointment and discomfort.
So there was a murmur of discontent from a few others surrounding the angry French lady as the tide of popularity began to turn against her.
Still people climbed onto the bus; still she shouted.
We were all tired, we all wanted to go home, but we are British. No one gets left behind.
Angry French lady carried on abusing Transport for London and how much ‘you English pay’, among swearing and yelling at the bus driver to just go.
Eventually, a man near the front shouted wearily ‘On your bike’ and literally, and in no way am I exaggerating, the WHOLE BUS cheered.
Angry French lady should have known better than to have carried on when she was clearly outnumbered, and surrounded. But she did. Even when the bus set off. Shouting about how she normally cycles, and how rubbish the British are at transport systems. Then the guy next to her fronted her up with the most devastating truth of all – she hadn’t paid to get on this bus!
‘I pay enough,’ she ranted.
‘You should be grateful you’re on the bus travelling for free, and be gracious enough to be patient and let the other PAYING passengers on.’
She’d lost the battle and as the bus pulled into my stop it looked like there might be a full riot, ending with the lynching of the angry French lady.
Although probably not. Because we’re British. And that would be a terribly rash thing to do.