London is busy. Really busy.
And full of people. I catch the same bus around the same time every day and I barely recognise anyone who travels with me.
This never happened when I used to take the number 14 from Fleetwood to Blackpool to sixth form every day. By the end of a year, I practically knew everyone who travelled on that bus. But maybe that’s a northern thing.
Anyway, it’s been a few months now, and gradually I’m beginning to spot an occasionally familiar face. There’s the lady who catches the bus as far as Stockwell from my stop every morning, bravely plunging through all kinds of traffic and dragging her little boy across with her, to make sure she catches that particular bus at that particular time. There’s a tall girl, with a red coat who ambles to my stop very slowly, when I tend to power walk. I saw a guy who had dyed his ginger hair purple, but left his beard untouched, a couple of times. He wore glasses with no glass in them and had spacers in his ears.
But the person I see most often is (capital letters at the ready) The Fit Man on the Bus.
It took a few weeks for me to clock that I see him two or three times a week. That’s because the etiquette in the morning on public transport is not to look anyone in the eye, or to speak too loudly. It’s morning and we all value the hallowed silence of our commute. But about three weeks ago, I realised that I’ve seen this guy a few times.
He gets off the bus the stop after me and is on the bus already when I get on, always sitting upstairs, on the right hand side, in the middle. After registering him a couple of times, I looked up at him as I turned to walk down the stairs, only to catch his eye. He was looking at me too.
This has gone on for about a fortnight, so I’ve seen him maybe eight times. One morning I ended up sitting next to him. He’s been reading a weighty tome about Stalin. I’ve been reading a book about the rise of religion worldwide and why Europe is the secular exception. I thought this was slightly ironic.
Last week, as I turned to walk down the stairs, I looked up to catch his eye, and he smiled at me. The following day, he was on my bus again, I smiled in acknowledgement of his presence as I boarded the bus.
This is going to be a very very long game, but at least it’s progress.
In the meantime, I read someone else’s blog about finding an unsent love letter on a train, written by a passenger about a fellow commuter. Which got me thinking – perhaps I should do the same?