Bussed Off

Every day I take the bus to work and back home again. It’s a 45 minute ride both ways. I generally tolerate it fine, some days I hate it, and some days I consider getting off at the next stop and walking the 30km home.

Before I get into the beef let’s balance it with some sugar. I have to give some rational reasons why I choose public over personal transport. Why do I love Transperth? Let me count the ways.

  1. No coins. I wave my wallet at this little box that goes “beep” and if my credit’s run out, it automatically debits my account.
  2. No fiscal errors. Ok, well I did detect one error one time – so I rang them up and they refunded the 30c overcharge no problem.
  3. No parking worries. When the cheapest parking in the city is over $8 per day it just doesn’t make sense to drive in every day.
  4. No traffic. Let the bus driver worry about that; I can read or listen to music.
  5. No nasty staff. Well, you get someone having a bad day on rare occasions, but normally they’re all very friendly and patient. Sometimes I’m amazed at how patiently they deal with angry, irrational and abusive customers. Not to mention downright homicidal drivers on the roads.

Ok, that’s the nice bits out of the way. Now for what we’re really here for. What makes bus travel unpleasant, and sometimes downright painful? In no particular order:

When you get to the bus stop early, the bus will usually be late, or never turn up at all, so you’re sitting there for over half an hour. The day you’re running late, the bus will always be on time or early. The guy behind you kicks the back of your seat. He kindly stubbed out his cigarette just before boarding, but the whole bus now reeks of him. Then you get to that particular stop halfway along the route, where you hope against hope that today isn’t one of the lucky days when a busload of loud drunk or unwashed (to put it kindly) tumble aboard and turn the bus into some kind of dress rehearsal for hell (without wishing to be flippant about that). It’s not humanly possible to think of these people as being made in God’s image – it just isn’t. Then there’s the hulking teenager who actually owns the bus – you can tell, he’s got the certificate of ownership and attitude to prove it. You wanted to disembark? Sorry sir, no can do, the aisle is there for him to stretch his legs across of – if you intended to alight at this stop, you should have thought of that before you got on. Ok, how about minor infractions? There are those “9 simple rules” posters on many buses – but of course they’re just for the tourists, right? Like road rules, they’re only for everyone else. Rules like no loud music (mobile phone ring tones don’t count, they’re not music by any definition; therefore they can be as loud as they want), eating smelly hamburgers or drinking out of a brown paper bag. Or worse, sniffing out of a plastic bag. While we’re here, what do you do when you hear what sounds suspiciously like spraypainting? If you go up and tell the driver, the culprits will just feign ignorance, and what’s the driver going to do? Strip search all the kids until he finds the spraycan? If he did he’d have a lawsuit on his hands. Meanwhile the passengers are choking on the fumes.

And that’s on a good day.

Then there’s the really bad trip. You get these every once in a while – sometimes you get a few good trips with no problems at all and you get lulled into a false sense of security… hey, bus travel is not that bad, actually. Quite enjoyable. Then, bam! You get the bad one.

Ok, here’s how it generally comes down: (a) warmish day, say 30 degrees Celsius, not too bad; (b) a bit late for the bus, so have to run; (c) bus arrives, and it’s one of the new ones, with air conditioning! I anticipate a pleasant ride home in sweet coolness; (d) doors open; (e) open my mouth to say “g’day”; (f) the greeting sticks in my mouth as a wave of heat breaks forth, as if it had been waiting with pent-up energy in the bowels of the earth; (g) I battle onto the bus anyway as my foggy, at-day’s-end brain realises… the a/c is not working.

Disaster.

These are the days I actually wish they had put one of the older, non-air-conditioning buses into service – they at least give the passengers the option of opening a window or two for some good old-fashioned wholesome fresh air. But this bus is new and high tech, and they can’t have you opening the window and letting any old air in, no matter how old-fashioned or wholesome it allegedly may be, you never know where it’s been. So today we’re going to have a lesson on why we never leave kids in a car on a hot day. Pretty quickly the temperature soars within the range of the solar core; the tinted windows, they do nothing! I feel sorry for the bus driver, although she did have her own little window that she could open. Apparently these new buses have another neat little feature: the doors cannot open while the bus is moving. When either door is open, the brakes engage. This means that she can’t even leave the doors open to let a little air in. She battled on valiantly, however, and did open the doors when possible; but it was not so much a ride as a roast.

I’m counting the days until my employer moves our office – they’re moving us to Midland and I can’t wait. I’m getting a car, taking advantage of the free parking, and driving the 15 minute trip every day. No more buses. I might even ride by bike from time to time.

Thanks Transperth for your lovely buses. They usually are, anyway. It’s just a pity about some of your customers.

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About Jeffrey Kemp

I’m a Christian, a husband, a father of three, a database programmer and a pianist. I enjoy programming, playing with technology, losing wrestling matches with my kiddies, and long drives to visit the farmers-in-law. My favourite edible substance is Iced Coffee. I also blog about Oracle-related topics at jeffkemponoracle.com.
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