Since cutting back on using the car – I only drive maybe every other weekend now – getting around involves a fair amount of buses. It’s not hard to make an environmental case for getting the bus, as this photo proves. But the thing is, the more I use them, the more I like them, and for more and more irrational reasons. There are rational reasons – like the fact that there is a frequent and reliable service between home and school, and a whole host of other places I never considered going to by public transport, before I was delivered of car brain. Of course there are also other places that are seriously tedious to get to without a car, but these are fewer than I thought.
But there are things I like that aren’t rational at all. Riding on the top deck of a big red London bus? It never gets old. In fact my definition of an intellectual – traditionally someone who, left alone in a room with a tea cosy, does not put it on their head – is an able-bodied person who gets on a double decker and makes no attempt to go upstairs. Even without the kids I always sit in one of the front seats if I can, trying not to vroom out loud. (I do also realise that I shouldn’t really stand on bridges and wave at passing train drivers without being accompanied by a small child, so my time left to do this is running out.)
And then there’s clinging to a pole while the bus swings around a corner at speed, for instance, or squeezing onto a bus with a jostling pack of school children, which probably isn’t to everyone’s taste. I like the whole ‘we’re in this together’ feel of a crowded bus. (I’d probably like it even better if the odd chicken or goat were on board, but you can’t have everything.) Maybe it’s a reaction to an over-privileged childhood in the diplomatic service, when you are swept through crowded streets in the lonely grandeur of the embassy car. I even like hearing the conversation of teenagers blaring from the seats behind me. Once I wrote down every word I’d heard straight afterwards – three teenage girls discussing their male friend’s ‘moobs’, among other problems – and it was great short story material.
We still get the bus back from the Cutester’s far-flung gymnastics classes, and I still marvel at the fact that we arrive home no later than when we used to in the car. Plus I haven’t had to park anything, or pay for anything to be parked, or remember where I parked it, or where the ticket is that lets it through the barrier – and best of all I don’t have to concentrate on driving it home, so I can chat to the girls or read or daydream – or even write a blog post about, say, how much I like getting the bus…