Rick and Libby climbed the stairs noisily, dumped their shopping in the aisle and sat at the front of the bus. They seemed oblivious to the world around them and in particular, the young man a few seats back, scribbling frantically in his notebook. Libby took the front seat, rummaged in her bag for a few seconds, pulled out a ball of wool and started knitting. Rick sat behind her.
"Ugh, Libs your neck just clicked," he said, and then began to massage her neck.
After spending six years commuting by train to London, for the next two months I'll be getting the bus. The transition is like crossing the Rubicon of sanity. The train, though not without its fair share of freaks, weirdos and gimp-grandchildren, provides a relatively normal experience in comparison to the mad house known as the bus.
An Indian man sat to their right. He was speaking on the phone very loudly, very fast. Libs shot him an irritated glance. She wore thick-lensed glasses, the lenses so thick her eyes appeared as tiny specks.
Rick was another one of those army fruitcakes, an overweight balding man clad entirely in camouflage gear. Frank Skinner once said that anyone wearing more than two badges is a nutter. Rick had more badges than a festival junkie.
"Leave me alone Rick," said Libs, "you're hurting me." "Yak, yak, yak," said the Indian man. "I'm not gonna hurt you Libs," assured Rick, with a touch of genuine disappointment in his voice. He reminded me of a disgruntled gorilla, not that I've ever seen one or for that matter would want to see one.
An old man got on the bus, we had to wait for a thousand years as he climbed slowly up the stairs. Two stops later he pressed the button, millennia flew by as the bus waited for him. He climbed down the stairs backwards. Slowly, painfully, his joints creaking (I imagine). The madness of it all, the effort he went through for a couple of minutes on the top deck.
Rick and Libs' shopping fell down the stairs as the bus turned a sharp corner. I was that close to bursting into wild, hearty laughter. Rick went after it, the moment was pure comedy. He could be heard scrambling about downstairs like a pig let loose in a grocery store. The rustling of plastic bags, the sound of tins rolling with the motion of the bus, the muffled curses as he stumbled about. When he finally returned all seemed forgotten, once again his hands found themselves on Libs' neck.
"How's this?" he asked. "Leave me alone, " she whined, her needles still clicking away.
I was fascinated by this mundane scene. Where were they going? A council estate? A working men's club? Down the newsagent to buy some lottery tickets? On route to buy a 300 inch plasma TV that they cannot afford? Who knows? I'm not one for stereotyping. They got off the bus and walked straight into a Conservative Club, of all places. If those guys are Tory we're all in trouble. The Indian chap watched this intently, he looked as surprised as I was. The world is a strange place.
I descended the stairs prepared for carnage, fully expecting to see broccoli scattered about, a dented tin of beans perhaps, or a puddle of milk by the priority seats. Nothing, just a suspicious-looking group of pensioners and a couple of schoolchildren. Rick, to his credit, had cleaned the whole lot up.
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