Monday, 14 September 2009

The Conservative Club (another oddball in military gear)

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.

59 comments:

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

More, Mo. Tell us more.

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

So, what made you switch from the train?

And. I can't wait for your screenplay based on all these characters.

♥ Braja said...

Gimp-grandchildren? I'm probably not meant to be, but I'm lmao at that. So sue me...

Oh, and the loud Indian guy? What, are you kidding me? Did ya think they come in another variety?? I have some loud Indian guy phone stories that would make your SOCKS shrink. Yeah.

♥ Braja said...

I can't stop laughing at the gimp grandchildren.

Alan Burnett said...

I really do like this. So many people try to do this type of thing but either finish up with pointless descriptive overload or trite mawkishness. This is quality and quality shines through.

Courtney said...

I want to be a fly on the wall in Rick and Libby's house....awkward

otherworldlyone said...

Libs, knitting away in agitation, made me smile.

Yes, what's with the train to bus switch?

chris hale said...

As you know, I live not far from Brighton. As I'm not rich enough to afford the exhorbitant car park charges in said city, my alternative methods of transport are (i) train, and (ii) bus. Why is it that (i) makes me feel like a winner, and (ii) makes me feel like a loser?

jpooh said...

Thnak you Mo, for providing the links for us poor, clueless Americans. It's amusing, really - in the States, the conservatives are very likely to be wearing camouflage and sporting badges or medals...but very likely NOT taking public transportation.

Lana said...

at least the bus is looking favorable in the people-watching department. a good nosy peek, with proposed factional background, into rick and libby's (et al.) day would be enough to keep me entertained for the whole commute.

diane said...

Hahaha, I haven't ridden the bus for years, but it's an all too familiar scene you paint.
Really loved this Mo. xo

JennyMac said...

Typical resplendent writing from you. This is why I the crowd goes wild on Monday "Mad Dog" Day.

Ananda girl said...

Buses in the states are crazy places too. Full of the strange and curious and almost always an adventure.

blueviolet said...

From what I've seen here, the bus certainly does transport a large selection of "characters".

I have to say that I really enjoyed the twist they provided by going into the Conservative Club.

Hannah Miet said...

I also find the buses filled with insanity in New York. Even with the lack of panhandlers.

Gimp grandchildren. Cracked me up.

KC said...

I was expecting the ending to refer to the apparently random stabbing of a man on a city bus. The weapon: knitting needle

Captain Dumbass said...

I'm not going to laugh. I'll be doing this soon. Unless I can stay unemployed.

Eric said...

Mo, thanks for the link to the Conservative Club. The secretary said I can join even though I live in the US, but only if I get their winsome logo tattooed on an arm or forehead. They didn't mention if it had to be mine or someone else's...

Call Me Cate said...

I hate it when people knit on public transport. If there's an accident (or a grocery incident!), she could totally poke someone's eye out.

Michel said...

Dude! I loved that story. ha!

ellen abbott said...

I think that that is probably the only thing I regret about having my studio attached to my home, that I never get to ride the bus (not that I really want to ride the bus). You make it sound so entertaining. Oh, wait, I have YOU riding the bus to entertain me.

Girl Interrupted said...

Gah! I hate buses, you get a whole different kind of freak on a bus and they're usually really whiffy too. Frankly, I'd rather walk.

Having said that ... if I ever have to resort to bus usage I always sit upstairs (except I don't, because Norfolk buses are single level ... even harder to avoid the smelly loons) because as everybody knows THATS where all the cool people sit. Clearly the creaky old timer knew this and a few arthritic joints were not about to ruin his street cred. Kudos to him, I say!

Nikki-ann said...

Suspicious looking pensioners?! Whatever next! Hehe.

Slyde said...

after reading your posts, i often wonder how much more comfortable your trains are compared to here on either the long island railroad that i have to take into manhattan, or the nyc subways...

Tooj said...

I wonder if she knits while they do bed business.

A Mom on Spin said...

To quote a good friend and master writer, "Oh, the madness of it all!"

Matthew said...

My parking space is gone as of tomorrow, which means I'm back on the bus again. It appears you can go anywhere in the world and the bus people are still as deranged.

Char said...

I hate public transportation and buses have to be the worst. I haven't ridden a train since I was a child. But, I can imagine riding a bus being a total cultural shock.

Soda and Candy said...

Nothing better than public transport for people-watching!

blognut said...

And then what?

And I think you are absolutely right to want to avoid disgruntled gorillas.

bernthis said...

Rick is a very good boy and Libs sounds like she was not in a very good mood or isn't a very pleasant person overall

cactus petunia said...

I'm looking forward to more bus tales! Since I no longer work downtown, I miss all the people watching I used to do.
Now I can just read about it and I don't have to experience all the smells...

Twenty Four At Heart said...

I loved this. You are similar to me in that you are so perceptive and curious about your surroundings. I find the most extraordinary in the every day. Every day that I read you I become a bigger and bigger fan.

Tennyson ee Hemingway said...

The Conservative Club? All of a sudden, the Army clothing makes perfect sense. Well, it would if he was wearing Army clothing from the Boer War.

ladytruth said...

When we went to London last year we made the mistake of taking a bus. It was full of creepy characters staring at our foreign clumsiness trying to climb the stairs and upon finally finding a seat, kept watching us with beers in their hands taking a slow sip every so often. After that we just took a cab whenever we had to go out.

Gaston Studio said...

Oooooh, my neck was hurting from Rick's obviously unskilled fingers! Love this mo, and I want mo, mo, mo!

Cora said...

You have a knack for people watching, Mo. Most definitely. :-)

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Goodness, I'll be worrying about my neck clicking when I'm driving our Tours bus after reading this!

Really enjoyed the post, (and also especially loved the Mrs Satsuma one), you weave a great narrative from your people-watching!

Our buses here are, by contrast, rather boring - no-one particularly strange or unusual really, just normal giraffes.

rubbish said...

Hi Mo.
Check the blog, I'm doing you a favour ;)

Madame DeFarge said...

I love these slice of life moments, where you briefly steal into someone's life and see them. Especially if you see someone else looking at the same moment and you realise that you are both mesmerised by perfect strangers.

Hit 40 said...

I wonder if they work in the club? Both do not seem to be the type to be a serious member of the group. Plus, they were taking in bags of food.

Surge said...

If you seen me and my bestfriend on the bus, you'd probably assume we're really, terribly loud teenagers that are looking for trouble. Last time I was on the bus, I accidentally dropped a container of kfc macaroni salad on the ground, drunkenly hit on a boy my age and almost pissed myself laughing when my best partner in crime was taking pictures of random people. :) We're a handful.

the mama bird diaries said...

Oh no. A bus? The bus is never good. Why are you commuting via bus?

g said...

Why is it that buses are infinitely more depressing than trains? I love trains, but buses? ugh.

Tristan Robin Blakeman said...

Though I always take the train if going into New York, I haven't been on a bus since high school.

After than depressing vison, I'm perfectly happy for it to remain so.

rubbish said...

There's more.

The Demigoddess said...

In the Philippines, we have jeepneys for public transportation. It looks like an oversized jeep and smells weird. I'd take your bus over the jeepney any day.

Shana said...

You sure know how to tell a story

Sassy Britches said...

Oh, my. The bus is waaaaay more fun than the train, if just for stories' sake.

And it really makes me think: appreciate you partner even if you're irritated. First of all, one should never take them for granted. Second of all, you never know who may be watching.

Sass said...

I'm the 50th comment, mo.

Crazy.

I'd love to be somewhere at let you people-watch me. I'd love to know what you'd write.

Or...maybe I wouldn't.

Hmm...

Lola Lakely said...

I can't stop laughing at share of freaks, weirdos and gimp-grandchildren. Gimp grandchildren needs to be involved with my twittering at some point. I mean here is a demographic that really needs to be targeted more often.

Mr. Condescending said...

Loved this story, but I kind of have to agree with hit40, they just don't seem to be the type of people to be a member.

It makes me laugh so hard when some random person is observed, blogged about, and analyzed by hundreds of people all over the world!

Mr. Condescending said...

Loved this story, but I kind of have to agree with hit40, they just don't seem to be the type of people to be a member.

It makes me laugh so hard when some random person is observed, blogged about, and analyzed by hundreds of people all over the world!

Debbie said...

What a great little glimpse into that couple.

DebraLSchubert said...

Love it! Thanks for finding me. I'm hooked!

The Jules said...

lol Great post.

Buses are great for bloggers. I saw a bloke bus-spotting a few weeks ago, and nearly got out my note pad to remind myself to blog about it later, when I realised I'd just look like I'd joined him.

p-huong said...

I ride the train to work. After the train, I ride a shuttle from the train station to the lab. Out of all the forms of public transportation, I am deathly afraid of buses. I had to take the bus one time and I remember thinking, "Oh goodness. There are cops on this bus. I'm going to get robbed. Or mistakenly shot." There's just something about buses.

One of my strangest sightings is a man too poor to afford a leash, had to tie a tie around his dog since it's illegal to have a dog on a bus without a leash. I'd say poor dog, but it actually looked really happy.

Harmony said...

I too had thought that maybe they worked at the club, at first. But then I thought they could be Millionaire eccentrics who join Conservative Clubs to keep their families happy, but show up as vagabonds with cans of soup to declare their own individual beings. It's quite the anarchy if you think about it.

So the bus eh? What's up with that?

BrightenedBoy said...

I've never had any really weird experieces on the Metro, but there are definitely are some freaky people out there.

What an interesting story.

As I have quite a few new readers since I became a "Jelly Biter" I've put this up here again. To understand the context you must read this post!