Usually, on a good day, I have endless empathy for bus drivers, I am good at empathy and I have moreso than most members of the public as my father has been a bus driver all his life and generally, bus drivers, on the whole, are really quite nice and helpful with advice about directions and fares unless I happen to be a 15-year-old cannabis-smoking feisty addict attempting to cause havoc for other passengers at the back of the top tier on a double decker.
I have never had a run-in with West Midlands Travel (WMT) bus drivers. WMT bus drivers are lovely. Even as an undergraduate student in Manchester, the blue and yellow Magic Bus bus drivers were amazing as well. Never. Had. A. Problem. With. Buses. Or. Bus. Drivers. I have also never experienced a bus break down in the Midlands or otherwise either, come rain, shine, snow, wind, rot, hail or birdy-dead-weights randomly hurtling down from the sky, WMT are an efficient means of public transportation.
Since moving to the er, rolling hills of the sleepy shire of Buckingham and let us face the facts here, the move does not equate to an emigration to Swaziland, the bus service provision and gumption of a select few Arriva bus drivers is undadorably deplorable.
Firstly, the buses break down on a bi-monthly cycle and last Friday was no exception. The engine did not have any horsepower, the driver exhausted the accelerator from the bus station to the third stop at all of two and a half miles per hour and then we patiently waited for the next bucket with windows to arrive as there were no other ‘spare buses’ at the station. What kind of outfit is this organisation? Is it really an organisation at all or a smoky figment notion of my dazed imagination?
On an every-other-day or at least weekly basis and without fail, scheduled mid-morning or mid-evening (or can you believe at both points of the day) buses disappear into that same nomadic warped universe where boys abscond to when they visit garages from whence nothing returns. The arrival time simply disappears from the highly technological monitor as if the scheduled bus was never intended for existence. Not so much as an announcement, an explanation, an indication that something was not quite right, even a message strapped on to the scoundrel wannabe-carrier pigeons wobbling about the platforms, no scent of an apology is provided by the bus driver or Arriva. Pffft. The bus just
Perhaps Arriva unscrupulously train drivers to permeate furtive contempt and to drive buses the way Gandalf and Balrog dive into the neverending Mines of Moria. I apologise profusely Driver, but you are not Monarch of the Glenn nor will you ever be. It’s not the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Carriage. You provide a public service, this is the nature of your job, a little civility would not go amiss. I do not choose to journey on your mobile box through free will and sound choice, it is through necessity drawn out by current unavoidable circumstances.
I had an episode with two drivers regarding the volume of my iPod (when it was living) – and both times I was not even the culprit. I have had an argument with a passenger on a rainy day and an open window as I was pelted with bullets of rain but I am digressing slightly.
I purchased my weekly bus pass yesterday from the bus driver as this is another service unique to Arriva. I clearly stated my destination requesting the total poundage owed, repeating the destination just to be sure, as you do. The ticket was red. Perhaps this signified EMERGENCY or STOP. I did not think anything of it since usually I procure the online discounted ticket and it is blue corresponding to credit card type-size.
Perhaps I should have questioned it and interrogated the RM Nimbus type ink printed on the fare ticket which I read afterwards when it was too late. It was my folly for trusting the bus driver in the first place, why would I do such a thing as trust the bus driver? He, or rather they, only publicly chauffeur me to work on a daily basis. I folded up the pass without glancing at it (if ever there was a need for a time machine, it is this instant right now) and safely placed it into my purse for use later in the evening. Job done. Happy days.
I leave the office in a hurry, I want to get home. It’s cold. It’s not helpful that my blood circulation or the process by which my body attempts to keep me warm in the recent chill factor of deepest winter, fails most dramatically. I shiver to the bone on my soldier-march to the bus terminal, power-walking because of the cold!
My giant black-cream-gold woollen shawl that doubles up as a scarf is the only effective accessory which lives up to protecting me from the bitterness, covering the lower half of my face so that I do not have to inhale minus twenty Celcius oxygen which may freeze me rooted to the spot as still as a musical statue with the icy flute of a wind playing out as music.
The White Witch from Narnia inflicts me, poisons my blood and my eyes glaze into snowflakes. I guess catching the bus has indeed become a luxury, of sorts. Even if it is a rickety rickshaw. I wait my turn, I am last in the queue. The bus is not full, but it’s definitely not empty. I am in the process of handing the pass to the bus driver and before a piece of silver could even perchance to cross his palm he guffawed, “You can’t use that on here, love.” (Love?!)
“Why would that be?”
“It’s a local pass [remember the redness Reader], you can’t use it around these parts” (like I mentioned earlier, it’s not like I am in Swaziland, I am six miles away from my flat).
“Well, how did I get here then? Why did the bus driver sell this to me in the morning?”
“You must have said it wrong, the bus driver would not have sold you an incorrect pass…” (stunned, I know I am brown-skinned but that does not mean I am unable to stipulate geographical towns and villages articulately).
“Are you not able to refund or exchange it for the correct pass, I commute back and forth every day.”
“You can’t use that pass, you need to see the Customer Service office, you won’t get a refund though.”
“Why will I not be able to obtain a refund or exchange, I asked for the correct pass…the Customer Service office will not be open in the evening and it’s not open in the morning. Is there no way that I can change it here?”
“I can’t help you.”
“But what is the logic in drivers being able to sell bus passes if you can’t refund or exchange the bus pass if it is wrongly sold, why would I buy an incorrect pass that I cannot use, I work here? Where is the sense in that?”
“You should have checked the pass.”
I looked at the bus driver incredulously.
“I asked for the correct pass, why should I have to check the pass, he’s a bus driver, he even let me depart here this morning!”
“You need to pay the fare.”
“The fare is not the issue, it’s the not being able to rectify the selling of a wrong pass…”
I contained the mania, the bus driver could not even muster a sorry on anyone’s behalf. I paid the fare and sat down, hoping the audience now had something interesting to report to their 2.4 families when they reached home, ‘There was a crazy woman on the bus earlier…‘
I am rageful for the inconvenience of someone else’s mistake, a mistake that could have been avoided by someone who is supposed to be an expert. I commence work at 0830HRS, I literally do not see the light of day never mind a helpful human being. In the evening, I reach the bus station at the other end anytime after 1830HRS and again, I do not even see the dying light of day and my view encompasses striding past a closed empty office.
The next morning (today), I tried to wait for Customer Services, I really tried. The tired vomit-coloured decor was making me ill to my core and although I called work to advise of my impending lateness because of this ridiculous situation, I was still not impressed with having to arrive into the office any time later than I needed. It was 0823HRS and I could not wait any longer especially when the scheduled 0825HRS bus was actually on the stand.
I asked the (different) bus driver again whether I could exchange the ticket as Customer Services was closed, he advised “You won’t be able to exchange the ticket at the office.”
“Um, right. I was told that I could. How would I go about sorting this out then?”
“You need to call the number on the pass, write a letter and they will send you a credit note in the post. I’m sorry it’s not exactly a great process.”
A credit note?!
But the bus driver was apologetic, what more could I possibly say to him?
I added the letter-writing action to my mental to-do list and the incumbent bus pass was relegated to the depths of my handbag.