In Praise of the Pakistani Bus Driver


Wait ages for a bus, then three arrive
Wait ages for a bus, then three arrive

I recently needed a minor operation on my eyelid and not knowing if I would be able to drive after the op I took a taxi to the hospital. I would have taken the bus, except it would have been two buses and, as I had to be there before 9am I would have had to pay the fare (can’t use my Senior Bus Pass before 9.30) and that would have been more than the taxi fare.

Arriving at the hospital very early, I bought myself a cup of coffee and sauntered down to the department, checked in and took a seat in the waiting room. I looked at the notice board to see who was on duty and the waiting time. Making myself as comfortable as possible, I removed my coast and fleece and settled down for the long wait ahead and wondered how it could possibly be a 30 minutes wait, when I was the first person there?

Five minutes later I was interrupted from my reverie when a nurse called my name, so left my half drunk coffee and went through into the consulting room. The doctor, not the one I had seen at my initial consultation, didn’t think she could actually do the surgery and so decided instead to cauterise and curettage the little growth. It was all over and done within 10 minutes (the most painful bit being the local anaesthetic into my eyelid), so I made my way back to the café with my coffee where I waited to kill time till 9.30 when I could use my bus pass.

I watched two buses come and go and when the third one appeared I checked my watch and found it was nearly half past, but I knew it was a few minutes fast and it would only take me 30 seconds to get to the bus shelter. I dithered, remembering the last time I had arrived early at a bus stop. It was a lovely day in the summer and I had walked down the road to catch the bus into town to economise on fuel for the car. There was a short queue of elderly people, so without checking my watch I assumed the watershed had passed. Not one, but three buses arrived at the same time – just like that old saying.

Enjoying the warm sun on my back I waited patiently as the others boarded, marginally aware it was taking an inordinate amount of time and of the faint chinking of coins, but mainly rummaging through my bag to find my camera, to take a picture of the three bus phenomenon! As the man in front of me moved into the bus I stepped forward and placed my pass on the reader, ‘Good morning, town please!’ The middle-aged driver grunted something unintelligible. ‘Pardon?’ I asked. ‘Too early!’ he yelled, indicating my pass still on the reader. ‘Oh, what time is it?’ It was 9.28. ‘Oh, I suppose you want me to get off?’ ‘Either that or pay the fare!’ ‘How much is it?’ £2.50! ‘I’ll get off!’ picking up my pass.

I smiled sweetly at him whilst thinking ‘jobs worth!’ but then had some sympathy, as he wouldn’t have been able to issue me a ‘free ticket’ before 9.30. It was mainly his manner that had annoyed me, but I had been about the fifth person to plonk my bus pass down and so he must have been rather exasperated. He did seem a little surprised that I had chosen to get off as the other pensioners had paid up, but I was on an economy drive and wasn’t going to pay £2.50 to travel less than two miles. Perhaps my imagination, but I’m sure he had rather a sheepish expression on his face as he closed the doors, but a smile and a few kind words cost nothing!

As the bus pulled away I was aware of a bus heading in the opposite direction, but standing at the bus stop directly opposite. The driver poked his head out of the window, called over to me and asked if I knew the location of the community centre. I gave directions and realised he was repeating them to someone who had alighted from his bus and as he pulled away I saw the passengers, one with a white stick and the other with a guide dog.

Counting my blessings I sighed and walked across the road, thinking ‘well, I’ve missed one bus, so what difference will it make if I miss another’. The lady with the stick took my arm and the one with the dog walked behind as we slowly made our way to the Community Centre. I gathered they were attending the first coffee morning for blind and partially sighted people at the centre and so had never been there before. I saw them safely inside and hurriedly made my way back to the bus stop and by a stroke of luck was in time to catch the next bus! On my journey into town I mused that indeed it is an ill wind that that blows nobody good – and apart from that I was feeling better about the earlier incident and pleased that I had done something useful instead of just idly wasting time.

So it was that I was now standing at the bus stop at the hospital, wondering if I should get on and face the wrath of the driver or remain at the stop for the next bus. By now the anaesthetic was wearing off and my eye was becoming quite painful, so I tentatively stepped onto the bus. ‘Am I too early to use my bus pass?’ ‘Are you going into town, love?’ I nodded. The young Pakistani looked kindly at me and said, ‘your pass won’t register yet, but just get on – it’s fine!’ I thanked him profusely and headed into town from where I could connect with my bus home. I wondered what Mr Grumpy would have done?

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willosworld

Born in Liverpool at the end of WW2, but raised in Skelmersdale. I first studied art in Southport from 1960-63 and worked in graphic design till I married. In December 1969 I moved to Zambia with my husband and two young children. There I taught art in the local girls school, illustrated for the National Correspondence College and did all sorts of other artwork, paid and unpaid. In 1978 I divorced and remarried in the summer of 1980. In 1985 I became ill and the following year cancer was diagnosed. There was no treatment available in Zambia and so I had to go to the UK. After recovering from a radium needle implant I went back to Zambia, but 18 months later the cancer recurred and it was off to the UK again for radical surgery. This time I realised I must stay in the UK where treatment was available, so I never returned to Zambia nor my husband. A few months later I applied for a degree course, but two years later the disease metastasised and I spent most of my final year in and out of hospital. It’s been a long hard road, but I’m still plodding on and it is now 24 years since my last cancer treatment. Because of my experience of cancer and surviving against the odds, I try and help others cope with their devastating diagnosis and prognosis.

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