Today didn’t start well. Ok, so I’m lucky enough to live in the part of the country that isn’t suffering snow and gale-force winds, but it was cold, dark and wet, and has no apparent intention of redressing any of these issues. My train did the same trick as yesterday, sitting outside Oxford station for 10 minutes and forcing me to miss my usual bus… yet, when I got to the station entrance there were two No 5s waiting. I thought my luck had changed.
The Oxford Bus Company drivers fall into two very distinct categories. There are the incredibly helpful drivers, the ones who greet you with a warm hello, who smile and address you with terms of endearment most often found only in the Big Book of Bus Driver Stereotypes. These are the drivers who will note that your season ticket is of the “plus bus” variety, make the connection that you therefore bought it at the train station and are probably wanting to go there right now, and tell you that they’re stopping short of your destination, rather than just suddenly announcing “everybody off” when they hit High Street. These are the type for whom I have warm fuzzy feelings, having seen them orchestrate complex passenger exchanges via walkie talkie to ensure their wards arrive at destination as quickly as possible and with least exposure to the elements. They are the “white knights” of the bus driving world!
The rest of the drivers fall into the other camp. They’re not “black knights” as such, neither malicious nor vindictive, more akin to sulky teenagers. They’re sullen and often barely acknowledge your presence (though I’ve discovered that if you get fed up with being ignored enough to try to carry on past them onto the bus they suddenly become very aware of your being there!) and unhelpful in every way. These are the drivers who do not wait for their elderly passengers to be seated before driving jerkily away – because their timetable is far more important than passenger safety. (Again, I don’t think this is a vindictive thing, more a case of utter obliviousness). These are the drivers who fail to tell you they’re not actually going to the destination advertised on the front of the bus, but stopping 10 minutes walk away, and if you want to catch your train, you’d better be prepared to run for it. They are the dark clouds that dampen your day.
Guess which I got this morning.
My bright “Morning!” was met with a barely audible sort of grunt, and I was waved onto the bus with a cursory glance at my pass. Having barely looked up from his paper, the driver had obviously had no opportune moment to inform me that his bus wasn’t actually going anywhere for 10 minutes, while the one behind him was ready to depart.
10 minutes may not sound like much, but when I get off my train late it is the difference between 7.50 and 8am. At 7.50 the roads are still relatively quiet (I say relatively – it’s still a city!) and I can be at my desk by 8.15 latest. Which means I can work an extra 15 minutes of my lunchtime, still leave at 4pm and be on the 16.36 train. I’ll be home by 17.30.
At 8am the world and his wife leave for work and school. The roads are chock full of traffic, the buses chock full of school kids, retail and office workers. As we met High Street this morning, a collective of white vans had parked in such a way as to block the buses from passing, adding precious minutes to our journey time. Further along High Street a coach had stopped, but not pulled in far enough to let us pass. Thanks to the roadworks going on further up the street the centre islands were marked off by cones, leaving us stranded for another few precious minutes…
Thankfully, one of those white knight bus driver types was coming in the other direction. He maneuvered his bus, wound down his window and moved the cones to allow us to pass. See – helpful!
The upshot of these delays was me arriving at work at gone 8.30am. This means I’ll have to leave after 4.30pm, at which time the traffic is always heavy enough to make catching the 17.07 highly unlikely. I’ll have to wait for the 17.36, getting me in about 18.30 and adding up to a 12 hour day.
That 10 minutes difference in the morning adss an hour on to my day.
Do you see why I get so wound up about this?