Tuesday, January 24, 2012
The wheels on the bus go round and round...
Because my husband is away at the moment, I had to catch public transport to the panelbeater's. What is normally a 25 minute drive took 1 hr and 40 minutes. Phew.
This is a bit memorable because for the first time in years I caught a Sydney bus. Stop laughing.
It's not that I'm a total car freak and never use public transport, because I enjoy taking the train into town, except for peak hour when it's seething with the great unwashed (sometimes literally I believe). The train isn't as awful for my sociophobia as the bus. The carriages are quite wide, and there seems to be a little more legroom between seats. Mostly I can get a seat to myself, and I can listen to music, look out the window or read, which is a lot less stressful than driving through Sydney traffic into the centre of the city. It's also a lot faster and stops a lot less often than the bus, so you get to where you're going quicker than by bus.
Unless of course you're going to somewhere the train doesn't service.
Travelling by bus used to be easy. You'd step on board, give the driver some money, he'd grunt and give you a ticket and change where appropriate, you'd find a seat or hang on for dear life to a strap and all would be well.
Now, however, several bus services and major interchanges are cashless. You have to buy your ticket in advance, and no, there are no ticket machines at the bus stop, even if it's a major interchange. That would be too bloody logical. You have to find someone who sells them, usually a newsagent.
I had a sinking feeling that the interchange at Parramatta station would be a PrePay one, so while walking to my own train station stopped at the newsagent for a bus ticket. She didn't have any single tickets, only packets of ten, and buggered if I'd pay $45 for a single bus ticket.
The ticket seller at my own station said some bus drivers would accept cash if you had coins and smiled nicely, but she also only sold packets of ten.
At Parramatta train station there were ticket machines selling tickets to anywhere, so I lined up only to find that none of them was for a bus service. By now I was starting to be not in a good shape. People all around, no bloody signs saying Buy Your Bus Tickets here. I made myself do some deep breathing and found a sign which looked initially unhelpful at the railway ticket office: We Do Not Sell Bus Tickets. Squinting, I made out a map underneath and ran over to it, discovering that the newsagent across the way in the station sold tickets.
When I said I wanted a single ticket to Gladesville that caused consternation. Where was Gladesville? I had to explain. I also felt a twit when I blurted out, "No, I don't know how many sections it is, I haven't taken the bus before!" and added quickly, "Not from here anyway."
Ticket finally in hand, I waited for the bus, hopped on, validated my ticket and like most of us as the bus was empty, got a seat to myself.
Two stops on a fat bloke got on board. I could be very PC and say he was morbidly obese but really, he was a fat bloke, almost as wide as he was tall.
To my horror, he thumped down next to me. Nearer the back of the bus were empty seats, lots of them, but obviously exercise like walking down to get to them wasn't his thing. I wondered briefly if he was a bit OCD and I was sitting in "his" seat, the one he always had.
I'd had the sociophobia under control but when a really big person sits within millimetres of me, so I can feel their body heat and almost their pulse, I tense up, and I did then, easing myself as close to the window as I could.
Then I had to put my hand over my mouth. Herbert! The pong! Not only fat, but smelly. Old body odour, maybe the same shirt for the third day running? Whatever it was - Whoof!
Cruel and possibly Nazi as it sounds, I pondered then and there the invention and senate approval and installation of Personal Hygiene Meters on public transport. Robotic, probably, with a sensor that takes a sample of the air closely around you as you walk on board. If you smell too offensive, the buzzer beeps and sorry, mate, you can't board. Not until you put some deodorant on or otherwise get rid of the pong. Or...ah...this is good...have a Stinky Section at the back of the bus and put all the stinkers together. Maybe that would help them realise how much their smell offends others. The Stinky Section would have extra aircon to draw the smell out.
The PHMs would be easy to police on buses, but perhaps a matter for the guard on trains. Stinkers go in the Stinky Carriage -! Yay!
Or... charge them extra. Make them pay for being offensive to others. >:-)
Anyway, Stinker got off at Rydalmere and I started to breathe again and expanded to fill a bit more of the space around me. Thankfully I managed to keep my seat to myself on a half-empty mid-afternoon bus, but I was glad to step off the bus and into the rain, and walk in fresh air to where Minerva was waiting for me. It's been a long month without my four-wheeled friend, but Jeez, was today a loooong afternoon!