As a general rule I avoid public transport at all costs. Which isn’t entirely true, because I don’t mind trains, or trams, or boats, or planes – if you count any of those things as public transport. The thing I avoid is buses. I went through a phase in my life when I had to get a bus every day and they have an unrivaled ability to destroy one’s mood. A late bus in the morning can throw off your entire day. It’s somehow more frustrating to be stuck in traffic in a big metal tube with lots of strangers who don’t understand personal space or common courtesy than it is to be stuck in traffic in a small metal box alone. They always have someone (I don’t want to generalise to children here, because although they are regular offenders sometimes it’s the adults who are the worst) who is have a loud conversation that it takes every ounce of your patience not to interrupt. Given the choice I will walk, or if it really comes to it get a taxi, rather than stepping foot onto one of those things.
But it’s late. Work has been a nightmare, I haven’t eaten and I’ve spent all day looking out at beautiful blue skies which turned into torrential rain the second I stepped foot out of the office. I have limited cash and no access to a cash machine. Uber’s are still the stuff of legend in this city. It’s last resort time.
It pulls up. Green face mocking me. I feel the curses of the other passengers wash over me as I fumble with the change in my purse to find that extra 30p – because the price of a ticket wasn’t enough of a rip off before apparently, and it has to be raised. I step away from the driver and he lurches forward before I have the chance to take a seat. My wet hair swings around my face to slap me as I look up, praying for a free seat – a free double seat, although anything will do. There are already people standing, I don’t think it’s likely.
But there, nestled at the back is a chair, unoccupied by a fellow human. I make a beeline for it before I can question my choice or think too deeply about the reasons it may have been left vacant. I reach it. And before I sit I take in the man I am about to place myself next to. Pale skin, wide eyes, red hair. Painted on mouth and a bright red nose. Shoes that take up the entire footwell, and bright yellow polka dot braces.
I don’t know why there is a clown on this bus. At this point in my day I don’t have the mental energy to question it. I respond in the only way my poor, exhausted brain can handle at this point. I laugh.