Strange Bus Trip: The Number 15 And Hot PastriesApril 13, 2010
All around the world, even as I type this, people are travelling on buses for work or for pleasure. They arrive at their destination, usually without incident. But sometimes, they become a part of something so strange they find themselves scratching their heads hours after the event, asking: “Did that really happen?” A few weeks ago, I became that head scratcher.
I was on my way home from the west end on a number 15, sitting on the top deck by the window. It was the first warm, dry evening after months of cold, wind and rain. The bus was almost full and as we reached the Aldwych, more people got on. A couple moved along the aisle, sat behind me, then the man proceeded to place a bag smelling of the remnants of savoury pastry on the empty seat beside me. This seems to be a new trend on the buses of London, but I don’t put up with that nonsense. This is my usual response: without saying a word, I pick up their crap as soon as it hits the seat, turn around, return it and complete the transaction with a cold hard stare. They may cuss me behind my back afterwards in a language I don’t understand, but quite frankly, I couldn’t care less. I’ve set the boundary. They don’t do it again. Job done.
I was feeling déjà vu with the smelly bag, so I proceeded to follow the drill: pick it up, turn around, return it, give them the cold one. This man looked at me perplexed, as if it was the most natural thing in the world to put a smelly bag on the empty seat in front and wondered why I should question it. But question I did. After a brief exchange, it transpired that it wasn’t rubbish at all, but a bag with food in it, which he needed to set down. Why he couldn’t use his good knees to rest the food on is anyone’s guess, but feeling a little sheepish, I softened my stance, apologised and allowed him to place the bag on the seat beside me, thinking that as they’re tourists they won’t be on the bus for too long. Big mistake. I was now babysitting their food, which was starting to cool and because it was meat based, it didn’t smell good. The longer the journey, the colder the package became, the worse the smell, the more I wanted to heave. Just as I was getting to the point where I’d have to ask them to move the offending bag, or I bring up my lunch, the man suddenly picked it up. I breathed a sigh of relief, but it was short lived as his wife decided to sit down beside me with the now very smelly package. Within seconds, she offered the bag, asking in her halting English if I would like to take it home. I haven’t eaten red meat in nearly 25 years and that fetid bag was not going to change my mind. My English politeness (once I stopped giving them the skunk eye) had clearly touched her heart, but that nasty skanky pack didn’t touch mine. I politely declined. My Britishness got me into trouble, but it soon got me out of it again. I only had to wait for two more stops before they got off and I could breathe again.
It’s not too late to learn to drive, is it?