Strange Bus Trip: The Number 15 And Hot Pastries

April 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?



  1. This was a great example of my old axiom that “every blessing is also a curse”. The good manners that preserve peace for everyone also lead to this sort of suffering in silence unjustly.

    I feel the way about smoking that you do about meat, but try explaining that in Germany, the Czech Republic or the rest of Eastern Europe. They just think you’re a snob.

    A good read, Pie.

    • Thanks, Mikey. That means a lot coming from you.

      I know what you mean about the smoking. It’s funny. Although I’m a non-smoker, it didn’t bother me too much if I was in a pub or at a concert. I just accepted it as part of the atmosphere. Since we’ve had the smoking ban for the last nearly three years, I have found myself much less tolerant of it, especially when I’m walking behind a smoker in the street and their smoke is blown back at me.

  2. Well, I’ve seen and heard of strange things happening on the bus but this would be one of the stranger ones – I mean the offering of food to you…although, I suppose she had no idea how you were feeling, did she?

    I’m just trying to think what I would do in such a situation. My thinking would probably go along the lines of “Oh god, I’m going to throw up. Oh no, oh no, oh…I’ve got no option but to change seats”.

    I suppose I’d also be thinking it’s my intolerance of the smell that is at the bottom of this. I mean, I’d resent the fact that this was happening but they have got a right to carry food on the bus, no?

    I know for sure that I’d get out of my seat quick smart because I do get queasy very easily.

    You have my sympathies (or should that be empathies?)!

    • Empathy or sympathy, I’ll take it all!

      My tolerance of it was the mistake. Usually, I would’ve nipped it in the bud. Changing seats would’ve been a last resort. As they were at a premium and I’d been on that bus a long time. I didn’t see why I should move because of the smelly bag. That story is an example of the lack of awareness people have of their environment. I don’t expect mind readers, but I do expect a little thought and perhaps some common sense. But perhaps that’s too much to ask. Mind you, encounters like these do feed my blog, so there’s an upside to everything!

  3. ahh the strange people who ride buses. Very very odd thing to do.. . .

    • Hello, Nic. Thanks for having a look at my blog. People on buses are strange… including me!

  4. Hmm, a tricky one, I’m lucky enough to have an appalling sense of smell, but I think this would have sorely tested even my insensitive nostrils!

    Did you ever take a peek inside the bag?

    • Absolutely not! My nose was already being assaulted. I could at least save my eyes. Thanks for visiting my blog, Magicdarts. Hope to see you again soon.

  5. That is such an odd phenomenon to just put something…anything… next to someone else. why would anyone even consider that?

    • *shrugs* You’re asking the wrong person, Oma. I don’t get it either.

  6. Hahaha! 😀

    This is a funny story! If I were on a bus, and someone put a meat pie next to me, that meat pie is gone. I love meat pies. Especially pork pies! 🙂

    But look on the bright side. At least it wasn’t a bag of cheesy tacos.

    • I don’t know why you were sent to the approve comments sin bin, Mall Cop. You’re a regular and most welcome commentator. Must be a quirk of WordPress. Hopefully it won’t happen again.

      I think cheesy tacos would’ve had me jumping out of the window. It’s not food, it’s wrong. Wrong, I tell you.

  7. London commuting cracks me up, the buses and tubes are packed full of complete nut cases. I would have assumed it was mine from the start and eaten it.

    • Hello Glen. Welcome to my blog. I like the way you are able to see an opportunity in any situation!

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