Strange Bus Trip: The Number 25 And The Old Somali WomanNovember 28, 2010
The number 25 is one of my least favourite buses of old London Town, mainly because it’s a bendy bus. Bendy buses are nasty, smelly, single-decker snakes of doom. It’s possibly the only bus that makes me hanker for a gas guzzling, fuck-the-environment beast of a car. Boris, our esteemed mayor has returned some of the routes to a sensible double-decker (welcome back, number 73), but here in Tower Hamlets, we continue to be packed like cattle, becoming unofficial testers for the efficacy of deodorant (or lack of, in most cases).
Today, I had to take the number 25 and I was not looking forward to it. I boarded the cattle truck, which became more crowded as the journey went on. The doors opened at the next stop and a group of Somali women crammed on, chatting to each other. One of them was louder than the rest. I couldn’t see who it was, but after a while the loud one was ushered to a rare vacant seat by one of the other members of the group, and then I saw her. She was an old woman, a very old woman, probably 80 or 90. And she was a screecher.
The bus would be mostly silent or humming with chatter when suddenly, the calm would be broken like a siren in the night as she’d screech in what appeared to be high agitation. Sometimes she’d shoot up from her seat and babble even faster and at a higher pitch. Surely, it would only be a matter of time before she’d screech at a pitch that only dogs could hear. Another women in the group who I assumed was her daughter had the unenviable task of calming her down. I felt her embarrassment as some of the passengers either gave the old woman the evil eye, or sniggered because she sounded like one of Terry Jones’ female characters from Monty Python. This went on for 10 stops, or 15 minutes before I stepped off and left the lucky remaining passengers to it.
I really am going to have to learn to drive.