On Buses

I’ve travelled on many buses in the last few weeks. Nothing new in that. I often catch buses in Melbourne. But I’ve noticed differences. For a start, passengers here can bring their dogs on board and I’ve grown fond of that. And locals, young and old, do all they can to avoid sitting near the front. It’s as if they’ve come to expect audience participation might be required. And on these bus trips I usually spend some of the time going backwards. The roads are narrow and there are always vehicles coming in the opposite direction. So when the bus gets to a skinny bit, we snap into reverse, sometimes for a hundred metres or more, just so the driver can find room to pass.

But on the routes that connect the smaller towns to even smaller villages, the differences have been more pronounced. Like the time I asked a local about the right bus to catch. “No don’t be getting on that one”, she said to me. “The Number 8 won’t take you where you want to go.” I was confused. The sign on the front of the bus said it would. So I fished for more information. “But what about that sign?” I asked, “that’s the name of the place where I’m going”. “Of yes sure enough”, she said to me, “But that’s only the direction it’s heading in. Don’t be expecting it to go all the way”.

Or that other time when another helpful local said, “You’ll be wanting to catch the 585. So just stand next to the statue in the Town Square. I’m not sure from which way the bus will come. There are a few possibilities. So best to keep an eye out in all directions. Then when you hear a bus, look to see if it’s yours, and if it is, attract the driver’s attention with a big wave or a shout. Once they’ve seen you, you’ll need to run to wherever they decide to stop. But if you miss it, don’t worry, you can try again in a couple of hours, when another bus is due to come through town”.

And much like on the buses back home I’ve heard the occasional, very tender exchange between one human and another that reminds me of the good in us all. Like the time on the Number 14 last week, when I heard the driver speaking to a passenger about his new granddaughter. “It’s in her eyes,” I heard him say, “they’re so blue and piercing and always dancing about. She’s only nine months old but she’s already certain there’s plenty of beauty on Earth worth looking at”. Listening to that driver in that moment, seeing the joy on his face, I couldn’t have agreed with his granddaughter more.