The most exciting thing to ever happen on a Brighton bus...Thursday, 7 March 2013
A few weeks ago, I was pottering around in Brighton before I headed back to Ireland. I was meeting someone for lunch, and continuing my endless quest to find a new winter coat. It had snowed a few days before, and in the late afternoon the skies opened again. The sky was black, everyone was po-faced, and I just wanted to get out of there.
I can never remember when the bus back home runs, so I usually just rock up to the stop and see what the matrix says. 17 minutes. So I went into M&S to browse the food department.
Don't worry, the high octane drama kicks in really soon.
After a while, I went out to check the bus time. 17 minutes. Bastards. I decided to just wait at the stop, along with a growing crowd of people. The time changed to 18 minutes, then back to 17, where it lay idle for almost an hour.
It was cold, wet and miserable. Everyone was pissed off. Eventually, a bus pulled up, and the driver yelled
"EVERYONE ON! NO BUSES ARE LEAVING FROM HERE, I'LL TAKE YOU DOWN TO THE PAVILION!"
We piled on, not sure why the buses couldn't make the extra 400m up the hill in what was now only heavy rain.
When we got to the pavilion, there were hundreds of people waiting for buses. The shelters were all full, so we huddled under whatever bit of protection we could get.
After another 15 minutes, the bus arrived. A heaving mass of people pushed forward and got on. I was one of the lucky ones. Which is great, because I really didn't give a shit about anyone else in the world at that moment.
We all squished on, me fairly close to the front, before the driver decided that enough was enough, and he could take no more. A girl got on the bus, and he told her that it was full, and he couldn't take her.
"No. I'm sorry, I'm not getting off this bus. I'm freezing! I've been out there for an hour, seriously, I'm not getting off."
A confrontation began. The driver refused to leave until she got off. He had reached his limit of passengers, and wasn't going anywhere with her on the bus.
She insisted that there was loads of room, she was just a tiny little girl, and that he was the meanest bus driver in the world. She actually said that.
And thus begun the longest hour of my life.
People starting calling out from the back of the bus.
"Just get OFF! Stop being so selfish!"
Passengers started coming down from the top deck to see why the FUCK we weren't going anywhere. As I was stood near the stairs, this meant all the investigators were pushing past me.
The bus driver called the police.
At this stage, my mood lifted. I sensed that this was going to be a long, drawn out process that would divide passengers, bring out their true colours and maybe, just maybe, end in a song.
I was stood next to a teenage boy who, and I say this with love, was rather camp. If anyone was going to join me in a song, it was going to be him.
"Have you seen Les Miserables yet?" I asked.
"Noooo" he dismayed.
"Because there are literally five different songs we could sing right now that would apply to the situation. How quickly can you pick up a tune?"
We didn't sing. I mean, I hummed a little, but I'm afraid that's as musical as it got. I did come up with alternative lyrics to the songs to befit the scene.
Meanwhile, there was mutiny afoot. A hippy student got in to defend the girl, and I groaned. More angry women came down from the top of the bus to yell some more.
One man decided that he was going to sort this shit out, and sort it once and for all.
"If you just say the word, I'll remove her from this bus"
"Whoa, there!" I called. "Don't get carried away."
"It can be a citizen's arrest, with appropriate force. I know you can't remove her, but I can."
He then got all up in the girl's face, calling her a selfish young lady and everything.
Things were getting real.
The bus was divided, as predicted. Half of them blamed the bus driver, and thought he was being pedantic. Half were furious with the girl who had caused such a massive delay to an already strenuous journey. We waited for the police.
Not surprisingly, they weren't in that much of a hurry.
After around 45 minutes, the heat was on. Figuratively, of course, because the actual heat had been turned off.
The cries from the back were starting to pick up speed. I'd moved back when a few people got off the bus, happy to avoid any more asses being pressed into me as people shoved past. I was starting to look at people's laps enviously, wondering how much they would object if I perched upon them.
"Some of us have kids at home!"
"I have a babysitter to get back to!"
"There are pregnant women back here!"
Actually, that last one was me. And I had to mutter the word "Probably" afterwards, because it was a little bit of a lie. But I caught a girl's eye who laughed when I said it, so I then got a bit carried away.
"There's a diabetic here who needs insulin!"
"My waters are breaking!"
"I have food poisoning!"
Nothing helped, anyway. Even with people getting off the bus, the driver still refused to go anywhere. I can kind of see why, to be honest. I bet he gets so much shit day to day, that when he makes a decision, he should stick with it.
Then the police arrived. Well, the community service voluntary police (sigh). Even then, we didn't move for ages. They had to talk to both the driver and the police. I told some women sitting near me that they needed to take statements from all of us. That was just to amuse myself for a few more minutes.
When they removed her from the bus (the bolshy guy was a bit dismayed with the lack of force, I think) we were on our way. We'd been on the bus for an hour, going absolutely nowhere.
We then got stuck in a traffic jam so horrific that it was on the news. The journey took an extra 90 minutes.
But I think we all learnt a little something. We all got a little closer. And as for me? I met a man on that bus who would soon become my husband.
Now THAT would make a good story.