As you press your Oyster Card or Freedom Pass against the card reader when you board the bus, the driver rarely gives you a second, or even first, look. He or she is often staring resolutely ahead. Yesterday, for me, the experience was quite different. I guess it was one of those random acts of kindness that bring a bit of hope and joy to our lives.
Firstly, I was greeted with a word of welcome and eye contact. Then after three of four stops there was an announcement over the loudspeakers that the bus was going to be held back to ‘regulate the service’. At this point the driver got out of his cab – an extreme rarity these days – marched to the middle of the buggy parking area and told the dozen or so passengers that he had been instructed by the controller to wait six minutes. He then said that was a crazy suggestion (or other polite words to that effect) and as we were all busy people with places to go, he would partially ignore this instruction, wait a minute and a half to show willing and then move off.
He then produced as if by magic a tea caddy which was full of sweets, and proceeded to walk the length of the single decker to give every passenger a sweet. Given that he still had a minute or so to wait, he then told us about how TfL (Transport for London) had banned him (and no doubt a few others) dressing as Father Christmas in the run up to the big day. He went on to say that he had done this for the last 5 years with no objections, and that whilst his company (owned by the Dutch state-owned railway company – I won’t even get started on this theme) had no problem, TfL had objected and he would face the sack if he disobeyed this instruction.
Cue much sympathetic murmuring about the intransigence of unseen bureaucracy and the health and safety brigade. In addition the driver said that a number of people consciously aimed to catch the ‘shopping bus’ he drives – his preferred, less stigmatising name for the mobility bus – because of his outfit and decorations.
And with that we were away once more, the passengers with smiles on their faces, and for me an ambition to say a clear and un-mumbled ‘thank you’ when I got off. A small act of kindness, tinged however with the regret that somehow some people were conspiring to stop others deriving pleasure from harmless activities.
I’ll leave you to come to your own thoughts!