Tuesday, June 09, 2009


Many moons ago (as is the way many of my tales begin) I had to go to see my doctor.
I hadn't then passed my driving test and was therefore reliant on London Transport or friends to chauffeur me to meetings, appointments and so on and unfortunately that day, all my friends were busy and I found myself awaiting a bus to get me around.
I'd been shopping in Ealing and had to catch a bus to take me the two mile journey which was normally quiet, quick and in general extremely unexciting.
I waited about ten minutes for the bus to arrive and once myself and the other passengers had settled in, off we went.
We trundled along the Uxbridge Road towards West Ealing at a leisurely pace and had stopped at the traffic lights while waiting to turn right onto Drayton Road (see map below) when things got rather more exciting than required.

Now, this part of the part of the story is important as it sets the scene for the events about to take place, so plz to pay attention.

The part of Drayton Road that the bus had to enter is very narrow and was not designed with buses in mind. It's one of those roads that has narrow, single lanes, and if anybody happens to dare to park at the side of the road, the traffic builds up very quickly and nine times out of ten, road rage ensues within seconds.
Also, there are no spaces where a car can pull over, let alone a bus, and nipping into a side street is certainly something impossible for any vehicle over ten foot in length.
Along this narrow stretch of the road is also where one of the bus stops are, and as it's the nearest stop to West Ealing Station, said bus stop is normally well frequented by passengers wishing to get on and off the bus.
There I was on the bus along with about thirty other passengers, all minding our own businesses and biding our time until it was time to get off and carry on with life once again.
Suddenly, our tranquility was shattered by a very large, noisy fire engine heading right towards the back of the bus and signalling that it also wanted to turn right, and unlike the bus, was in rather a hurry.
I was sitting very close to the bus driver and as the fire engine drew closer I noticed an expression of 'Oh, Fu*k!' settle on his features.
The bus driver had three options.
The first was to try and get out of the way of the fire engine by trying to turn back onto the Uxbridge Road, but as the other traffic was heavy, that would have taken far too long.
The second, was to enter Drayton Road and find somewhere to get out of the way or stop, but as I've explained (and the driver knew all too well) that was about as likely as winning the lottery twice in the same week.
The third option was to turn into Drayton Road and put his foot down and drive as safely as he could until the road was wide enough for the fire engine to overtake, and this was the option the driver took.
At the same time as the fire engine drew up behind the bus, the lights turned to green and the driver turned right with an expression of determination on his face. He knew that he had to a) look after his passengers and b) get out of the way ASAP, and I didn't envy him one iota.
The fire engine was coming up behind as fast as it could with blue lights flashing and sirens wailing; no-one could have failed to notice it and fortunately the traffic on the other side of the road did the best they could to get out of the way.
But the passengers on the bus must have either been on drugs or a planet all of their own as as we drew close to the bust stop, they rang the bell and got ready to get off.
Naturally, the driver did not stop. After all, what was more important; a few people missing their stop and having to walk a bit further and the people waiting having to wait another five minutes for another bus, or holding up a fire engine and possibly letting other people burn to death?
We went past the stop and began to pick up speed, and to my utter amazement, the passengers who had rung the bell began to ring the bell even more and also shout at the driver to stop the bus!
I caught the driver's eye and gave him a 'Hang on in there!' smile as about a dozen of the passengers began to walk up towards the front of the bus, all shouting at the driver and demanding that he stop the bus that instant!
There was still nowhere for the bus to stop and the driver could do nothing except drive as fast as he could while being harangued by pensioners and chased by a fire engine.
Faster and faster he went, and still there was nowhere safe to pull over, and another bus stop went by which upset the bradies to the point of waving their brollies in a most threatening manner at the poor driver, while all the time the lights of the fire engine flashed and the sirens wailed as loud as a banshee on crack.
At last the driver saw a space big enough to pull over in and yelled at the passengers to hold on tight or sit down if possible and he must have hit fifty MPH when he at last managed to slam the brakes on and let the fire engine past.
He managed to brake so gently that there was barely a shudder as the bus stopped and the poor chap slumped on the wheel, his face as white as an albino ghost.
I felt for him as I'd been in a similar situation before but not with the lives of thirty people to worry about at the same time.
But did any of the passengers say 'Well done' or 'Thank you!' for doing a brilliant bit of driving?
Of course not.
Instead they began to shout at him complaining that because of him, they now had to walk all the way back to where they were supposed to be and had missed the beginning of Countdown because of his 'stupid behaviour' and one bright spark managed to find a pen and paper on which to write down the drivers details and the names of all those passengers who wished to complain.
One thing I hadn't mentioned at the beginning of this story, is that the reason I was going to visit my GP was because my mother had just killed herself and I kept bursting into tears for hours on end as once I started to cry, I couldn't stop and I felt I needed some help.
Right there and then, all I felt was a huge bubble of pent-up emotion begin to well up inside me and as the stupid, petty-minded fucktards carried on complaining about missing their stop, the bubble burst.
I can't remember exactly what I said, but I do recall I said it calmly, but loudly and with a hint of menace.
In brief I told them that if the driver hadn't done what he had done, a family might have died - hadn't they seen the fire engine right behind the bus? Did they really think that the driver had missed their stops just to spite them? And to top it all, they should be thanking him for driving so very well that they, the passengers were all safely in one piece.
I them marched up to the officious twat with the list of names, snatched it out of his hands and tore it into confetti and threw it in the air.
Then I went to make sure the bus driver was alright and gave him a cigarette and packet of sweets that I'd found in my bag, told him 'Well done' and 'Thank you!' for driving so well and making sure we were all safe before marching off the bus and into the GP's surgery where I promptly burst into tears again.

To this day I still get edgy when I'm on a bus that starts speeding up and I never want to be stuck in front of a fire engine ever again either.
And I still can't figure out how people can be so stupid as to not notice a sodding great fire engine behind them, or how they can be so selfish as to worry about missing a stop when people could be dying.
Answers (if any) in the usual place, please.