Have you ever been on your own on a bus? I was the other day and it was weird because it was the usually busy, 3:15 one and yet there was no on else on it except me and the driver. The bus huffed and puffed at the bus station for several minutes before we realised no one was boarding. Instantly I thought to myself how embarrassing it would be if the driver struck up conversation with me. I shouldn’t have thought it, shouldn’t have let the mere idea poke its toe into my consciousness because guess what happened?
DRIVER: Guess it’s just you and me today then?
DRIVER: You been at work?
DRIVER: You off out tonight?
As you can see, I am exceptionally bad at small talk. I hate it. Even at the hairdressers where I’ve been going for years, where I know and like the staff, I still mumble a vague precis of my plans for the weekend whilst avidly scanning the pages of Heat magazine.
I prayed for someone else to get on the bus. I searched desperately through my bag for some kind of deterrent, some kind of armour but my bag remained bookless and free of my MP3 player.
I thought the conversation would die once we got going but no, the driver proceeds to tell me, with great difficulty above the rumbling engine, all about how he trained as welder but found that he could earn more by being a bus driver. I learnt, brokenly, all about the politics behind his welding job and that his bosses were trying screw him out of money. Meanwhile, lush green fields zoom past; sunny beer gardens filled with laughing , Friday afternoon boozers swim by and I remain trapped on the bus, talking to the driver.
He doesn’t even shut up when – finally! – another passenger climbs on board. He rattles off his life story which I punctuate with the odd “yes” or “really?” aware that the other passenger must think I’m the sort of weirdo who befriends bus drivers, that I’m one step away from standing next to them as they drive along, like a sort of vehicular conjoined twin.
As I get off, I thank him and he wishes me a good weekend. The ten minute journey could’ve been ten hours.
And the moral of this tale? Never leave home without a book/magazine/iPod.