I like catching buses. Of all the modes of public transport, the bus is my favourite. As a matter of fact, I will go out of my way to avoid all other modes if buses will get me to my destination.
I have reasons for liking buses over other forms of public transport. The people who use buses are generally friendly and polite, you can only cram so many people on to a bus before the bus driver deems the bus to be full, and more often than not, the buses are air conditioned, clean and comfortable.
I have also had some bad experiences with trains. I was yelled at by fellow passengers for no reason, squashed like a sardine almost unable to breathe because there is seemingly no limit as to how many people could fit into a train carriage, and almost fainted from heat exhaustion inside steaming hot carriages with sealed windows and no air flow on piping hot days. And don’t even get me started on cleanliness (or lack of) inside the train carriages.
So it was with utter disgust that I had to witness an incident on my bus this morning that almost made me re-evaluate how I would be getting to work in future.
The bus I catch to work is the wonderful 200 express bus that runs between Chatswood Station and Bondi Junction. I have been catching this bus on and off for the past 5 years with very few not-so-happy experiences (like the times when the buses have failed to arrive for whatever reason). I like this bus because it is usually air conditioned and clean, and I can usually get a seat at any time of the day. There are a large number of regulars who are of the same opinion as me, who I see almost every day of the week.
One of my fellow passengers is a loud man who alights the bus just outside North Sydney Girls High (2 stops after my stop). A pudgy looking man, he has a flamboyant style about him and I’ve often seen (and heard) him talk to fellow passengers in an outlandishly animated way. Most of all, his features remind me of Sir Topham Hatt, aka The Fat Controller from Thomas the Tank Engine.
I have never really got a good vibe about this arrogant little man. First impressions matter and he certainly did not make a good one with me. I have had the distinct misfortune of sharing a seat with him, where he sat at an angle and crossed his short legs, and leaned back into me like I was a seat cushion. Admittedly, I had never spoken to him in my life, but from what I’d seen (and heard), he appeared to be a shallow little man with a nasty streak. And today, my instincts proved correct.
This morning’s bus was packed to the rafters. I was running late, and ended up on a slightly later bus than usual. There weren’t that many seats available when I first got on the bus, so I counted myself lucky to get a seat at all. The bus driver let in as many North Sydney Girls as he could, so we were jam packed as we headed towards North Sydney.
At the NSGH stop, the students poured out of the bus, and in came The Fat Controller and his fellow passengers, one of whom was a middle-aged lady with a few heavy looking bags. At the front of the bus sat a mother with her young primary-school-aged son, who would have been getting off at the next stop anyway (the kid was wearing a school uniform that belonged to the school at the next stop). The Fat Controller got on the bus before the middle-aged lady, and as he did, he told the mother her son should stand for the lady with the bags.
As he said this, the Fat Controller walked to the next row of seats, and sat down in the last seat available.
To say the mother got upset is an understatement. And boy did she blow up at the Fat Controller.
The mother launched into the Fat Controller, saying that he had no right to speak to her the way he did, and that the lady herself had not asked to sit down. The mother said had the lady asked for the seat herself, she would have stood up and given up her seat. The fact that the Fat Controller took it upon himself to ruin the day for the mother and son was too much for the mother to handle. She screamed and ranted at the Fat Controller, and unfortunately for her, the only time that the entire bus heard the incident was when she started screaming. The sympathy was misdirected to the Fat Controller, making him look like the hero in every right, when it was him who stirred up the hornets’ nest in the first place.
I felt so sorry for the mother. But I was too scared to say anything loudly. The only "chicken" thing I did was to say in a loud whisper directed at the Fat Controller, "YOU could have stood up for the lady". In my head, I was screaming all sorts of things at him.
I wanted to say to him, "Wow, how chivalrous of you to give up your seat for the lady. Oh, wait, you didn’t. So instead, you’re doing the real man thing and pick on a woman and a child. What a hero to do such a thing. If you want to appear like a real hero, get up off your fat ass and let someone else sit down, instead of pontificating to others whilst seated. Who died and made you the Fat Controller anyway?"
The mother’s subsequent behaviour left a lot to be desired. She ran after the bus and pounded on the window after she and her son got off the bus. Scared the daylights out of everyone, including the Fat Controller, but by this time, everyone on the bus was siding with him. Everyone except for me. Oh, how I simmered and wanted to say something at him. If I wasn’t running so late, I would have hurled my abuse and got off the bus in disgust to make my point.
I am going to make a huge effort to not be on the same bus as him in the future. Seeing the Fat Controller’s face will just leave a foul taste in my mouth that I will carry around all day. Jerk!