People on the bus – Making the world a better place – Part two

So I’m driving home from work and I’m listening to the wireless and the Home service Radio 4.

People on the bus
Nobody talking

The programme being broadcast was about a newspaper editor from Zimbabwe and how he is adapting to life as an asylum seeker in the UK. One of the main differences, he pointed out, between Harare and the UK was how people didn’t seem to talk to each other on public transport.

Now surprisingly, this guy lives in Leeds which is a good deal away from London where I believe such practices as ignoring ones fellow passengers is common place. It kind of shocked me and my Northern mind set because I’d always thought of the south as being a bit….well you know….”insular” when it comes to talking to complete strangers. Indeed, I’m quite happy to sit there with my earphones in (sometimes without anything attached at the other end) to avoid the weirdo on the bus or being assailed by some elderly person wanting to tell me about their gout.

And that got me thinking.

Sometimes I don’t mind talking to complete strangers on the bus or in the pub or where ever. Sometimes it’s nice to get chatting about things. Why don’t we do it more often? What stops us? Fear of a stabbing? Fear of being converted into some mind numbed zombie from a Nigel Kneale story? Wasps?

I think the main reason for our inherent phobia of talking to people on public transport is fear of extreme views. Nobody likes to be trapped by someone spouting vitriolic hate or outlandish views. A case in point could be the time when Jim and I went to the Brewery Tap at the Cains Brewery in Liverpool.

We  got chatting to a seemingly jovial chap at the bar. He seemed ok, typical of the populace of the city. Friendly banter, John Lennon anecdotes, Billy Butleresque memories. However, the chat swiftly switched from idle scouse chit chatty banter to a strong antisemitic nationalist rant where one would have expected the gentleman to start waving his arm about a la Hitler at the Nuremberg Rally.

Then another case in point is the guy who once cornered me on the 78 and started talking about how the government controls the populace through the covert use of prescription medication.


So yeah, I can understand that people don’t really want to talk to each other on the bus for those reasons in illustration. But surely not everyone is like that. It seems people’s first reaction to someone talking to them on the bus or train or in the pub is one of suspicion and distrust.

This is my bus
This is my bus

Who is this weird person? How dare they talk to me? Are they going to knife me? Might they not try to  bum me? Or maybe stick me in a dark cellar where I will be forced to eat marmite and parsnips until the day I die?

I know I’m not likely to force anyone into eating parsnips or marmite. I don’t even have a cellar. I suppose that coupled with the fear of being attacked by marmite wielding weirdos comes the fear that they themselves would be labelled a weirdo. Fear, as they say in Dune, is the mind killer.

Then I thought, what is needed is a kind of badge system. Like say a green badge for “I’m happy to talk to anyone” and a red badge for “Fuck off weirdo”. So those with green badges can sit and yatter away to their hearts content and the red badge wearers can scowl and frown and listen to their music or whatever without interruption. It could even be a registered thing so that should you like talking to someone then you take down the number on the badge and look them up on the internet when you get home or what ever.

There could also be a voting system like say badge wearer #473083 is very interesting and like prawns so people who like to talk about prawns (there are a lot of people that do) can look out for #473083 on their travels. Furthermore, one might get talking to #23932 and find out they are one of those religious zealot types that want to turn everything into some discussion about Jesus or whatever. You know, like :-

Person #48909823 – “So do you like tea?”
Person #23932 – “I do. In fact in the book of Ba’at chapter 30 it says ‘And the lord didst partake in tea and verily there was much rejoicing’. I like tea almost as much as I like Jesus. Jesus can be your friend. Oh yes he can. Do you know Jesus? He is your friend. He is you know.”

So the person #48909823 could go and say person #23932 likes to turn everything you talk about into something about Jesus and then people who prefer to talk about Jesus all the time can talk happily to #23932 while those that don’t can talk to whoever else.

What do you think?

Of course such a scheme would require some more thinking out. But I reckon it would work well. Especially with the technology of the day.

This is, of course a giant leap to make in a society which we need to make happier and better. I suppose we can make a start by chatting, at least once a day, to a complete stranger. Just be nice. Don’t say anything controversial or boring. Just something brief, engaging and relevant to your situation. Say it with a smile rather than a frown. Or perhaps just say “Hey, Do you know Stegzy Gnomepants? He writes on the intarwebz”

Next time I will tell you more about how we can make the world a better place.


Questions questions

Are you one of those people that attach yourself to a member of staff and can not possibly go a day without asking some inane question?

Do think REALLY hard about a suitable question to ask?

If you asked two questions does that mean you have reached some sort of nirvana? If you don’t ask a question will your head explode?

Through out my customer service career I have been able to identify at least twenty individuals who cannot go a day without contacting either myself, the helpdesk, the inquiry desk or a shop counter to ask some needless question.

Some of these people do it like clockwork. They come in at the same time every day and ask a question. Others do it completely at random often catching you off guard.

Let me give you some examples:-

HALFORDS – when I worked in Halfords we used to have this guy who would come in to the shop every Saturday and look at the bicycles. He would accost one of the members of staff and enter a dialogue with them about why Raleigh were not as good as Peugeot and how Carrera were poor compared to Dawes. He was clearly a lonely person, I believe he eventually got a job there in the end.

THE SOLICITORS – At the solicitors there was a family which everyone that worked there knew. Nothing was ever their fault and the council had some how singled them out for persecution. They made a living out of compensation claims and kept the firm comfy in legal aid commissions well into the mid nineties. If a day went by when one of them didn’t come in to enquire about an on going case of theirs they would probably be being visited by the duty solicitor at the local police station in regard to some packets of bacon that somehow got planted on them by vindictive shop staff. Theory was that they did this to save on fuel costs at home.

THE OFF LICENCE – Every night. Rain, wind or snow, Mikey would come in. Yes Mikey. He would introduce himself to new members of staff and would frequently stay behind the protective shop screens (some offlicences in the UK have protective screens to protect the stock and staff from violent piss heads and druggies) and talk about cabbages or how the foreigners were taking over or how Thatcher was the slag bitch from hell or some such. Mikey was very lonely. I suspect he is even lonelier now as the Offy on Allerton Road (not far from where the long lamented Livejournaller celticblissy lives) closed long ago.

THE CHURCH CLUB – Now here I met lots of people like that, but as the place was a drinking establishment I suppose it goes without saying you’d get regular people coming in at the same time every night (usually about 10:45pm) having the same drinks (usually Guinness) and then going home drunk at the same time (usually 3 in the morning). Usually in their cars.

THE CIVIL SERVICE – When I was a civil servant there was an inspector who would ring at the same time every day to ask if he had any post or if there was some staples he could have or if I could order him something from stores. The same time. Every day. Without fail. Even when he was off on holiday or at a conference. He was lonely too come to think of it.

THE UNIVERSITY #01 – Simon Blackman. Business School. Every day. Without fail. Something would go wrong. Or he would have to check if there was anything wrong. Or if we could do something on his behalf. One time he tricked us by pretending he’d called the wrong department by accident. There was no fooling me. I knew. I knew he was a sad lonely sod. I had the opportunity to visit his office one day when I was doing my virus disabling service. He conveniently wasn’t in his office when I called. Almost as if he was just simply a disembodied voice trapped in the archaic telephonic network.

THE UNIVERSITY #01 – Joy Ball. Anaesthesia. Possibly the most annoying person in the world. Every day. No matter what job I was doing in the office (for those that don’t know/remember/care the job rotated between dealing with telephone queries, dealing with email queries and dealing with desk queries) she would somehow get through to me. Her voice was so recognisable. I remember being ULTRA rude to her in an effort to get her to cease calling with her stupid stupid questions like “Oh my monitor doesn’t work” (have you tried turning on the power?), “Oh noes my mouse is on the wrong side of the desk” (No I won’t send out an engineer) and “Aieee, there’s something wrong all my emails have gone from my deleted items folder” (Well that’s what happens when you delete things duck). But she would call every day. Even when I wasn’t in. With stupid questions. Stupid stupid questions. It got to a point where she would just say “Department of Anaesthesia here” and I’d just say “Oh hello Joy”. When I left the job I thought I’d seen the last of her, but she came back…as a different person….as you will read later.

THE UNIVERSITY #01 – Student X. Student X would come to the helpdesk at the library every day to enquire about books. I think he thrived on the confirmation that it was a Computer helpdesk he was enquiring at and not a library support desk. Four years this went on for. He was a medic. He’s probably some sort of Surgeon now.

6th FORM COLLEGE – It must have been written into their job description to pester me with something inane every day. Even if it was just to enquire about what I’d got up to over the weekend. The difference was she fancied me. **sigh**

6th FORM COLLEGE – I must be disabled because my in built people tracking device does not work. You have a functioning one don’t you? It is just me that doesn’t isn’t it? Well had mine been working I would have been able to furnish Martin with the location of my boss while I was having lunch. The answer phone message, the sign on the door and the signatures of the emails stated clearly that the helpdesk was closed every day between 12 and 12.30. Every day. But that didn’t stop him from calling, emailing or knocking at the door when nobody answered the telephone/replied to enquire if my boss was in. I suspect that Martin and my boss were having illicit bum sex in the media building.

6th FORM COLLEGE – Joy Ball. Joy Fucking Ball. No…not Joy Ball from University #01. A different Joy Ball. A Joy Ball by marriage so probably completely unrelated. She was my bosses bosses boss. Because of this status she would ring. Every day. With a thankless task/job/non-urgent-but-urgent thing to do for me. My boss wished she would FOAD. I wished she would FOAD while my boss was FingOADing too. One day I just told her straight. She was a clueless over paid fucktard. In a nice way though. So I kept my job. She persisted less.

THE UNIVERSITY #02 – I thought I’d escaped it. But no. Here there are at least ten different people that all cannot allow an opportunity to ask a question pass by. I know them by name. They have me on their facebook. They are probably reading this. Are they lonely? I don’t know. Are they having illicit bumsex with my boss? I doubt it. Are they just weird? I couldn’t possibly comment. Are they you? Maybe.


So if you are one of those types of people that have to ask the same people the same or similar questions on a regular basis. Do you ask because if you don’t you will explode? Are you just lonely? Are you weird? Or do you think that people that do my type of job are put on this earth to make sure you’ve washed behind your ears and that you’re wearing the right undergarments for the day?


Do you have a weirdo magnet? Do you? Do you know what a weirdo magnet is? Have I just made that phrase up?

Case Study #1

You are sat on a bus. The bus is fairly empty. There are a few double seats free and a few people on the bus travelling with you. The bus stops. A passenger gets on. They could be unkempt, well dressed, dressed as Bozo the Clown or whatever. Of all the seats on the bus they sit next to you.

They then turn to you. Smile. Open their mouth to speak and say “They told me about the parsnips you know”

Your immeadiate reaction is “WTF!” but out of politeness you smile back and answer “Did they?”

You are now at the mercy of the weirdo.

Case Study #2

You are out having a quiet drink with some pals. Midway through the conversation someone comes near. Sits on a seat within earshot. Nothing is said.

Then midway through an indepth conversation about your friends trip to Atlantis the someone says….”I once went to Bognor Regis” unintelligably. You all smile politely and return to your conversation. Alas you are foiled. That smile was a fateful ticket to Interuptsville. “My wife had gout” they continue.

You are at the mercy of the weirdo. There shall be no escape.

Case Study #3

Walking innocently down the street (yeah you know walking….that thing you do with out wheels…radical I know but stay with me). You see someone walking toward you. Well….walking…maybe swaying….swaggering….teetering….how about stumbling? Or even striding….you look to see if you can cross the road. You can’t theres too much traffic. The someone is getting closer. They mightnt have seen you. You might be safe.

You arent.

They approach. They look at you.

“All the best and many more” they exclaim in a most threatening manner while waggling a nicoteen stained digit in your general direction

“I want my mum!” you proclaim

Alas. The weirdo has struck. You are at their mercy.

Men. Women. Even children. They come in all genders, ages, social status and ethnicities. Gurbling their weirdness at you. Trapping you with their over friendliness….Why do they home in on you?

I’ll tell you….

…come closer…..

and the truth shall set ye free

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