I’m back in work, which is all very lovely, but it’s highlighted one of the more questionable aspects of my personality. I get rather excitable over things that I really shouldn’t. I’ll give you an example. I received an email today from a supplier telling me that we can expect a secure email integration in the next couple of weeks.
Exciting? Hardly. And yet I made a little squealy noise and actually clapped my hands together like I was trying to bring Tinkerbell back to life.”I do believe in fairies! I do! I do!”
It got worse. On my way home I went to my usual bus stop only to discover that it has been replaced with a brand spanking new state-of-the-art bus stop. WITH A SEAT! A nice seat, too. One that you can sit on, quite comfortably, with all your paraphenalia for a good 5 minutes. I could scarcely contain my glee.
Now, just to put you in the picture, I stopped driving a car in October 2009 (long story) and then by Christmas that year I decided I was quite happy without one. Let me tell you, my life has improved immesurably since I stopped driving and decided to let the train take the strain. Or, rather the bus.
I was always the worst kind of car owner. I hardly ever maintained a car properly, never checked the oil, frequently forgot to MOT it and once I filled a flat tyre with a can of foam and drove round on it for 6 months until it burst.
Driving made me smoke because I found it so stressful and the day my then 18-month-old daughter knew when to shout “Stupid bastard” at passing cars, I knew I had an anger problem when I was behind the wheel.
And so, discovering public transport was a squealy revelation to me. Instead of stressing and chain-smoking in a car while screaming abuse at my fellow commuters, I stroll to the bus stop, have a little clap of joy if the bus comes just as I’ve got to the stop, and sit in a state of total leisure while someone else worries about the road.
This is the lovely time of day when I can read the Metro, do a Sudoku or read a book. It’s completely marvellous. And to top it off, the bus stops right at the front steps to my office. I skip up them like a woman in a Charlie advert. Oh, joy unbounded.
Now, I just need to add a bit of perspective here. Public transport is not all completely lovely. The journey home requires some survival strategies as my bus goes through a part of town frequented by smelly, whiffy drunks who all seem to move to their next drinking hole at the same time I’m leaving work.
I always have a scarf that smells of nice clean washing in my bag and if a bin-whiff sits next to me, the scarf gets wrapped around my face like I’m a ninja and I give the offender the evil eye. If the smell is too much to bear I simply jump off the bus with a backwards sneer and get on the next one.
I almost got into trouble a few months back. I was looking forward to a little snooze in my favourite seat (4 rows back, near the emergency exit door, loads of leg room) on the way home when a drunk sat next to me. With an enormous bottle of cheap Scrumpy Lightning cider. He sat glugging the cider and belching ethery fumes all over me. At one point he attempted to wink at me. It was too much to bear.
I was about to start poking him and screaming “I want my money back! Give me my f***ing money, you tit. Either you’re independently wealthy or my hard earned f***ing taxes have paid for you to be pissed at 5.30pm. Tea time. Give me my f***ing money back!” when we got to my stop. Lucky for him we did.
But even this cannot taint my overall pleasure at going by bus. People who travel by bus are infinitely interesting in their diversity. You get businessmen in pin-striped suits sitting next to rough-arsed women with teeth like a row of bombed houses going to the market and students with man bags next to labourers in rigger boots. And they all get along wonderfully. I’ve even got a couple of bus buddies. There’s Bel and Ada, a pair of widowed pensioners, tax office girl, social worker guy, and my favourite, Donna, who works on the second floor in Primark (women’s underwear and household goods).
I’m also on nodding terms with an amazing office-worker woman who every day sits and applies a face full of make-up while she sits on the bus. It’s amazing to see and I can’t take my eyes off her. She carefully applies silver eyeshadow, pale grey mascara, no blusher and a shade of pink lipstick that I think was last made by Miss Selfridge in 1989 called “Iron Lady.” I feel like attacking her one day with an eyeliner and a pot of blusher, but in the meantime, I’ll enjoy the ritual.
So no amount of seat hoggers, people with bin bags that get plonked in your lap or snarly girls with screaming babies could put me off and make me want to drive again. Unless, that is, I get a nice lottery win.