14 December 2009 2 Comments
I’ve always used public transport to travel into Nottingham to work, because it’s convenient and good value for money and far more relaxing than driving on busy roads and trying to find somewhere to park in the city centre.
Also, I’m intrigued by the habits of people on the bus.
Although in this instance I’m limiting myself to location and locution; mobile phones, littering, vandalism and ingestion/vomiting can wait for another occasion to arrive. Or perhaps three occasions to turn up at the same time.
Regular travellers tend to sit in the same seat or area, particularly on the first part of the route, before the bus gets too busy. Passengers boarding further down the route have less chance of a regular ‘preferred’ seat, so they tend to be less specific about actual seats, but do appear to have a preferred zone of the bus to aim for.
By the time the bus nears the city centre, passengers either take whatever is available or just stand, so regular seat domination is largely confined to people from the outer suburbs.
There is also a regular pattern to the way people spread themselves about the bus as it starts to pick up more passengers along the route; firstly by occupying alternating window seats, then as those seats fill up, people alternate aisle seats, ideally with no one sitting directly in front or behind, or they survey the lower deck and decide there might be more chance of getting a seat to themselves on the upper deck, even if it means negotiating the stairs.
At least when you travel upstairs these days you are no longer in jeopardy of watering eyes, ashtray scented clothing or departing with antique kipper effect lungs.
My principal nosiness, I mean interest, in the observation of people on public transport is in the greeting or parting comments they make to the driver.
There aren’t so many actual greetings, the occasional “Hello” or “Morning”, even the rare “Areet mi duck”, with a high proportion of people not even bothering to acknowledge the person behind the wheel. However, on alighting there is far more variety.
“Thanks” and “thank you” are obviously the most common parting comments and again a majority of people say nothing and exit quickly without making eye contact. But there are quite a few “Cheers!”, “See you later” and “Thanks mate”; these largely said by younger men.
Now “See you later” and “Thanks mate” seem reasonable exclamations to me, but why would you say “Cheers!” which is a toast for drinking situations? When did it become a colloquialism for “thanks”? If this is a developing trend I’m waiting with some anticipation for alighting passengers to call to the driver “To your health!”, “Chin Chin!” or “Bottoms up!”
I’ve not travelled on a late night bus for a while; I wonder what remarks passengers regale the driver with when they’ve actually been drinking? Probably shouldn’t ask.
The occasional “Thank you driver!” now seems to be dying out, as it’s mainly expressed by older men in cloth caps or women with perms and head scarves.
I’ve recently noticed “Nice one!” or “Nice one mate!” being flung in the direction of the driver, so far this is also only being expressed by young men. Are they just making a general remark or is it a comment on something specific? Perhaps the fine cut of the driver’s uniform, the remarkable cleanliness of the bus or the exquisite view from the top deck?
Once in a blue moon there are exiting (as opposed to exciting) passengers that take the parting remarks to a whole new level. I’ve a fairly regular observation of one person who exits the bus fairly slowly, waving and keeping eye contact with the driver, while uttering a relentless stream of comments alone the lines of “Bye, have a good one, bye, see you, be good, bye, can’t get any worse, bye, don’t work too hard, bye, see you later!”
My usual bus route drops me off literally right outside the office and my own remarks are almost entirely limited to “Morning” and “Thanks”, although if it’s particularly wet or cold, I do occasionally, with a pathetic attempt at humour, ask the driver if they can get any closer to the door.