Yesterday, as I was waiting for the bus at Lindsay Road, an older gentleman asked me to move so that he could sit on the less wet patch of the bus stop seat, ‘I’m 84 you know, can’t stand for long!’. He had a shopping trolley and was wearing a thick woolly jumper. Anyway, I didn’t think too much more about him until we got on the 8.53 213 bus (running a few minutes late). As we boarded, the man handed something to the driver. It was his wife’s bus pass, ‘She’s dead now’. But the driver didn’t initially understand ‘Who is she?’, and the man had to repeat a few times that his wife was dead, in front of the whole bus. You could see a veil of grief pass over the old man’s face, visibly transferred to the driver and it really upset me too. That bus pass belonged to a real person, it had its own history, it held significance and by returning it, the man was letting all of that go, and it became just a piece of plastic again.
On September 7th, a bus will have been on the 213 route for 92 years. That’s 11 months less than my granddad has been alive. I found the first mention of the bus in the Surrey Comet the other day (at Kingston Local History Room), edition of 10th September 1921 page 9, under the Worcester Park column: a new omnibus linking Kingston to Kingswood via Sutton ran on Wednesday and it ‘found considerable favour’. Reading old papers is a form of time travel really, but the most striking thing is the similarity between people today and in the past, just as me and my granddad are similar.
Bus travel (and travel generally) makes you think differently about time. Whether it is the stillness of waiting at the stop, which can drag if you are in a hurry, the slow crawl through congested traffic, the speed of late night bus travel, the staccato of stop-start, the sound of the bell and doors opening-closing. Or the view out, the mish-mash of old and new buildings, the tree that you have seen grow from a sampling, a bus pass that is used for 20 years and then just becomes nothing overnight.
I’m not sure what this post is about really. It just tells you a bit about what I’ve been thinking in the last few days.