Tuesday 1 May 2012
I knew it was going to be her. I’m usually able to spot them and it’s easy once you know what you’re looking for. I was halfway back in the single file queue of about thirty people, she stood toward the front yet wasn’t in line. From the moment she had arrived and taken her position leaning against the bus stop wall like a brand name lamp post, she hadn’t looked up from her phone. To a casual observer, she looked like just another passenger waiting for the bus to arrive — albeit a passenger whose expression suggested the world disgusted her. But I saw her for what she was: A renegade commuter.
The tension in the line increased, someone had obviously spotted the bus approaching and started the redundant pushing from the back in the futile hope that this would somehow get them a seat. As is my usual way, I didn’t move forward and let the people behind me bunch up in a commuter concertina. She could see what was happening too, the movement in the queing masses had signalled that it was time for her campaign to begin. Whether she was dialling someone in actuality I cannot say but she raised the phone to her ear and she began to gossip.
The bus brakes squealed as it slowed down at the stop, it overshot the head of the queue as is often the case and the renegade commuter used this as her time to shine. With elbows held out like fleshy tripwires while speaking loud enough to not hear the polite “excuse me”s and sorrys coming from the queue behind her, she started toward the bus door about a step ahead of the person who held the line’s rightful number one position.
She moved in a very nonchalant way, ambling as though she had no destination and swivelling with reckless abandon so anyone within her personal space had to duck and weave to avoid a thump from her bracelet-laden arms. Her back was to the crowd and her elbows were sticking out like pale chicken wings. Her incessant chatter on the phone was at a volume that she could credibly claim not to hear the angry mutters behind her; leaving people the choice of physically shoving past or holding back in silent indignation. As the doors of the bus opened, she glanced up and stepped right on. Still talking, she dipped her ticket and walked up the aisle, bumping and brushing passengers now needing to get past her to alight.
After essaying the seating situation and seeing no spare seats toward the back, she sat down in the disabled passenger seating area without a moment of hesitation. From my position outside the bus, I could see a surprised look cross the faces of commuters who were having to stand in the aisle and had been standing in the aisle when the bus arrived. Among those standing, I could see a couple of elderly ladies, an elderly gentleman and a lady in the deep stages of pregnancy. None of the standing passengers looked unable to handle the upright ride, but considering the next stop was forty five minutes away, I was certain the disabled seating area could be better utilised by one of them.
As I stepped on the bus, I was relieved to see that seats had been offered to all of the standing passengers I had concern for, one of the elderly ladies was politely declining the offer as I squeezed into the crowded aisle. Amongst all of the shuffling, the renegade commuter didn’t budge. She squawked into her phone and stared transfixed out of the window, mouth pouted and nose turned up like she had simultaneously sucked a lemon and smelled a foul odour.
When the bus departed, the sudden movement started a ripple of stumbling through the standing travellers. When the wave reached me, I was pushed hard to the side, barely catching myself before I fell right on top of the renegade commuter. She paused mid-sentence and glared up at me with a look that should be reserved for someone who has committed child genocide. I apologised with an embarrassed smile before steadying myself for the journey.
After about twenty minutes, the nattering beside me ceased and I felt a tap on my knee. I looked down into the angry eyes of the renegade commuter.
“Where is this bus going?” she asked.
“Express to the city,” I replied.
“Shit! I’m on the wrong bus, I should have been going in the other direction!” she growled at me as though I was directly responsible for the bus’s route.
She pressed the “Next Stop” button but the driver switched the light off. She repeated this a few times with the same result. She began cursing and muttering loud enough for me to hear before she raised her phone to her ear again.
I heard her yell into the phone “I’m on the wrong fucking bus. No one told me! Fucking assholes. It’s going to be hours before I get there.”
As she cursed and spluttered into her phone, I couldn’t help but smile and hum to myself for the remainder of the trip .
I didn’t even mind when she aggressively pushed her way off the bus after it reached the city. My day was made … and in a way, so was hers.