"Symonds Street, thanks."
$3.30 - that's pretty good. "Pull this way to take the ticket". Thanks.
I stare down the bus and realise nearly every seat is filled. What to do! The driver is pulling into the traffic again, and I don't want to be left standing when the wheels go round and round. Quickly decide Richard, quickly now! Bugger it, I'll sit next to the guy with the reflective vest. He's bound to keep to himself.
Rule 1: Guys in reflective vests smell bad in a bus.
At the next stop, someone gets out - nobody gets in so I take that vacated seat. Nice perfume over here :)
On a bus, you realise just how bad other drivers are. The bus driver is forever an opportunist - managing somehow to squeeze between a parked car and large truck on the other side, and poke its nose through to the disgust of the truck driver. How was this possible? I never thought a bus could do that! Who cares - the 497 is in front baby! As for the bad drivers sharing the road with the bus, they seem to stick to their own class of vehicle to annoy. When it comes to the Bus, they give way.
A Bus is probably one of the most powerful vehicles on our roads. Unconsciously, a car will let the Bus go first - coz they'd rather not fold their tin foil vehicle into the side of a hardened steel frame. Next to motorcycles, I think these modern buses have the best engine for roads such as Great South. Quick on the upstart, great brakes for a sudden stop (every unbelted passenger on the bus WILL experience this) and the engine is automatic, most with a turbo. The damned bus can even 'kneel' to pick up old people or those with disability such as a wheelchair or frame.
Bus conversations crack me up. One maori fella was chatting with his mate about a plan to smash a bottle over some other "cocksuckers head" because he gave him a snarly look at work. In front of me, a group of three ethnic guys were talking in 'their native' for a while. I worked out they were discussing a particular girl and her friends.
The bus pulls over to a stop. That's not bad - we must have been going for a good 5km without a stop. Two elderly gentlemen get in and I realise that everyone in the bus is looking at them. Scanning. Will they sit by me? Nope, they've taken the seats that face backward - the last resort. Bus merges back into traffic. Bell goes. Household shopper in the very front seat behind the driver will get off with her bags. Once she vacated, the two old guys took her seat. That's classic!
Rule 2: It's all about seating on a bus.
Trouble ensues. A Mother gets on with her kid. She doesn't want the backward seats and stubbornly stands next to her kid who is happy on the 'backwards seat'. Suddenly, it seems that everyone in the bus looks out the windows to avoid eye contact with this woman. She is now looking at us. Scanning. Guilt-trip factor 10 now radiating the inner walls of the bus.
A little further up the road, it seems we pick up a young Asian student at nearly every stop before Newmarket. A couple of them are too polite and stand in line in front of the Mother while another 3 or so manage get past and seat themselves (one next to the guy with the reflective vest).
277 Newmarket is a sanctuary. Bell goes and 80% of the bus population exit. Oh, the comfort of the bus now. PLENTY of seats, PLENTY of directions to look now, and Mum & Kid migrate to their own row. We pull up at the Rialto Bus Stop and pick up "Frizzy Haired Guy" - and then:
It begins again. I learn the internal cycle and human hierarchy system that takes place when a bus fills with people. Frizzy Haired Guy takes his ticket (he's been here before - he pulls his ticket to the right avoiding ripping the roll of paper right out of the ticketing machine like I did). He then looks down the aisle and takes a moment to scan who is where - Male vs Female, Students vs Teachers, Tourists vs Construction Workers. His process of elimination is quick - not forced and he plants himself 2nd row down, window seat. A comfortable balance I note. If the bus had a weight issue then he would have just evened the scale, although he did sit two rows infront of an Asian student - this to my mind may suggest he is a student or young professional.
One other thing you'll notice in a bus, is how bad some of the Auckland roads are. The Bus Drivers cashbox shakes and makes a loud rattling noise when driving, and when we go over potholes and over curbs, BANG, rattle, BANG!
Time for me to pull the string, and sound the bell. My Symonds Street stop is next. The string on this bus looks like a bunch of long tramping boot shoestrings tied together. Other buses have big red buttons.
"Thanks Driver" I shout forward as I step out, giving my appreciation for not killing me, giving me correct change, being on time and opening the doors for my exit.