436. 5pm. Top deck, on the right near the back.
The bus pulled away from its stop at Vauxhall Bus Station, heaving with people. On the top deck we were all starting to nod off because of the extreme heat (and possibly that jug of Pimm’s in the park). Now, instead of turning left and going round the bus station to meet the road to Oval, the bus turned right and looked as though it intended to go back over Vauxhall Bridge and into town. About half of my neighbours and I craned our necks to silently query this decision. There was a minute of growing panic about where we were headed. And then the bus made another right turn and rejoined the familiar road.
It must just be a new instruction to drivers. But it made me wonder at two things: a) How much we Londoners (maybe city people in general? Maybe first-world people in general?) trust the system to just do its thing around us without our involvement. Every day we use public transport, electronic communication, utilities, phone networks, online banking, council services etc. without questioning or even really seeing what we are using. b) How much we are utterly helpless when something goes wrong or is done differently. Witness our ineffectual outrage when our water bills change, our banks force new rules on us, our trains get cancelled or hike up in price, our libraries close… our politicians load us onto the proverbial handcart…
The half of us who craned our necks couldn’t do anything about the driver’s choice of road. But at least we noticed something was happening! Stay alert, comrades. We must not be mere passengers.