171. 8pm. Bottom deck, just behind the back doors.
I’m learning more and more that persistence (along with a clipped accent) pays.
A blonde woman in her thirties got on and started telling the driver that she had left her shopping on a previous 171 and could he please radio that bus to find out where it was at this moment and when it was coming back this way so she could meet it, it was all a frightful bore? She was casually dressed in an expensive-looking way – turned-up trousers, cashmere cardie and large brown sunglasses.
Now, most people I know would have just written off the shopping, but this woman clearly believed that she would be able to arrange a bag drop-off by personal communication with the previous driver if only this driver would cooperate.
The driver closed the doors and started to pull away from the stop while the woman was still speaking.
‘What is your plan, driving away with me like this?’ she asked, impressively imperiously, marring the effect only slightly by grabbing a handrail for balance. The driver either didn’t respond or did so in a whisper.
‘Look, can you tell me when the bus will be back so I can meet it? I don’t actually want to travel anywhere, I live here…’
Four bus stops and a barrage of demands later, the driver finally called through to the bus garage. He relayed a brief message, then handed over the garage’s number to the woman.
I wasn’t at all sure she was going to be reunited with her shopping, but she seemed satisfied enough by the service. In any case this was the first time I had ever seen a driver make a call to the garage on behalf of a passenger. There are obviously some situations in which saying the same thing over and over can do the trick. Huh.