345. 5pm. Bottom deck, standing near the front.
It was a blazing hot day. I had been to an interview and was jangling with nervous energy. I’d just missed one 345 so took shelter under a tree to wait for the next, thinking it wouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to turn up.
I was wrong. It took 35 minutes to arrive, by which point the elegant Kensington lady next to me and I were red-faced and irritable. As I boarded, I saw the driver having an argument with another passenger about the fact that he was unexpectedly terminating at Stockwell. It struck me that he was not a very good communicator; he was speaking to the passenger quite rudely, dismissing her concerns and not even making eye contact with her. I budged up along the crowded bottom deck and grabbed a handrail. I was standing close enough to the front to hear the following radio exchange between the driver and the bus controller:
Driver: ‘You know the traffic on Beaufort Street is always like this. What do you want me to say?’
Controller: ‘I want to know why you didn’t radio in the problem.’
Driver: ‘There is no problem.’
Controller: ‘Then why are you running 25 minutes late straight out of the terminus?’
Driver: ‘Look, love, I told you, it’s the traffic. I’m not a magician. I’m not a controller. You’re the controller, I’m the driver. I just drive the bus.’
Controller: ‘Yes, you’re the driver. So it’s your job to radio in the problem. That’s how I know to make adjustments in the route.’
Driver: ‘There is no problem, just traffic! What do you… it’s just TRAFFIC, get it into your head, woman!’
I almost felt sorry for him – sometimes, it’s true, there is nothing you can do about traffic – but the faint/not-so-faint misogyny bothered me. And also another 345 cruised past us just as the driver hung up on the controller. And then another one sped by a few minutes later.
The driver continued to be unpleasant to everyone who got on board (I guess they were making him even later than he’d already made himself) so I decided to get off halfway and change to another bus. A few minutes into this second leg of my journey, my new ride was overtaken by yet another 345. The poor controller was not having a good day. Clinging to a handrail I thought, Come on, drivers! Why is it so hard to communicate? A little honesty would just make things so much simpler – for you and for the woman sweating behind a desk on this ridiculously warm day to keep you all going in a straight line.