Unfriendly Buses

Sydney bus taken on Oxford Street, Darlinghurst
Sydney bus taken on Oxford Street, Darlinghurst

As it was a cold and wet day, the twelfth consecutive cold and wet day in Sydney, I caught the bus to work this morning. Even though it’s only a short walking distance between home and work – about fifteen minutes by foot – on a cold and wet day it’s far preferable than wandering down Devonshire Street and facing the cachophonic drama that is the Devonshire Street tunnel. Oh, and I’d left my brolly at work!

The Eastern suburbs buses that go down Cleveland Street are notoriously unfriendly, IMHO. I’m one of the very few who seems to thank the bus driver. No one smiles, no one talks to each other, they all just sit there staring out the window with their headsets on. And when an older person gets on the bus who should be given a seat, they either pretend they don’t see that person by continuing to stare out the window, or they pretend they’re asleep. Or they just glare at them, making it very clear they won’t be getting up out of their seat to make way for them.

You could see the look of disdain on their faces when a slightly eccentric-looking older woman got on the bus not far from Elizabeth Street this morning. “Will you please stop chatting with the bus driver, pay your money, and just get on the bus”, you could hear them saying under their breaths.

At this point I looked over at several younger people, telling them with my eyes they had to get up to make way for her. I often do this, by the way. It’s one of the great advantages of being middle-aged: you develop a middle-aged glare that really pisses off younger people. When none of them responded instantly, I got up, thereby guilt-tripping a few of the others to reluctantly respond as well. In responding, I got the win-win double whammy. I got to feel smug because I’d guilt-tripped all those young people, and I got my seat back as well.

And then, when the woman sat down next to me, we began chatting. Well, she began talking and I began responding. When she asked me how old I was and I told her, she laughed and told me that although I was very nice I was far too young for her. We both laughed. She was no MILF, let me tell you, not even a GILF.

We then began chatting about her life, and how she was born in “Dracula Country” (as she put it), and had lived in Europe and America, and had worked as a doctor.

Her “big thing” was infectious diseases and quarantine, and people with terrible conditions coming into the country. And she was also critical that Australians don’t go to the doctors enough. “Twice a year they should go”, she told me, informing me about a friend of hers who had died from (not with) prostate cancer because he had failed to regularly go to the doctor. It was then I began to wonder if I was looking a little bit sickly, and maybe she was trying to tell me something.


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