(c) Kaitlyn Plyley 2013

Why catching public transport has made me a better person

Posts, Selected Posts

Transports of DelightCatching public transport has made me a better person. Rather than driving a car, rather than careening in my private space down crowded streets, surrounded but kept separate from everyone else – rather than this, I catch public transport, and I am better than I was before.

I don’t have my own personal stereo system anymore. I can’t sing along to the radio at the top of my lungs. I have to sit on seats that have been sat on by many, many other people – some of whom are frequently sweaty – and keep my knees together, my lips closed, my thoughts to myself. I have to think of others. I have to save up my smiles for strangers. I have to thank the driver. I love thanking the driver. A small thank-you and a wave for taking me to the place I want to go, for being a part of my journey, for not shouting at me when I didn’t have the correct change. Thanks for opening the door, thanks for not killing us on Coronation Drive. Just, thanks.

I don’t get to places quickly anymore. I don’t have the luxury of leaving whenever I want. I have to wait for buses. I have to wait. I have to find a spot in the shadow of the bus-stop shelter where the sun doesn’t hit me at full noon but where I can still watch the curve of the road for the oncoming bus. I sit in the shade of an old tree, on the cement border of a garden, on the flat grass next to the bench. I sit and I wait. I watch the road. I check my phone. And if I’m not too busy typing or texting or trying to find a tune that perfectly fits my mood, I look up at the sky. I often look at the clouds, watch them – they’re actually moving. I see them moving. I can watch one cloud shift from the left of the sky to the right, scudding past and changing shape and morphing into something completely different but equally beautiful and I question everything I think about the nature of reality. I ponder god. I ponder life. I stare at the sky until the sun is burned in starbursts onto my vision, and then the bus is heaving into the stop and I’m stumbling up to flag it down.

(c) Kaitlyn Plyley 2013

Taken from a bus stop.

I don’t have my personal space anymore. I can’t pile as many things as I want into my car, carry the heaviest of bags, shift junk from one place to the other without thinking about it, because I have to think about it. I have to think about whether I will be able to get a seat, or whether I’ll be standing, and whether my my bags of junk might swing around and hit some poor older woman sitting near me who was just trying to get down the shops for a cuppa with her daughter visiting from Ipswich. I don’t have the luxury of not caring. I don’t have the ability to shut people out. I have to see them, all of them, the worst and the creepiest and the smelly. I have to breathe in the smell of cigarettes, even though I hate cigarettes. I have to listen to shouted phone conversations and loud school students and brassy ladies on their way out on the town. I am tired and I wish it were quiet, and the girl sitting in front of me stretches forward to press the button for an old man who couldn’t reach it. He twists his burn-scarred face and says, “Thank you”. She smiles, turns in profile; her purple fringe swings into her face. “No worries,” she says.

I don’t have control anymore. I have no say in how fast we go or when we get there or how many red lights we blow. I grip the back of the seat in front of me; I am terrified. I am elated. I want to throw my hands in the air like a roller-coaster rider when the bus driver hurls us down the hills of Kelvin Grove with the brakes completely untouched, hurtling through the suburbs and squealing into stops at the last second. I don’t know if we’ll make that corner. I don’t know if we’ll hit that car. I have lost control, and as a strange result, I am more punctual. I turn up on time, early – so early that I have time to meander down the street and take a breath in the doorway and stop for a drink of water before I arrive. I leave plenty of time to be late; I don’t trust the bus. I shouldn’t have trusted the car, when I had it, but I thought I was in control. I thought I could speed up a little if I was running late. I thought I could plan the journey to the minute. I was wrong, so wrong, and I was a bad friend, a tardy employee, and a flushed and stressed student. I was always running in just on time: “Traffic on the freeway”, “Ergh, no parking anywhere”. Now, I look out the window before I leave the house and think, “Huh, it’s raining. Allow an extra half-hour for the bus.” It’s annoying, but it’s better. I’m better, and when I arrive I’m relaxed and clear-eyed.

I’m looking around instead of looking at the road. I’m people-watching instead of fuming at people. I’m having a chat with the businessman whose briefcase is crammed in next to me, instead of trying to text while I steer with my knees. (Yeah, I used to do that. Another reason why it’s better I catch the bus.) I’m alert, paying attention, and watching my back when I walk home at night. Because I know I’m not safe; I know I’m out in the big, wide world and I am careful. I don’t have a protective bubble of glass and steel around me, tricking me into thinking I am untouchable. I am vulnerable, dependent, trusting that the people around me with treat me with care: the bus driver, the passengers, the other drivers on the road. I trust them. I have to. And it has made me better.

I never could have guessed any of this when I was watching my old Ford Festiva be towed out of the mechanic’s lot. I never could have guessed, while I was waving goodbye to my symbol of independence, my status as a car-owner in an increasingly car-oriented society, that I would eventually be grateful. That I would be kind of glad that I bought a lemon, that my beloved ’96 Festiva (“Jeff” to his friends) would conk out on the side of the Mitchell Freeway and never get going again. Not having a car has limited my life in terms of geography and distance – I can’t drive up the coast on a whim or live a ridiculous distance from work – but it has expanded my life in other ways. My heart, or something. So, bus drivers: seriously, thanks.

Empire Service (Part III)

Transports of Delight

I’ve spent a fair chunk of this trip alone. I’m nineteen years old, and five months ago I booked a round-the-world ticket and jumped a plane out of Perth, Western Australia. I was elated to be leaving my hometown. Trip of a lifetime! I trekked through a few different countries before I got to the US, where I picked up a job as a camp counselor. Working on a New England summer camp is one of the best things I have ever done. I can’t even begin to explain why. I can only recommend you do it and see for yourself. When the summer ended, there was a huge diaspora of camp counselors toward New York City. We descended on the town in busloads, tanned and dirty, singing camp songs and bursting into Hebrew. We tumbled into hostels and cheap hotel rooms and commiserated the end of our golden summer together.

We held huge dinners in downtown Manhattan, saying goodbye as we all dispersed to the next steps on our journeys. Some of us were going home; most, like me, were hitting the road again. Counselors from different camps joined us, and shared stories from their summers. It sounded like our camp was one of the lucky ones; other counselors told horror stories of spoiled brats and boring activities. One girl, a fellow Aussie named Ro, dolefully told me how she spent the whole summer standing in a barn. Apparently none of Ro’s campers had been game to have a go on the horses, so she spent most of her time at camp alone. I winced, and tried to downplay how freaking awesome my summer was.

After the goodbye dinners, everyone started to peel off in different directions. Some of the boys rented a silver convertible and set off for the southern states. The English girls went to California, to top up their tans before going back to Ol’ Blighty. My boyfriend went to visit relatives in Niagara Falls, and I took my pre-booked trip up to Nova Scotia. The gang had split up; I was travelling solo again.

A couple of weeks later, I came back down to New York from Nova Scotia, and began the great train journey west. You already know the story of my inability to follow simple directions to a train station, and you know what happened on the train to Niagara Falls. I’d already collected some pretty weird experiences on my travels. But what happens in Buffalo is something I will never forget.

After visiting the boyfriend at Niagara Falls, I am back in New York State, catching a cab through Buffalo. Buffalo is right near Niagara Falls, and it is from here that I will be catching my train to Chicago. I should be excited to see Chicago, but mostly I’m just cried out. I’ve said goodbye to my boyfriend (again), who has ended his trip and gone home; I don’t know when I’ll see him next. It’s hard being alone again. I miss my camp friends like crazy, and I’m already exhausted from shunting my enormous pack around. (Travelling light is not a trend with me.) I drag my bags into the Buffalo train station, in the pitch darkness of night. My train doesn’t leave until midnight. The station is deserted; everyone else has the good sense to travel at a decent hour. This is going to be a long night.

As I enter the station, I feel miles away from everyone I know. Australia seems like a world away. No one knows I’m here, except my boyfriend, and he just flew back home. I am completely, sadly, anonymous.

“Kaitlyn?” Says a voice, incredulous.

“Ro?” I exclaim.

Sitting on one of the cold, metal benches is Ro, the Australian camp counselor I met in Manhattan. She is staring back at me. We’re both having trouble taking in this situation. A month after camp finished, in a deserted train station, in the middle of the night, in a random town in the United States of America, the only other person catching the train is someone we know. It’s insane. It’s amazing.

We laugh hysterically for a while. Then Ro immediately heads for the restrooms.

See, there are things that I didn’t think about when planning my first solo backpacking trip. Like going to the toilet in a public place. When you’re alone in a train station and you need to pee, do you risk leaving your humungous backpack behind in the terminal? Or do you try to stuff it into the toilet stall with you? This is the dilemma that Ro was faced with before I turned up, and she was getting desperate. But, when there’s two of you, everything is easier. You just take turns.

Unbelievable as I find it, Ro is also heading to Chicago alone. Neither of us knows anybody in Chicago, so our meeting is perfect. Now that we are travelling together, I’m feeling way more hopeful. We chatter about Australia and camp and wait for the train to show up. I’m especially glad to have run into Ro when it is announced that the train will be two hours late. We won’t be departing until 2AM. A long night indeed.

The next morning, Ro and I peel ourselves out of our train seats and wander, zombie-like, in search of breakfast. We find the dining cart, relieved to see tables and tables of happy, eating passengers. The train lurches a little as we curve around a bend. Ro and I stumble towards the tables, but something blocks my path. It is a large, bosomy, grinning kitchen lady. She hollers something at me and points, but I can barely understand her accent. In my bleary haze, her Southern jolliness is too loud, too Southern. I look down at my battered Converse shoes. The red novelty shoelaces that I picked up in Canada are trailing limply behind my feet. I stopped bothering to re-tie them several states ago. I look back up at the kitchen lady. She grins and booms, “YOU GOTTA TUCK ‘EM OR TIE ‘EM, SUGAR!”

She and the other ladies hoot with laughter. They shriek and pound their thighs.

I feel near to tears. Why won’t she let me have breakfast? Please, lady, just let me sit down and have breakfast. I spent the night on a train, not sleeping, while children kicked the back of my seat with the energy and precision of an A-league soccer team. (How did those children stay up all night? Surely children will sleep anywhere? My little brother used to fall asleep in helicopters, rock concerts, heavy machinery … In fact, he still does. Okay, that could be narcolepsy.)

But then, I look across at Ro. We both start to giggle.

It’s good to know I’m not in this alone.

NY Train Driver

Transports of Delight

I don’t know about you, but I can get really bored at work. You know – it’s a slow day, no one’s around, you’re exhausted from staying up last night to watch an entire season of True Blood … Hey, don’t judge. So, maybe you whip out your smartphone and flip through Facey for a while. These things happen! But – if you’re like me and you’re an Arts graduate with a double-major in English and ‘creative flair’ – your job probably doesn’t affect many lives. I mean, when I’m handing out perfume samples at the Indooroopilly shopping centre, no one’s going to die if I sneakily play Bejewelled behind a counter.

Train drivers, on the other hand … ‘Not looking down’ is a rather vital part of their job description.

Nicole from NMNPHX (a blog I recommend checking out) brought a rather pertinent news story to my attention. A train driver in New York was recently suspended from his job for reading the newspaper at work. A passenger uploaded a video online of him reading the paper – cover to cover! – while he drives the train. In the video, filmed through the window in the driver’s door, you can see the driver occasionally glance up at the track, then go back to reading the paper in his lap. Ouch. That’s pretty irrefutable.

Oh, mister train driver. I know work can be hell. But when your job requires you to look at things in front of the train, maybe you could find an activity that doesn’t make it near-impossible to look at things in front of the train. There’s books on MP3! The radio! You could invent your own freestyle raps. Just don’t read the bloody paper.

This story has made me wonder if train drivers getting trolled by passengers is a common thing. I know I’ve uploaded a photo of a bus driver reading the paper between stops, but I wasn’t trying to get him fired. I just thought it was too amazing not to share. I’d love to know if anyone has heard of similar stories – my comment board is always open.

 

The Wizard

Transports of Delight

I have to share with you a magical moment that happened yesterday.

There’s an express bus service that runs past my house every 10 minutes (I know, sweet right?). Lately I’ve noticed that the bus sometimes makes an unscheduled stop a few metres before my stop, lets people off, and then moves down the road to stop again at the actual bus stop as well. I’ve only seen it happen twice, and the second time was yesterday

My housemate, who usually drives, was on the bus with me. A few metres from our stop, the bus did that thing where it mysteriously pulls over. People started leaving, so we followed them off the bus like slightly baffled sheep.

My housemate is a solid sort of person who brooks no nonsense, and she wanted to know why the bus was being so weird. I didn’t have an answer. But, I pointed out, both times I saw the bus do this, an old man with a cane disembarked at this same spot. I pointed to the old man in the woollen jumper, who was hobbling down the sidewalk. ‘That man.’

My housemate stared after him, then looked back at me, her eyes glowing with wonder in the afternoon sun.

‘Wow,’ she breathed. ‘He must be a wizard.’

Yes, a wizard. Nothing, not even expecto patronum could have impressed her as much as getting an irascible city bus driver to pull over at an unmarked stop. During peak hour, no less.

Who is this old man who can stop buses with willpower alone? We just call him the Wizard. As ancient as Dumbledore and as enigmatic as a unicorn, you never know whose bus he may embark next. It could be yours.

This Banana Has Gone Bad

Transports of Delight

I always feel safer on a bus, don’t you?

I mean, when I’m driving, I feel the burdensome weight of responsibility. It’s just me, my frail body locked inside a thin metal shell, hurtling at unnatural speeds through chaos. If I lose concentration for even a second, I could cause immeasurable damage – to myself, to my passengers, to unwitting strangers. Car accidents are horrible, life-altering, and everywhere.

But riding the bus is fun!

I mean, buses just feel safer. They’re bigger, for one thing. There’s something comforting about riding in the biggest thing on the road. And they have have their own lanes. Everything about the bus has this “get outta my way” attitude. They cruise along at their own pace and don’t make room for anyone else on the road. Being on the bus is like being friends with your school’s biggest bully: you’re untouchable.

I used to tell myself that bus drivers are trained and therefore better drivers, but I can no longer follow that particular rainbow. If you’re still holding onto that misty-eyed illusion, just look at this photo again:

(I think they left “don’t read the paper while driving” out of the bus driver exam, because it should be bleeding obvious.) Nonetheless, I love riding the bus. Sitting high up in the back seats, I feel a little detached from everything that’s whizzing by my window. It’s as if all that traffic out on the road is happening to someone else. If I sped around corners and swung dangerously close to traffic light poles in my own car, my passengers would be justifiably anxious. When my bus driver does the same thing, I just think, “WHEEEEE!” Like it’s a fairground ride.

And when I was a kid, the best public fairground ride of all was THE BANANA BUS. Oh, the times we had! I used to love riding on the bendy buses, with the turntable in the middle that would creak and rotate when the bus went around a corner. I remember class excursions on the banana bus, when only the coolest kids would stand in the bendy bit. It was a crazy feeling, like being inside the accordion of an insane accordionist.

But my rosy memory of banana buses has been compromised. While perusing brisbanetimes.com.au this week, I found this:

BANANA BUSES TAKEN OFF THE ROAD

A safety check has ruled 300 articulated buses off Australian roads after a Queensland Transport and Main Roads-ordered audit.

… The bus order followed a dramatic crash on the Pacific Motorway on March 30, when an articulated bus abruptly turned and ended up facing oncoming traffic.

What? Crash? No! This is no good. Another layer of my childhood memories, peeled away like so much banana peel.

It’s as if catching the bus was a large, delicious-looking banana, its perfect yellow skin assuring me of the sweet fruit within. But when I went to peel it, I discovered that this banana was rotten. (Yes, the banana peel was my childhood memories in the last paragraph, but now it represents the act of catching the bus – it’s as if this change in metaphors is a metaphor for the dramatic change in my feelings when I realised that buses are not as safe as I thought.)

If banana buses (the funnest buses!) aren’t safe, then I might have to rethink my entire attitude towards bus travel. Gone are my comfortable illusions of safety. I will now ride the bus with an appropriate sense of barely-contained terror, ready to wedge myself under my seat at the first sign of danger. It’s a mad world we live in. A mad, mad world.

CityCycle

Transports of Delight

So Brisbane has this thing called CityCycle. It’s a kind of augmentation to public transit, with rows of identical bikes stationed all around the city. Each bike is locked to a metal post thingy, and can only be released once you type in your passcode on a computer thingy. (I’m getting technical here, don’t get left behind.) This week I gave CityCycle a try, to see if it could be a cheaper and more whimsical alternative to buses. I imagined the wind whipping through my hair as I cycled through Brisbane! The sun on my face! Oh, the nature!

OK, so the wind couldn’t really whip through my hair, because my hair was stuffed under an aerodynamic yellow helmet. But the sun on my face was lovely.

Mostly, CityCycle has been pretty good  For the price of two bus trips, I got a week’s worth of bike riding. And the bicycles themselves are pretty decent, although I don’t know how to adjust the seat height and therefore mostly feel like a large spider trying to use tiny pedals. The catch to the CityCycle thing is that the first 30 minutes of every journey is free, but if you keep it for more than 30 minutes you start paying dearly. The trick is to keep docking the bike at a CityCycle station every 29 minutes, and then re-hiring it. (Take that, system!) But basically, it’s not for long joyrides.

I rode a CityCycle to the shops yesterday, amid the frenzied Saturday crowds. And I became reacquainted with a rather unattractive side of my personality. See, here’s the thing: when I’m driving a car, I hate cyclists. But when I’m on a bike, I freaking hate motorists. It’s a convenient duality because no matter what I’m doing, the other people are wrong.

Cyclists. If you’re going to be on the road, claiming your status as ‘vehicle’, then you must be able to go the speed limit. If a car went ten kilometres an hour on a busy road and backed up all the traffic behind them, they would be arrested. Or at least, they should be. So, if you want to cycle on the road, at least approach the speed limit! Do this!

Motorists. Four wheels doesn’t mean you can be a douche-bag. Check your blind spots. Hi! That’s me there.

Being on a bicycle does tend to put you at a disadvantage on the road. The risk of injury is massively higher. (Which is why I was fear-mongered into wearing the hideous yellow, aerodynamic bike helmet. I tried to not wear it, but I just kept picturing a TV doctor gesturing to my brains smeared all over the bitumen.) Also, if you’re in Brisbane, there doesn’t seem to be any bicycle lane. Oh, there are cute stencils of bicycles all along the shoulders of the main roads, which seem to be indicating that this space is for cyclists. But the space between the parked cars on the left and the moving cars on the right is exactly the width of, oh, say, an open car door. It’s pretty easy to get ‘doored’. And while it looks hilarious in movies when Emily Blunt gets hit by cars, it is probably not that glamourous in real life. Probably. Maybe.

To surmise: I took a bicycle instead of the bus. I got all sweaty. My hair went weird. I yelled into some lady’s car window. And my groceries were knocked out of the basket by the uneven bitumen on the road’s shoulder. But, good lord, I felt alive! When it is an achievement to just make it home in one piece, your food tastes sweeter and the air seems fresher.

But next time I’m going anywhere where people will see my hair, I’m taking the bus.

 

Crazy Crutches

Transports of Delight

I’m six feet and one inch in height. That’s tall for a girl. It’s tall for anyone outside the world of competitive basketball. So I’m used to sticking out, to being noticeable. I’m used to people pointing me out like I’m a sideshow attraction.

I am not used to being accidentally sat on.

But this is what happens while I’m waiting for the bus. It is one of “those” days. I’ve just been shouted at by a bus driver. I’ve gotten on the wrong bus and had to get off again, and now I’m waiting for the right bus to appear so that I won’t be late for work. I’m feeling a bit fragile, a bit sensitive. There are empty seats on the bus stop benches. Sweet! I sit down with relief.

While I’m sitting there, recovering the shattered pieces of my ego, a woman hobbles into view. She’s about middle-aged, wearing several layers of clothing, and clearly a bit mad. She has one crutch in each hand, holding them out in front of herself like dual walking sticks. A younger woman darts at her side, like an anxious hummingbird.

The woman on crutches spots the benches and, with surprising speed, heads towards the empty seat next to me. Or so I think. Next thing I know, her butt is lowering itself into my face. She is saying “No, I need a seat with the arm rest on the left! On the left!” I angle sideways, sliding myself out of her trajectory just seconds before she plops down in my seat.

I stand next to my now-occupied seat, a little startled. I feel like Anne Hathaway inThe Princess Diaries.Before the make-over. The hummingbird woman murmurs an apology over her shoulder, leaning down to help arrange the older woman in the seat. Not sure what to do, I sort of turn on the spot. A woman sitting on a nearby bench catches my eye. She saw the whole thing. I can tell, because she’s trying not to laugh. I grin back at her.

And, out of the haze of this average morning, I feel it. Transports of delight.

Gif sourced from whendoiturnbackintoapumpkin.tumblr.com

Transports of Delight

Posts, Transports of Delight

It’s been a bit quiet on kaitlynplyley.com of late, mainly because I’ve been building up my micro-story blog, Transports of Delight. It’s getting a few likes, and has even been nominated for a blogosphere user award (the VBA).

Every Sunday I blog a new story about the unusual stuff that happens to me on public transport. Experiences range from being shouted at by mentally unstable passengers, to watching as my bus driver runs into a fire truck.

So please check out www.delightfultransports.wordpress.com, and leave a comment letting me know what you think!

Emergency Transport

Transports of Delight

Oh no! My dear readers, I have neglected you!

I feel terrible for not posting a story last Sunday, but the reason was that, well, I felt terrible. I’ve been having a heinous bout of illness – poor me, et cetera, et cetera. So here’s what happened last Sunday, when I should have been writing a post for ToD:

It’s Sunday afternoon, and it’s gotten worse. I feel like I’m about to drop. I need to get to a hospital, but it’s gonna be a mission. I don’t have a car, and taxis are hideously expensive. My housemate’s away, and she’s pretty much the only person I know in this town, so no one can drive me. You might be thinking, hey, why not just call for an ambulance? Um, have you ever been in an ambulance? They scare me more than the actual hospital. Anyway, whatever method of transport I use to get there, it’ll be quicker than waiting for an ambulance. I google the closest hospital. It’s actually not far. Shouldn’t be hard to catch a bus there. But wait, there’s something I haven’t factored in.

The Brisbane Roar.

Yes, Brisbane’s A-league soccer team. They are playing Perth Glory in one hour, in the grand final. This worries me for two reasons. Firstly, Glory are the underdogs this year and I really want them to win so I can look these Brisbane bastards in the eye. (Still a Perth girl, through and through. If I have internal damage, I assure you it is bleeding purple.) Secondly, the stadium is right near the hospital. The roads are chaos, and buses are diverting to carry the orange army of Roar supporters to the match. I’m not likely to get a bus anytime soon.

I can’t face walking to the hospital. So, I dial the number for a taxi. The taxi arrives, and takes me to the Emergency Department of the nearest hospital. I limp inside the building, relieved to have made it. But something doesn’t look right.

The waiting area is … empty. The decor is … pleasant. Then the receptionist tells me that they don’t bulk bill, and I go an extra shade of pale. I’ve walked into a private hospital! Run, run for your life! Save your wallet! The lady assures me that, after a Medicare rebate, consultation would only cost a minimum of $200, but I’m already backing away. I find a sympathetic nurse and blurt out my troubles.

“Where is the hospital where the poor people go?”

The nurse directs me to a nearby hospital which does bulk bill. And, she says brightly, it’s only a ten-minute walk … uphill. I groan, and dial for another taxi. I stagger out to the street, feeling demoralised. Each short taxi ride is costing me a day’s worth of meals, and since I’m too sick to work, my income is severely limited. At least I can get to this hospital and get my health sorted out.

I’m on my last legs. I wait outside the hospital entrance, sitting on the concrete steps. A taxi suddenly zooms past. I wave at the driver, scared he might drive off without me. He slows, and crawls up the road at a snail’s pace. Now I’m confused. Is this my taxi? Or is he just sight-seeing? He creeps a bit further up the road, then stops. I pull myself onto my feet and head for the car. It’s an effort to walk, but I walk quickly to show him that I’m his intended passenger. As I get closer, the car suddenly jerks to a start and rolls further up the road. I wave, and try to close the gap between us. He jumps forward again and moves further up the road. It feels like that trick that you play when someone’s about to get in your car. Just when their hand’s almost on the door handle, you drive forward a few metres so they have to run to catch up. “Ha ha ha, so funny! You shoulda seen yo’ face!”

But I’m not amused. I have no idea what this guy is doing. Three times I nearly approach the car, and he creeps forward again. At last, I reach the car and fling the passenger door open.

“Finally caught you!” I wheeze, sliding into the backseat. The taxi driver just nods and says “Where would you like to go?” As if I hadn’t just chased him up the road. Okay.

I tell him which hospital, and we jump away from the kerb. As we pull out into traffic, it dawns on me. He wasn’t trying to play tricks. He’s simply a terrible driver.

This taxi is weaving, jerking and zipping all over the road. He steps on the pedals like a first-timer, speeding up to the backs of other cars, then slamming on the brakes right before we hit them. We swing around corners with reckless abandon. As I slide around in my seat, trying to hold onto my stomach, I’m not comforted to see the taxi driver tugging on his seatbelt. It looks like he’s checking that it will be strong enough. That can’t be good.

Oh well, I think. At least we’ll crash near lots of doctors. (I’ve achieved delerium.)

As we near the hospital, the taxi driver barks, “Whereyouwannago?”

“Emergency,” I get out, through clenched teeth. “Emergency!”

The taxi driver mumbles to himself. He’s probably trying to figure out if I was telling him I wanted to go to Emergency, or if I was just summing up our situation as we plummet through traffic.

Finally, we jerk to a halt in front of the Emergency Department entrance, and I tumble out of the cab. The taxi tears off around the corner, off to terrorise its next customer. As I wobble through the sliding doors, I feel a strange sense of elation. I’m not nervous anymore. I survived that taxi ride, didn’t I? Nothing in this hospital can scare me now. I am invincible!

Thank you, insane taxi driver. Thank you.

Condescending Santa Claus

Transports of Delight

Ugh, why do they do this?

I’ve got my Go Card ready to swipe, I’m getting on the bus in an orderly fashion, but the driver stops me. He has something to say.

I wait, wearily, standing with my bags full of shopping in the entrance of the bus. I think I know what’s coming, because I’ve become familiar with this routine. I’m about to get the “You’re An Idiot and Here’s Why” speech.

The bus driver barks at me. “Did you get off here for the markets earlier?” (This is not tricksy detective work on his part; I’m holding a potted fern in a plastic bag and a flyer for the Australian Greens.)

I look around. I’ve been walking around the area all morning, and I’m not sure which bus stop I used. “Um, yeah, probably.”

The driver laughs, but he says the laughs – “HA. HA. HA.” He is pleased to have identified my stupidity. His thick white beard shakes, making him look like a condescending Santa Claus.

“Dude,” – it’s weird hearing ‘dude’ from Santa – “I stop at the markets until twelve today! HA. HA. You could have gotten off there! I sang it out when we set off, didn’t you hear?” I stare at him. I wasn’t on his bus earlier.

Finally he lets me go, and I find a seat while the rest of the passengers watch me. This is so frustrating. I am still new to this town, so I already feel like a lost idiot most of the time. I appreciate when bus drivers offer friendly advice, but now they’re taking extra time to point out things I could’ve done better? Come on, dude!

This comes after weeks of bus drivers pointing out my idiocy. One driver, when we reached a stop, pulled the bus over with a wrench and turned to glare at me. “GIRL IN THE PURPLE SHIRT!” he roared down the bus. “THIS DOES NOT GO TO YOUR STOP! GET OFF HERE!” I thanked him with all meekness and immediately got up to leave. As I went to step off the bus, the driver held me back. “I TOLD YOU THREE TIMES! I SAID, THREE TIMES, THIS DOES NOT GO TO THE ‘GABBA! I TOLD YOU!” I repeated my thanks and quickly jumped off the bus, burning with embarrassment. I now realise that when I had earlier asked him politely “Does this bus go to the ‘Gabba?”, that mumbling sound he made was in fact the word “No”. Ah geez.

But I say to you, bus drivers, that you are not so perfect! Some of you run into fire trucks! And last night, I snapped this:

As soon as we reached a red light, the bus driver whipped out the paper and had a read of the news. Safe driving? Smart choices? Intelligent, well-balanced publication? No, no, and nope.

Bus drivers: 2.

Me: 1.

I’M FINALLY ON THE BOARD! Take that, bussies.