Last week was my personal experiment on the viability of using public transport for work. The hope was that I would be able to cope happily with this method of commuting and be able to get rid of one of the cars and it's associated running costs; not to mention my hope of finding a way to enjoy driving again by not doing the same boring route every day for work. On the face of it, it makes good economic sense. Although a weekly bus ticket costs just a couple of quid more than I usually spend on petrol, eliminating one insurance premium, MOT, tax, and servicing would put me up on the deal.
The one stumbling block I could foresee was my issues with walking any real distance. After the bike crash last year and the major knee surgery that followed, my favourite passtime of long walks in the countryside came to a sudden halt. So although the three quarters of a mile each way from the bus station to work and the third of a mile from home to the bus stop doesn't add up to much for most people, for me it necessitates the use of a walking stick, ibuprofen and on a bad day some codeine as well.
However, with my usual level of determination to beat anything that's trying to stop me doing something I want to do, I thought I'd give the bus a go for one week to see if I could make it work for me.
The straightforward conclusion is that it would. The exercise from the walking is a good thing, and not having to drive in rush hour traffic (especially when it involves Cambridge) has proved to be a fabulous way of reducing my stress levels. These are positive points, but until I've had my next surgery to remove all the bits of metalwork from my knee to stop the tendons and muscles grating across them, the pain outweighs these things.
Bus travel is sort of interesting though, particularly as it's a great way of playing my favourite sport - people watching. It really is fascinating, the spectrum of individuals you see both on the bus and at the bus station. There are the regulars who have their own little club and always sit together and chat. Invariably these groups consist only of women, because men are too concerned that any attempt to converse with another passenger might be misconstrued as sexual harassment or assault. I'm certainly not immune to this and prefer to retreat into my iPod or book and hope that nobody sits next to me especially as the seats are so damn narrow, forcing you to violate each others personal space. If you had to get any closer you'd need a condom.
This wouldn't be so bad if it was a cute 30 year old brunette with a liberal attitude to clothing, but with my luck it's usually some bloke with earphones so loud I can hear them above both the bus noise and my own music, who squashes me against the window making it hard to breathe, or a pensioner with many bags and the distinctive whiff of Murray Mints.
It doesn't need the other person to sit right beside you to make life unpleasant though. On one occasion the offending article in the form of a bloke with a heavily worn complexion and hair that seemed to have been styled with lard, sat in the seat in front of me. He was accompanied by an overwhelming odour that seemed to be a mixture of grease, sweat, and possibly decomposing flesh.
When he reached up to close the window, closing off any hope of fresh air, I had no choice but to move. Unfortunately the only seat left with any space around it was the horrible one in the middle of the back seat, but anything would be preferable to spending the next hour sitting near Mr Whiffy.
On the whole I think the benefits of bus travel over driving make it a good proposition, and I suspect that by this time next year it will be my commuting method of choice. But until the surgeon has made my knee fully operational and pain-free I guess I'll have to stick to dealing with the frustration of driving myself in the horrible dark wet winter weather with Audi man two inches from my back bumper as usual.