Saturday, 27 June 2015

Bus wankers

The daily commute has recently become significantly less stressful than it has been for a very long time, and this is due to the fact that I've started using the bus instead of driving.
The staff parking at work has been gradually reduced from very little to sod all or slightly less, which means that it has become necessary to park about a mile away and walk in. This hasn't really made much difference in the evening because the traffic heading out of the city at the end of the day is so heavy that it takes just as long to drive as it does to walk.
I've also sold my car and not bothered to replace it. I'd come to despise that damn Mitsubishi Colt. I bought it after the bike crash when I needed a cheap to run car with an automatic gearbox because I was unable to use my left leg. In that repect it was great because it enabled me to get to the hospital, doctors, and eventually back to work without relying on anyone else to ferry me around. Since then the little issues that bugged me about it grew into major irritations that made me just want to be shot of it. I'd driven plenty of automatics before and really liked them, but the autobox on the Colt just sucked. The old-school epicyclic transmissions with torque converters are lovely to use as long as there's a decent size engine bolted to them, but because they're so inefficient you end up using way more fuel than with an equivalent manual transmission.
The Colt's trasmission was one of those automated manual types that is basically a manual gearbox but with electric servos dealing with the clutch and shifting duties. This system is just as economical as a manual transmission, but it makes such shitty decisions about when to shift and takes so long to do so that it had a habit of leaving you without drive just when you were trying to slip out onto a roundabout, or it would decide to shift up when you were halfway through a bend causing the car's balance to alter dramatically. Not good. I ended up shifting manually (you could use it like a sequential shifter), but that didn't change the time it took for the system to change gear.
Then there was the poorly designed A-pillars which were so chunky you could easily lose an entire car in the blind spot at a roundabout or junction, and also the outrageous parts prices. The starter motor failed one time, leaving me stranded in a car park in Ely. Once I'd removed the starter motor back home, I found the cable linking the solenoid to the motor brush gear had corroded to the point where there was no longer any continuity. Most car starter motors cost around 80 - 90 pounds, but for this little bugger it was going to be just a tad under 300 pounds. There was no way I was going to pay that if I could get away with it, so I repaired it with some chunky cable I had lying around, a large cable tag, and a piece of terminal block. It was a bit of a bodge but it worked, and although it was fixed I was always waiting for the repair to fail.
So the car was sold within 24 hours of advertising it and I made the switch to using the bus, leaving us with just the Civic that the wife and I can share.

Public transport has never been something that I've really enjoyed on the odd occasion that I used it, so unsurprisingly there was a bit of an adjustment period. In a car you're in your own little bubble, whereas on the bus you're sharing your personal space with all sorts of people many of whom you may not necessarily choose to be in close proximity to. Let's face it, on any given bus journey there's going to be a certain weirdo element and all you can hope for is that the local nutter doesn't decide to inflict their presence on you.
The biggest benefit of bus travel however, is that all the stress of driving in rush hour traffic is being dealt with by someone else, leaving me to sit back watching the world go by with my headphones on, listening to all the music I'm not allowed to play at home unless I'm the only one there.
Granted, the bus is sometimes late, occasionally doesn't turn up at all, and the journey time is somewhat longer. But considering the stress and aggro on the roads, the trade off is worthwhile. The bus ticket costs about the same as I usually spend on petrol each week so there's no real difference in cost, plus it means that we don't need to have two cars. Perfect.

Another benefit of bus travel is the opportunities it provides for my favourite sport - people watching. It's always fun to look around and see the assorted characters at the bus station, and it was inevitable that I'd end up giving some of the more prominent individuals some sort of nickname. I've always done this - it's often been a way of injecting a quiet bit of humour into my inward musings on those around me. For example, there's 'Fag-Ash Lil' who always smokes a revolting cigarette while waiting for the bus in the evening, and 'Stonehenge' a tall twenty-something girl with big tits who spends her time lurking around the bus drivers like some psycho stalker, talking and laughing loudly which shows off the teeth that spawned the nickname.
Then there's 'Fugley', 'Pimp Daddy', 'The nauseatingly cuddly couple', 'Skanky' - a middle aged blonde woman with a sort of dreadlock hairstyle and numerous tattoos, 'Mrs Bucket' (just like the woman off Keeping Up Appearances), and 'Dim Sum' - a tiny old Chinese woman.
All this people watching to a background of 'Fields Of The Nephilim' or 'Linkin Park' has reduced my general stress level considerably, to the point where I get to work without already being wound up like a spring, and where my habit of reaching for an alcoholic drink the instant I walk through the door at the end of the day has actually started to dwindle a bit.
Now I'm getting used to it, bus travel is starting to be of benefit in many ways. One of which is that now I'm not driving to and from work every day, perhaps I might actually start enjoying driving again like I used to. Very handy, as I've got a long drive up to the Yorkshire Moors to undertake soon.