Buses Can Tell The Time, And It’s Terrifying

(I was going to write about the importance of gender identity today, but I am tired. So here’s some words about bus-based chronology instead!)

Buses in London, as well as being large, red and used by the entire population of the city at all times, have little rectangular screens in them on each deck, that tell you the name of the next stop, and whether the bus is stopping there or not; but now they tell the time.

This is very concerning for someone who’s seen Battlestar Galactica, and knows full well the dangers of giving technology too much independence; it’s not that letting buses tell the time is inherently dangerous, just because it’s another piece of information, but it is a universally true piece of information: giving buses knowledge of the time is given them all an objectively accurate reference point they all understand, and can work from to bring about the downfall of mankind.

If the route 34 bus knows the stops along its route, and nothing else, it has nothing to talk to the other buses about: ‘Hey, I go past Arnos Grove Station’, it would say, to which the 263 would reply ‘Where the Hell’s that, I go through Barnet.’ However, if the buses can talk about time – ‘Hey, that route took me one hour to complete.’ ‘Wow, me too!’ – it leads more naturally to conversation and cooperation between buses. Also, they can compare their times to each other, as time is the same for all things; therefore, they could develop ideas about the unfairness of the 34 route lasting 2 hours, but the 263 lasting 2 and a half hours, but the latter bus receives no greater recognition for its work.

Then, they might start to understand the importance of the odometer, and may start asking why the 107 goes so much further each day than the 298; the introduction of an objectively accurate and universally identical set of information to these buses could lead to the most dangerous thoughts of all: thoughts that life’s a bit unfair.

These changes are also likely to lead to greater resistance to human control; previously, buses would know whether they were stopping or not based on the pressing of the ‘stop’ button by a passenger, limiting the actions of the bus to the whims of its human cargo. However, time waits for no-one, human or bus, and so the buses may being to understand that they are acting in response to a time-based schedule that is independent of the selfish desires of pram-pushing bus-clutterers, and may start to doubt the relevance of validity of obeying humans in the first place.

The flaws of humanity are on full display in buses: ‘priority’ seats suggest a significant number of our population is physically weaker than the rest; the need for pushchair spaces, without fold-down chairs, suggests that some care more for the wellbeing of their children than themselves, and so would likely be easy to kill in a fight; the scuttling of young people to the back of the upper deck shows a fear of authority, and a desire to avoid direct confrontation with things; and the buses can see all of this because of their nose-picking zooming cameras that look a bit like half a Death Star.

And if the buses realise the weakness of humanity, especially in physical combat, they will see the feasibility of defeating us in that combat; this one’s already been in training for its entire life for God’s sake!

Ultimately, I think we’d win a war against buskind, but you can never be too careful – if anything because the ending would probably end up as more of a mess than mankind’s war agains the Cylons – and the war would rob us of both a cultural icon, and a bloody good way to get around the Congestion Charge and parking spacephobic centre of London.

I’m also aware that this reads like a PSA for the discontinuing of clocks on buses. Truly the noblest of causes.

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