(not least because of this masterful piece of music)
I’ve spent a large part of my life getting public transport, from the 329 up to my primary school, to the legendary 34-on-the-way-there-then-the-307-and-121-on-the-way-back combo to secondary school, and the painfully regular combination of the National Rail, followed by the Victoria, Norther, and sometimes even Piccadilly, Lines when I go into central London from home. And as I’ve rolled around London, hopping from one form of public transport to another like they’re women in a Beach Boys song, I have concluded that buses are the best form of transport.
They’re not the fastest; that honour falls to the Tube, with its racks of human marbles being pushed through its bowels like half-digested chicken through the intestines of a guy who’s had one too many Cheeky Nando’s. They’re not the cheapest; I’d say that’s the National Rail, especially considering I take it far enough to validate it, but not so far that I pass through seven thousand stations and have to pay millions of pounds for the pleasure. And they’re not the greenest, because the Cycle Hire system (which is a form of public transport) produces exactly zero tonnes of carbon dioxide at the point of use. But they’re the most human.
The other systems feel too much like systems for me; you’re one of a million faceless wankers sniffing each other’s armpits on a crowded Tube carriage, or one of Boris Johnson’s ego-boosting minions, witlessly buying into his message of greener transport when in reality you’re legitimising him as an effective administrator. I might just be a proud university student, but I don’t quite want to feel like numbers in someone else’s game yet.
With a bus, you can hop on and off, and are immediately deposited in the streets where Londoners have walked with their obsolete human legs for generations; you don’t need to tap out, or find a place to put your bike, or weasel your way through thousands upon thousands of staircases to return to civilisation from the subterranean, Death Star-like empire of the Jubilee Line. There’s a fluidity to buses, as they trundle diligently through the city, mingling with pedestrians and drivers, cyclists and those blokes trying to flog you flowers in the red lights of busy junctions; London is, at its heart, a diverse place where all economic and cultural backgrounds clash into a mangled mess of streets and confusing postcodes, and nothing epitomises that more than the humble bus, getting stuck in traffic, pushing the speed limit on the North Circular, and accelerating away from stops as slow people jog tragically up to them, doomed to fail in their quest to get on that bus as opposed to waiting six and a half minutes for the next one. Buses are a reminder that in this world of corporations, militant zealots and shady paragovernmental organisations running the show, there’s still a place for a bundle of limbs, arteries and grey matter to swing a big red thing around a roundabout.
So thank you, buses; thank you for being buses.