We ride the bus a lot, the girls and I. I park their double stroller in the open area in the front of the bus and sit in the nearest seat and off we go. Unless the nearest seat is occupied, then I stand–though often the occupier, realizing that I need to be near the buggy, will remove to another seat. This morning I had no such luck. The seat’s inhabitant was a rather rough-looking middle-aged man in a dirty striped sweatshirt. He was playing music loudly from a hand-held device until a pal of his got on the bus at the next stop. They immediately struck up a loud and disgruntled conversation: someone had inconvenienced the middle-aged man and they were going to be sorry.
I stood by the buggy and tried to distract my two-year-old, who was too fascinated by their conversation, containing as it did the constant use of an unfamiliar word beginning with the letter F. About halfway to the city, an elderly woman left her seat and made her way to the front. She was wearing a tweed suit and pearls. To everyone’s surprise she did not disembark, but leaned over the man.
“Why can you not remove to a seat near your friend? Then you can continue your conversation and this lady [indicating me] can be seated?”
“Wall, she ken sit ‘ere now cain’t she?” He slapped the seat next to him, half of which was occupied by his right leg.
“I just cannot believe I’ve seen the day in England when a grown man like yourself, neither elderly or disabled, cannot allow a young woman to sit down!” She declaimed in a trembly voice, clutching the pole as the bus lurched on. She staggered back to her seat as the man leaped up and began rummaging in his clothing for a government-issue bus pass.
“Lot you know ’bout it! ‘oo says I’m not disabled! What does that say you old bag and mind yer own business!”
There was just nothing to do. There was no way to tell her that I didn’t need to sit down, I needed to stand by the buggy because I had failed to engage the brake. Somehow the man seemed to get slightly mixed and began to talk to her as though she was the Queen, possibly because she wore a headband of ribbon in the colors of the British flag. Apparently he has a stash of grievances against the Crown, and these all were added to her account. Whenever he paused to gather resources for a fresh onslaught, she broke in lamenting the state of the nation and the manners of her citizens.
“There was a day when gentlemen were gentlemen in England!”
“Yer not ‘sposed to even be Queen anyways, and the monarchy is *%#@!”
“. . . and manners were manners!”
“German married to a Greek!”
In the end she subsided and he, after informing the bus that her name was only changed to Windsor after the Second World War as a cover-up because she was German, trudged off the bus hollering that if she “was a bloke I’d be waitin’ outside for her, Mate!”
I’ve been collecting bus fiascos for eight months now and this one is the current winner.