Sunday, 16 January 2011

Never Try To Keep A Bus Driver From His Tea On A Friday Afternoon

"Everything you touch breaks," said the boss as the wiper blade detached itself as he was standing next to the front of the bus. "You are the kiss of death." It was the second time that day that it had fallen off.

It had been an alarming afternoon. The diesel delivery tanker's unexpectedly early arrival had meant that I had to leave the depot in the old Bedford in a hurry. Three miles down the road, past the point of no return, I looked at the dashboard and noticed the fuel guage needle was hovering suspiciously close to the E.

The whole way round the school run I had my heart in my mouth, listening for the juddering and stuttering noises which are a forewarning of the tank running dry. Then I would have been in trouble. Being stuck on a country road, in the middle of nowhere with marooned schoolchildren would have been the least of my problems. Having to face the wrath of the boss and the mechanic who would have had to come out and bleed the system, would have been unbearable. I would have never lived it down.

'Effing tool,' the boss's voice was reverberating around my head.

But I was lucky and there was just enough diesel to get back. It was Friday afternoon and all the buses returned from their respective school runs. A recipe for Grumpy Bus Driver Syndrome. Of course I arrived first and blocked the entrance while I filled up. The fuel pump is always painfully slow following a delivery and as the buses queued outside a succession of irritated drivers stood nearby, moving slowly from foot to foot, muttering ever ruder grumpy-isms and curses.

"Hurry up - will you," said one. "I want me tea."

Their patience snapped as it took another ten minutes to fill the Bedford. As the Bedford could only be parked in the depot in a certain way, which meant driving into the depot forwards, I had to drive back onto the road and do a circuitous route. This was a green light for the dirty tricks department. The other drivers sprinted for their buses and in the rush to beat me to the steam cleaner, the air was filled with the cacophony of excited chatter, roaring engines and flying gravel through the clouds of exhaust smoke.

Being demoted to third in line for the wash, it was now my turn to wait. I controlled my glumness as things like this always happen when you are in a hurry. I tried to smile and remembered what my nursery school teacher used to tell us four year olds when we were impatient:

'Patience is a virtue, virtue is a grace. Grace is a little girl who wouldn't wash her face.' (Dick King-Smith, I think)

It hasn't survived the test of time. It didn't translate into the grimy world of bus driving. The ancient Japanese proverb - if a man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty - has, however.

It could have been written in the bus depot, last Friday afternoon.

No comments:

Post a Comment