Friday, 11 March 2011

Stone The Buses - You Are Unlikely To Miss

The Windies beat Bangladesh at the World Cup Cricket. The locals in Mirpur did not take kindly to this and tried to stone their fellow countrymen's bus. Unfortunately they mixed up the two team buses and stoned the West Indies' team bus in error.

Opening batsman, Chris Gayle, tweeted: "Bangladesh stoning our bus!!! Freaking glass Break!!! This is crap...This is ridiculous!!! Damn!!!...Trust me I'm not keen here!!!...players lay flat!!!"

How consoling. It is home from home.

It reminded me of driving a bus load of away fans to and from a football match and having stones flung as we left the city, regardless of the result. It happened several times in various cities. Sometimes in the same city but in different suburbs. The fury and hatred was vented on my bus. Even when we were accompanied by police outriders, the bus was still an inviting and simple target. A blind man could hit us, and quite possibly did. Most trips returned to the depot with battle scarred buses. Paint chips at best, smashed windows at worst.

The irony of all this lay in the fact that the team, whose supporters we carried, were seriously bad. They rarely won and were always in danger of relegation. But they seemed to be hated by every other football supporter in the land. Strangely I used to enjoy these days - you never knew what was going to happen next.

I used to love to listen to another bus driver's tales of when he drove buses during the Miners' Strike in 1984. He was a brave man in what must have been a petrifying experience. He had to drive at full speed everyday through rows of furious striking miners on the picket line. Enraged at the sight of his bus carrying the blackleg miners to the mines. Every day, for months he had to run the gauntlet of rage.

Today there was a different driver talking about his experiences driving prison transfer buses. He found it a terrifying ordeal when he arrived at the prison. The onset of claustrophobia as he drove through one gate, which immediately shut before an inner door was opened, was almost unbearable.

"And I knew I was going to leave. Prison was a terrible place."

In those days ordinary service buses were used to transport prisoners from one jail to another. The driver had no protection apart from the wardens who accompanied the convicts. Occasionally he would transport the high priority prisoners - the murderers, the rapists etc.

"Don't talk to them. They will try to speak to you. Try to manipulate you," the chief warden had said. "Don't even make eye contact."

So this was the Friday night wind down, with drivers relaxing in the boss's portakabin, with a can of John Smith's in hand, recounting all tales from their distant pasts.

"Well, time to go home," said one driver. "Another week bites the dust." I held back the sarcasm and did not tell him that there was no dust in the depot - only oil slicks.
In the Friday afternoon wind down session

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