Saturday, 16 April 2011

It's Not All White On The Night - On The Way To Blackpool

Tebay Services was busy. Tebay Services was extremely busy. It was a Friday afternoon and there were few spaces to park the bus in. The Polish and Hungarian trucks and some other Northern coaches had a monopoly on the car park. But there was one space left at the front and the forty seven elderly passengers, on their way to a Dancing Weekend in Lytham St Annes, something they did every year.

I loved taking them. They are an inspiration, being strong willed, upright and not really caring what they said or did. The starting age was seventy something and increased by at least a decade or maybe even two. I watched them disappear into the building for their tea stop.

It had been an early start with multiple pick-ups in various towns around the area.

"Wait! Joe's just gone to the toilet" said one concerned lady at the designated bus stop where the luggage had been loaded. She was concerned that I might have driven off and left him.

"Come on," said an impatient voice somewhere down the back of the bus. "I hope he hasn't got diarrhea. Otherwise we will be late." There were nods of agreement.

"Excuse me bus driver," said another lady in tones which, if you shut your eyes, sounded like a merging of Alan Bennett and Paul O'Grady. "Have you got a wheel here?"

I looked puzzled, but said: "Yes, madam. This bus actually has six wheels."

"No, no," she replied looking equally puzzled. "Am I sitting on a wheel?" The other passengers were beginning to get agitated, so I avoided the sarcastic reply of 'it depends from which point you are coming from' and told her instead that she was sitting on a seat.

"No. No. No, lad." She looked mortified. "I where we are sitting, me 'usband and I, is it over the wheel?"

"I don't know, I'd better go and have a look outside and........" I wasn't allowed to finish.

"Because..." continued the lady, "I am very sick on buses. And I have traced it to when I sit over the wheel when I am very, very, sick."

The bus groaned. The other passengers raised their eyes, looked out the windows and looked as if they didn't want to hear this monologue. After much kerfuffle the couple moved to other seats, somewhere between the front and rear wheels. Every stop I would ask the lady: "Is everything alright?"

"Lovely, thank you," she would reply. It was sod's law that she was fine and that one of the other passengers had taken ill.

"Can we stop?" one of the other passengers had asked as we drove down the M6. "She's taken a queer turn. It must be the heat or something." It had been hot and cold the whole journey. various passengers had come to the front of the bus:

"It's too's too hot...can you put the blowers on?...can you turn the blowers off?" And it had to be that the ones who wanted it cooler were in the hottest part of the bus and those who wanted it warmer were in the coldest part. It was impossible to be all things to all people, so it was a relief to have a stop at the service station.

When it came to loading up the bus again, it was pandemonium. Two other white buses with different company logos had parked behind me. Both had 'Blackpool' destination stickers prominently placed in their windows. One was from the North East and the other from Glasgow. All the passengers from all the buses got into a muddle and boarded the first white bus they saw, without checking the company logo.

A Glaswegian couple boarded my bus and sat in the front seat. They looked around, failed to recognise any fellow passengers and realised their mistake.

"We're on the wrong bus, hen," said the man.

"Aye and that's without having a drink," said the woman.

Some Geordies wandered aimlessly between the three buses, in a disorientated stupor and even some of my passengers came back looking shaken:

"That was confusing," said one of the men. "We thought you had done a runner."

And run we did. I went as fast as I could. The sooner the passengers could take in the sea air the better.

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