After a sleepless weekend of trepidation it was a relief finally to get to work on Monday morning and to meet this ogre that they all feared.
‘Hi! My name’s Dave. You’re John?’ He was the first not to call me Paddy.
‘We’ll get to know each other over breakfast!’
He climbed into his cab and we were away.
Breakfast? It would be two hours before we earned a short tea break. That must be what he meant!
I liked him immediately. Cheery, friendly, vital. This one at least wasn’t brain-dead.
We were separated by that enclosed cab and he never once looked over his shoulder to see what was going on in his bus.
The first hint of trouble came at the large roundabout just outside Margate. Four roads and one dirt-track – to the Recreational Grounds – led off it. Dave seemed unsure of the route and completed a full circuit of the roundabout. A few passengers looked in alarm in my direction.
By the end of the second complete circuit they were all looking askance at me and a few were showing distinct signs of travel sickness.
By the end of the third circuit one old lady was poking me in the ribs with an umbrella while she demanded that I inform him that the next exit was the correct one.
He didn’t take one blind bit of notice of my ringing the bell or frantic rapping on the window of his cab. He was enjoying himself!
Finally, on the fifth circuit, he made up his mind.
It was to be the dirt-track.
At every single pot-hole, we lurched downwards and sideways. Our passengers were falling like flies! I was thrown against a window, the loose change spilling from my leather money pouch.
When I finally recovered, I felt obliged to explain that the driver was unfamiliar with the route: and besides, he wasn’t in his full health.
This served merely to increase the general alarm!
The bus came to an enforced halt in an enclosed car-park at the rear of the Sports Ground. Dave proceeded to negotiate a three-point turn with his double-decker bus where a normal driver would have hesitated to do the same in a mini. I distinctly heard the sound of a crunch from upstairs as he roared into a tight hedge. His forward movement was just as unsuccessful and I saw a fence post crumple under the impact. I heard at least one passenger cry out in fear.
When we finally returned to the roundabout, most of the upstairs passengers suddenly decided that they had arrived at their stop.
It seemed unlikely. It was in the middle of nowhere!
For the first time since I had arrived in Kent three weeks earlier, I was thoroughly enjoying myself!
I tried to look sombre and concerned but I was laughing inside!
My face must have shown it and that was the last straw for the few remaining passengers who quickly exited.
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