John McCullagh February 24, 2006
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It was one of those large red double-decker buses we were all once so familiar with. Well, the English were! I’d never seen one in real life. I couldn’t believe the draught! The back was open where there was an under-stairs space for prams, and a chrome rod that supported the upstairs deck at the back corner.

 

I was thankful for that straight away. No sooner had I set foot on the rear platform than the driver – cocooned way up front in his totally-isolated compartment – gunned the engine and the bus jolted forward. This motion propelled me backward at force (for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, as I had learned in science classes. Now I knew what it meant!).

My precious all-knowing tally card went flying in the breeze and it was all I could do to grip desperately at the rod as my feet clawed at thin air.

Now, there is one thing I can tell you for sure, and that is that the Kent people have absolutely NO sense of humour. And yet every passenger on that bus was grinning broadly. The driver – on the other hand – was laughing uproariously.

When the merriment was finally contained and I had recovered my precious all-knowing card, I finally could begin my work. I quickly studied the card. A few places – like Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate were written in bold: these were punctuated with minor stops with strange names like Broadacre Common and Red Cow Tavern. The same names, in different sequence, were printed along the top and at right angles. All the rest of the grid was figures that I took to be the fare in pence between the two. So far, so good, but some one was already standing in front of me.

‘Tweentrertyt’, he muttered, helpfully.

‘Sorry?’ I replied. There was irritation in his voice the second time.

‘Qwbberteyuot!’ he snapped.

‘I’m sorry,’ I explained, patiently. ‘I speak only English!’

‘Naw yey bl****y well dawn’t!’ he snapped.

‘Bl****y stoopiddd Oirish!’

‘Perhaps I ought to explain,’ I answered patiently.

‘I’m new to this job and my trainer hasn’t turned up.

So all passengers go free for the time being.

O K? Do you understand?’

He did. 

Isn’t it surprising how fast people learn when it’s to their advantage?

I made up my mind to afford myself at least a half-hour acclimatization period before I began taking fares in earnest!

..more……

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