Monday, 5 December 2011

Crazies and school kids: The Accidental Londoner's Taxonomy of Bus-Riders

I take the bus to and from work every day.  Whether I am late to arrive at the office or early home in the evening is entirely influenced by Transport for London's scheduling of the No. 29 bus.  Thus whether I spend the entire day in a good or foul mood is similarly determined by my bus experiences.  And even if the buses themselves run on time, my fellow travellers can also have an impact on my journey.  With this in mind, and in the wake of numerous articles which have appeared in the last few weeks about different types of tube-rider, I present 'The Accidental Londoner's Taxonomy of Bus-Riders'!   

The Worker: This is probably the largest species of bus-rider in London.  The worker carries a large handbag or briefcase, out of which some produce a sizeable novel, usually a paperback bestseller, which they read whilst one hand clutches a greasy handrail.  Occasionally their hands contain instead a papery take-away cup of coffee or a newspaper (never a broadsheet though - no room to stretch out and read it).  The Worker's coat is usually smart and dark, their hair neatly styled.  The Worker likes to scowl a lot, often at their fellow passengers.  Of an early morning they look in no particular hurry to reach their workplaces, but by the evening they look far keener to end their journey.

The School Kid: This species will only be encountered by most commuters in the earlier part of the day.  Each School Kid looks almost identical to its fellows, cladding itself in a standard outfit; a dark blazer and trousers or skirt with a single colour accent.  Such standard outfits vary between the different London habitats; in some western or central regions a straw hat or ridiculous-looking knickerbockers may be worn.  Younger members of this species may be accompanied by Parents or Workers, whilst older members move in packs.  The shriek of a School Kid is a piercing sound, and may be heard the length of a bus as an individual communicates with their fellows of the species.

The Parent: The Parent can often be identified by the buggy they wheel, the School Kids they chaperone and the perpetually stressed look they wear.  They use the bus as a location for their child-rearing, education and feeding activities.  Their small charges provide a running commentary on the species activity in the bus; 'Mummy, that man smells.  Why is  that lady on her phone shouting so loudly?  That man's hair looks funny.  Why is it taking so long to get home?'      

The Student: The Student is an evolved School Kid.  They travel with a companion or two and loudly discuss the frivolities they got up to the night before.  The Student is a somewhat scruffy bus-riding species.  The Student carries large bags of books, yet they never open a single one on the bus.  Instead they tap away on a Blackberry device, or communicate with other Students via their iPhones.  Typically, as they yap at one another or plug their ears with headphones from which thump repetitive dance beats, they appear to have little regard for their fellow travellers.

The Tramp: This oft malodorous passenger is probably the only bus-rider with no desire to reach a destination.  They are happy to ride the bus round and round its route, due to its presenting them with a warm, dry place to spend a few hours.  The Tramp usually travels heavy, filling the floor by their feet and at least one seat next to them with shopping bags and bin liners stuffed with their possessions.  This induces many glares from their fellow travellers.  The Tramp never feels their wrath however as they are usually asleep.

The Driver's Friend: The Driver's Friend hops on to the bus and immediately causes havoc for other embarking passengers.  Pausing at the driver's window, and thus in front of where a bus-rider is supposed to pay, the Driver's Friend proceeds on a long social chat, catching up on gossip and personal news as other riders attempt to squeeze past them and swipe their Oystercards.  As the driver sets off along their route once more, the Driver's Friend hangs onto the handrail by the front door, conversing loudly with their friend.  Despite loitering by the Oystercard reader, this bus-rider rarely pays for their trip.

The Tourist: This breed of bus-rider is most commonly spotted during the daytime, rather than prime commuting hours.  They are the least confident of bus passengers, embarking with hesitation and usually a three minute chat with the driver about whether or not they are going to Lie-sesster Square.  The Tourist sports a vibrant coat and plumage, favouring clashing luminous garments of flammable material.  Once seated they survey their fellow passengers with interest - they are probably wishing they had a copy of The Accidental Londoner's Taxonomy of Bus Riders with which to identify the species they encounter - and remark loudly to one another on the landscape through which the bus passes.  (All London bus-rider species are united in a common disdain for the Tourist.)

The Crazy:  The Crazy is a combative species; they love nothing more than a fight with another bus-rider, physical or verbal.  Merely catching their eye is enough to induce a rambling diatribe which may be offensively sexist, racist or ageist.  Simply brushing past them can encourage them to leap from their seats and start shoving other passengers around. Fortunately however, this bus-rider is fairly rare, and is not commonly found on more central or wealthy bus routes, but they should be avoided at all costs if you seek a peaceful journey.

To be continued...(all suggestions for species to appear in the Accidental Londoner's Taxonomy of Bus-Riders, Volume 2 gratefully received!)


  1. I think you should add the Worker and/or Tourist couple to the list! The amount of times I've had to watch people stuff their tongues down each others throats while on their 'romantic' (gag me!) trip in London - or the two Workers that are dating and try to claim all the Tube space in the AM for their lovefest. UGH! #peoplearedumb

  2. Ooh good thought, Ariel - The Couple is a seriously antisocial species which practices its mating rituals on the bus!

  3. I like it...I think that you could add the drunk guy (especially this time of the year, after the Christmas parties). He speaks very loudly and, if you are really lucky he will vomit on your shoes.
    There is also the old lady with a cane. She moves really slowly and speaks in a very old-fashioned way 'Oh! thank you, dear'.
    There is a specie that's, I believe, very specific to London: the guy or the girl shouting on his mobile phone, preferably in a foreign language. They talk non-stop. I often wonder if there is somebody else at the other end of the line....Can't wait to see part 2!

  4. Ah the Nightbus Drunk and the Mobile-phone User, both excellent additions, MuMuGB. And the Elderly Bus Rider - sadly people are pretty awful at acknowleding the existence of this species and their need for a seat; most people guard their hard won seats a little too furiously. I spend a lot of my bus-rides glaring at people to get them to relinquish their seats to an older rider.

  5. I would add that the crazy often has a foul stench. Loved your classifications.

  6. Thanks, Marie! Ah yes, another reason to avoid the Crazy...

  7. I can relate to this post in so many ways!
    The mobile phone user definitely needs to be added! The mobile phone user is the absolute bane of my life! Almost always speaking in another language, ( i find frequently it's Portuguese on the 87) and always very very loudly. They completely ignore evil glares from other bus riders, (me included) and are seemingly unaware that talking at a million decibels at rush hour on a crowded bus, full of people who'd rather have not got out of bed, is super super annoying!
    Saskia x

  8. The purple rinse brigade aka the old ladies with the short cropped tightly permed/curled hair (with a pink/purple or blue rinse) and their little cart on wheels in tow (generally on pension day).

    And the Mums on welfare who all flock together with their kids and prams and stuff.

    Oh and the yobs - unemployed lads with tattoos...or soccer hooligans.

    The memories are coming back from my time living in the midlands in the UK.

  9. That's an interesting variation on the loud mobile phone user, Saskia - the foreign language mobile chatterer. And I know just the species you mean!

    Do you think we might have different species of bus-rider in different regions, Janine? Maybe you had different ones in the Midlands unique to the area. Although all your ones above had definitely been spotted on buses in London too.


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