Wednesday, 28 January 2015

91 to Trafalgar Square

As the red double-decker pulls up to my bus stop I glance along its length and in at its windows. I count the heads in view, calculating the likelihood of there being enough space for me to board, together with my fellow commuters huddled at the bus stop. We all make it aboard and, squashing together, join the seated riders, standing amongst them, over them, as they stare down at their laps. People rarely look out of the window as they commute, I have noticed - slaves as they are to their smartphones or occasional newspapers.
One man, in a synthetic suit and a crumpled black tie is absorbed in revising for an Arabic spelling test. Written in different coloured inks English words are scribbled beside their Arabic script translations. I glance down the words and phrases: 'duress', 'complicity', 'hijack', 'cultural contest', 'post traumatic stress disorder'.

Behind him, back-to-back, a little girl with her hair tied in bunches clutches a bright green diorama covered in luminous poster-paint. A lone pipecleaner butterfly is suspended within the box, and gloves on a pink string dangle from the girl's sleeves. On the opposite side of the gangway sits a woman, who could be the girl's mother. She holds a mangled bunch of pipecleaners that might once have been another butterfly. 

A woman casts her eyes (dusted in frosted purple eyeshadow) down to her phone, where her fingers move rapidly across the screen, sliding cartoon candies here and there. Neon trainers top off her drab outfit of officewear in various shades of black.

Halfway down the bus, a young blonde in a bright red coat (out of which poke bare legs - a brave move for London in January) holds her phone in a gloveless hand, flicking through her inbox with a naked finger. The other hand remains in a dark brown leather glove, holding on to its limp other half.

Sat over the rear wheel, right at the back of a bus, an old gentleman is one of the few people not glued to a glowing screen in their hands. His fingers grip a flimsy cream-covered text, filled with evangelical encouragement to renounce sin and all manner of wild evils. His thick fingers trace the words, and he mouths some of them to himself. 

As people get on and off with each stop the bus makes, they shuffle slowly past each others' carrier bags and briefcases. One young man remains resolutely rooted to his spot in front of the sliding doors. People squeeze past him, jostling and scowling, but he doesn't look up from his tiny screen, where the highlights of last night's football match play out just for him.

And me? I move up and down between them all, my own phone and book tucked into my bag, my hands free and my eyes up. And I just watch everyone else - they are all the entertainment I need on this bus.  
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