“Born from two personal experiences.”
|"A London Bus"|
I wait for a bus on a chilly Friday evening, outside the O2 centre in London. I am alongside two friends waiting to travel home, after a showing of the opera Carmen... they offered me a spare ticket. The tube is down, and at this bus stop hoards of people stand rammed into a confined area, waiting to board the replacement bus service into Euston. They are the exact folk you would expect at a showing of Carmen; decked out in mink coats, Jimmy Choo shoes, watches costing more than the average car, and four figure dresses. They are bankers, lawyers, directors, executives, politicians, and I imagine the majority live in Knightsbridge. They look dignified, respectable, and very wealthy – at least in terms of money, anyway. A few minutes of waiting, and the bus arrives…
I am waiting for a bus outside Northolt Tube Station to Harrow, on a chilly late-afternoon; after a tiring day of jaunts and escapades I can scarcely recall. I am alone with hoards of many others, crammed in the small space, seeking the sanctity of home. This is an entirely different crowd, however. The people here do not travel via bus through choice, but poverty, situation, and a lack of other available options. They are manual workers, the unemployed, single mothers, immigrants, frail pensioners, and the like; a quintessential collection of those carved by the hard-natured stone of a brutal life. A few minutes of waiting, and the bus arrives…
On one of the buses, the crowd rush on like a pack of dirty animals; fighting to board a vehicle as if doing so will save them from a forthcoming apocalypse. Not a single person considers any other human around them as human; their main concern seems to involve shoving each other aside, in order to secure a prime seat. I am stuck in the middle of these vultures, and while able to bully my way on to a bus, where plenty of seats are available anyway, this is still one of the most hostile, aggressive, outwardly nasty crowds I can remember. I get onto the bus, and loudly discuss with a blunt humour to my friends, how these people are a bunch of disgraceful animals. Unsurprisingly, nobody picks up the courage to argue back - I was hoping they would.
With the other bus, however, everyone waits for the doors to open. They then quietly, slowly, and in a silent dignity, enter the packed bus, one by one. The weak are allowed in first, the elderly given space to make their way inside, and nobody fights, argues, or cause any affray. This bus is the polar opposite of the previous bus; where humanity was discarded for a comfy seat, this sees humanity considered by all and sundry. Once everyone manages to find a place on the bus – still jostling amongst each other inside so we are all comfortable, the door shuts, the engine starts, and the handbrake is released… this bus then makes it way to Harrow.
The moral of the story? Anyone who ever tells you the rich are dignified, and the poor are animals; have never travelled on a bus with either. And real animals, usually wear mink coats.