Public transport is a cruel and evil form of mobile hell, in which one is forced to be surrounded by people at the very time of day when one least wants to be surrounded by people.
Yesterday the girl with the Justin Timberlake ringtone was in the midst of a lover’s quarrel with someone perhaps attempting contact whilst buried under an avalanche, such was the quality of the phone’s reception:
“Nooo. Wha? … I’m not arguing… Wha? No fuck youuu… Wha? … Wha? … I’m on the bus… Wha? … the BUS!”
The guy beside me was searching for his ears beneath the long greasy ropes of his hair. Once found, he jammed his earphones in and cranked up the volume to the maximum.
My blood began to simmer. When listening to music in public, it’s not difficult to check the volume before you put your earphones in to see if it’s audible to those around you. If so, you can decrease the volume accordingly. Or if you’re a jerky jerkface, you can just turn it up even louder to ensure the whole bus enjoys your bellowing Radio One DJ or obscure Scandinavian metal band.
“Wha? I’ll see you at home… HOOOME. Wha? Go to hell.”
I stood up and smacked the STOP bell. To hell with this bewheeled torture chamber! I’d paid £33 a month for unlimited travel on Lothian Buses. If this bus was so determined to shit me, I would simply get on a different one!
After ten minutes sulking in the afternoon drizzle, another bus came by. I was greeted by the unmistakable stench of the Great Unwashed. But I was willing to tolerate that for a few moments of silence. I sat back and noticed how this particular route was always full of elderly men with huge ears, curved and creviced like ashtrays.
I was dozing off when a young couple came clattering up the aisle, they couldn’t have been more than 14. They plonked down across from me and dropped their shopping bags. He carefully pushed back the hood of her regulation fur-trimmed parka and they commenced a furious snog session.
When you’re the one in the midst of a kiss, it sounds like heaven. Sweet or soft or sexy; the memory of it can keep you floating for days. But when you’re not involved, a kiss is one of the most irritating noises in the world. The sound of someone else’s smacking lips and clonking teeth makes the stomach scream in protest. I pulled my beanie down harder over my ears as he excavated traces of Irn-Bru and chip crumbs from her gums.
After ten minutes they stopped, and the boy spoke in nasal tones.
“Scratch my back would ya babe?”
“I’m itchy. Below my shoulder. Lower. Aww yeah, that’s it.”
“Bit more to the left. Aww yeah. You’re the best babe.”
The slurping resumed with renewed vigour for a good four stops, until the girl’s mobile rang. You could almost hear their merged saliva stretch out and snap like mozzarella on a pizza as they reluctantly parted lips.
“Hello? Who?… Eh? … What you want? … I’m on the bus… THE BUS… Noo, I’m on my own… I’m on my ooown…. Fine.”
“So that was Douglas. Me phone rang and I said like Hello? and he’s like It’s Douglas and I’m like Who? and he says Douglas and I’m like Eh? What you want? and he’s like Where are you? and I’m like I’m on the bus and he’s like Where? THE BUS I said and he’s like, Is Kyle with you? and I’m like Noo, I’m on my own and he’s like, Suuuure, and I’m like, I’m on my ooown, and he’s like, I’m going, so I’m like, Fine.”
Slurp slurp slurp.
My fingers itched to hit the STOP button again, but all immediate exits were blocked by old geezers with satellite dish ears. I scratched at the vinyl seat and tried to ignore the din. Instead I focused on the man in front, admiring the way he’d artfully arranged his remaining hairs in a spiral around his spotty red scalp.
I was brooding over the realisation that I’d have been home twenty minutes ago if I’d stayed on the first bus, when the bell rang. The scrawny Casanova dragged his girl down the aisle.
“Let’s go babe. I’m bursting on a piss.”