15 January 2007

On the Clapham Omnibus (yes, really)

Now, you wouldn't think that anyone who has lived in London for 20 years would be stupid enough to get on a Replacement Bus Service when the trains aren't running

Well, I am

In my defence, it was only at the station I realised that the trains weren't running. Should I go back and fetch the car? But there was the bus all ready to go.... I went for it.

Looking back, I made three mistaken assumptions
  • Mistaken Assumption #1: That the bus was about to leave.
  • Reality: The driver was merely warming the engine
  • Mistaken Assumption #2: The bus was replacing the FAST train that I had planned to catch, and would go directly to Richmond, and Putney
  • Reality: it was replacing the slow train. St Margarets, Richmond, North Bleedin' Sheen..
  • Mistaken Assumption #3: That the bus driver knew the way
  • Reality: The driver failed to make that half-right turn at Chalker's Corner and crossed Chiswick Bridge. We had gone wrong. Worse, we were on the wrong side of the river.
Nobody on the bus said anything

Well, I was reading the paper and I didn't notice until it was too late. That's my story. Perhaps everyone else was doing the same.

Aren't we all polite?

As the bus accelerated up the A316 toward Chiswick there came just a few faint murmurings "Aren't we supposed to be going to Mortlake?", "Well, I thought so", "Did we actually cross the river?"

But no one spoke to the driver.

It was a good half mile before, finally, a woman deferentially piped up:
"Excuse me, driver?"
"Um, Do you think we've gone the wrong way?"

Reader, never, ever admit that you are wrong. If you doubt my advice, rest assured that the benighted driver of the 09:10 replacement bus service from Twickenham to Clapham Junction learned his lesson on Saturday.

- peace and calm -
- peace and calm -
- murmur whisper -
- peace and calm -
- polite question -
- peace and calm -

"I missed a turning back there didn't I?"


"Do a U turn!"
"He's missed the turning!"
"Turn right"
"Turn left"
"Keep going"
"Hammersmith Bridge"
"Slow Down!"
"3 point turn"
"Everyone put your hands in the air, sit down in your seats, and no one will get hurt. Now all of you - give me your phones"

OK the last one was me and, no, it wasn't funny and it wasn't clever,

Bewildered by the conflicting heckles the driver simply plunged on. The further we strayed from our route the later we were going to be. The later we got, the faster he went. The faster he went, the more we shouted

"Don't be stupid, he can't u-turn in a bus, "
"Keep going until we hit a roundabout"
"Turn left and then left again"
"I will execute one person every 40 minutes until my demands are met"

Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man. It's in a desperate situation like this that true natural leaders emerge. I coughed gently.
Unfortunately our true natural leader turned out not to be me but a wild red-headed woman at the front, with no sense of direction and no memory for roads. "There's no roundabout up this way!", she yelled, just a few hundred metres short of Hogarth Roundabout, "Not for miles..Turn LEFT now!"

Tyres screeched. The bus turned left. I strode masterfully to the front.
"Um, can I get out?"
"Out of the bus?"
"Um, yes"

Odd decision.

One moment I'm in a warm bus, with plenty of material for my blog unfolding before my blackberry. The next I'm on a street in Chiswick. It's raining softly. I'm carrying ski-boots.

And there's no taxi rank on the Hogarth roundabout.

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