Friday, 24 May 2013

Purple coated ladies one, two...

The queue for my first homeward bus is where I met the first two of my purple ladies.  Different coats, same colour totally different characters but both delightful bus friends.

Purple lady one is older with that elegant silver blond hair which looks so stylish.  She is calm, and her rueful acceptance of the vagaries of both weather and bus time tables is soothing.  Conversation is general, light and after a day at work restful.  Some evenings a nod and a smile is sufficient for us both on other occasions the conversation moves along with the line of folk and settles nicely in on the bus til she reaches her departure point.

Purple lady two is both younger in years and at heart with jolly red hair and even jollier smile we talk about her club, family and rabbit, not necessarily in that order.  We talk in the queue and almost always onto the bus, I sit by the window and she in the aisle to accommodate he earlier exit.  If I get there for the early bus we meet on a regular basis and exchanged names long since past.. Each of us wonder about the other if we miss the connection. Recently my purple lady briefly turned  pink in a new winter coat but the warmer weather set things back to rights. She recently celebrated a birthday and surprised me that she is a little older than me, I would have said the other way around.

Purple is proving to be a good colour for me, it is my best friends colour of choice, and now the choice of colour for my bus friends too

Saturday, 18 May 2013

A very British pass time

queueing, or as our cousins across the pond phrase it, standing in line.

There are suggestions that this is a dying art, the art of waiting your turn.  In this digital age people are more and more expecting things faster than fast, on demand and there almost before you even knew you wanted it.  The idea of waiting as outmoded as a sundial for telling the time.

But the art is still out there and can be found in many of it subtleties at bus stops and stations.  There are queues which support the American description linear in form and queues with no physical structure just an unspoken acknowledgement of precedence.

At bus stops, with or without shelter there is not usually an easily defined direction for a queue to form, nor quite often is there the space.  So the queue forms in the mind, as you arrive you take note of who was already there waiting, these people form the  before me group, there is no need to know in which order they arrived just the recognition they all get to go first if they are waiting for the same bus.  It is for them to know in which order they have the right to board.  The expectation is that those who come after will place themselves in the same notional queue .  There is a level of comfort in knowing your place, an orderliness in this unspoken agreement.  You can feel a general sense of unease if this order is disrupted by anything other than a polite offer by word or gesture for someone to move ahead ( often made to those with pushchairs, small children, the elderly and still, occasionally, from a gentleman to a lady) a not you turn hush.

At some bus stations ( the 2nd and 3rd previously mentioned) there is both direction and room for a line to form, but even so there is art to the function.  The multi queue is a thing to behold, one stop but three anticipated buses, all of which can pull in to the stand but with only one point of  access or egress (a set of automated doors) from bus to bus station.  A single queue forms which as a bus pulls in moves forward and often with out word splits as those wanting the particular bus set slightly to the right and those still with waiting to do, step to the left.  Thus the queue as a whole moves forward, the choreography of this living line becomes more complex if two buses arrive at the same time, a three way split occurs and two lines of people are trying to funnel themselves out through the double door as two sets of clowns (see previous blog) are trying to get in.  Oh and occasionally, the clowns from one arriving bus are also passengers to be to get on before them.

It is all very polite, civilised and fosters a sense of order and oddly enough belonging.  I am given to understand that this delightful dance is not the norm country wide, one lady looking bemused at the ebb and flow of people commented to her local companion "we don't do this in London, you just bustle  up and get on regardless" her friend gave her a look of pity and said "here we wait our turn."

There are those who will suggest that it is the young, brought up in the atmosphere of instant gratification, who are eroding the art of waiting for your turn.  But that is not my experience, it is not a matter of age but one of attitude.  We are loosing the understanding of others rights and needs and constantly trying to sublimate them to our own.  There is a suggestion that being polite and patience is a form of weakness, a waste of time and a barrier to progress, the busy person's time to valuable to waste.  I disagree, I think that if we shift our focus to only ourselves, without concern for others we are loosing a vital part of what makes us mentally healthy and a society rather than a collection of  selfish individuals.

Any anyway time spent waiting is thinking time, even if you are just contemplating the art of a queue     

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Here come the clowns

now that may sound a bit harsh, please take it as the rather more light hearted thought it actually is.  When the bus pulls up and the passengers start to get off, and get off and keep getting off and there are so many getting off you begin to wonder where they are all coming from.  There appears to be more people getting off the bus than there should be room for on the bus in the first place.  It is like watching that old circus clown visual joke with the little car which keeps disgorging clowns past any reasonable capacity of the cars occupancy.  It would do the TARDIS proud.

And whilst on occasion those of us waiting to board might begrudge the time this mass exodus takes the potential for a seat, and maybe even one in a preferred location is sufficient consolation.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Out of the window

next to my desk, on the eighth floor of the building I work in, is a view of the bus station and if I look out and down I can see the stand for the bus home.  The bus home is now scheduled to run every ten minuets (it used to be hourly and then half hourly) and as they are generally bright red double deckers I can tell which of the buses would be mine.

Now you would think that with a bus every ten minuets it would make little difference which bus I caught.  Well you would be greatly mistaken, it is very important on a couple of fronts.  Firstly the buses it connects to, at one of the three main connection points, do not run every ten minutes, they are once an hour or half hourly so a miss is lost time. That is the other point time, my time and like most bus passengers I want to spend as little of it as possible waiting for a bus and as much of it as able, doing the things I want to do.

An obsession with time, and timing arrival at bus stops is like ivy on a building, just a little at first and then all encompassing.  I expect it will be a recurring theme in this blog.  Working out the last moment you can wait to leave to still catch the bus becomes a sort of game with how little time spent waiting as the score.  I don't have far to go but the down eight floors part can be most frustrating.  There is room for four lifts, at present there are only two operating as they are replacing the old with the new, one new and one old are available for use.  However, the call buttons are not yet linked so people call both in a hurry to have either arrive,this is counterproductive, the result being both lifts stop on almost every floor up and down with time consuming consequences.

Now the old lifts did need replacing they were idiosyncratic, lift two did not like being told when to close its doors and if you made the mistake of using the door close button it would either open and shut them several times in reproach before setting off or take twice as long to close than it should.  Lift four had some sort of falling out with floor four and the light display and voice announcing the location of that lift went directly from three to five remaining sullenly silent for the fourth floor.  The other two just appeared work shy as they rarely turned up at all.  They jiggled, grated, clanked and stuck, they did not inspire confidence.  However,  they were and are still better than walking the eight floors, I know as we have no choice but to walk every time we have a fire drill.

So the vagaries of the lift have to be form part of the calculation for when to go.  Then on the TV there started two advertising campaigns, one for a breakfast cereal and one for a credit card.  They both featured innovative ways of travel from work.  The cereal themed itself so good that people had to rush home as quickly as possible to eat more and the credit card was promoting the pass not swipe technology.  They featured watersides, roller coaster cars and designated traffic lanes and lastly but to me by no means least a zip line.

I envision a zip line being very useful to me, running from the office window by my desk, down to the bus stand.  Clip on and whee I would be at the bus in seconds.  See the bus pulling round and out the window off I would zip, not a moment wasted with nary a bus missed.  It could only be bettered by a Star Trek transporter, and I have had my fantasies about that too.

Sadly for the happy thought, the windows don't even open on my floor, and I doubt the building managers would agree to the installation, health and safety would no doubt have comment and the risk assessment process a nightmare of crimson tape but it is an amusing thought non the less and one which my mind turns to frequently as the lift stops on floors seven through one before reaching the ground..

Thursday, 2 May 2013

A happy mistake

as I go up the escalator I try to get my brain started up ready for work.  Just at the top in the shelter of the lift area is" Pop Bottle" man.  There most mornings with a litre pop bottle with a dark liquid in it, about half the volume the bottle will hold, I expect it is a famous brand.  He is usually just finishing a cigarette. No idea if it is a pre-bus journey pause or if he has just arrived.  I do know he is not supposed to smoke there but like many others I say nothing.

Now I have a theory about how my brain works, if that is the right word, it has lots of little flash cards with pictures or information on them and it does a compare, refine or discard thing when trying to identify something or find an answer for me.  Normally it whizzes through this process quickly, so quickly that I don't even notice but if I am tired, more than half asleep or making it think about two things at once the process can slow down enough that I do notice it.

For example one morning walking to work, in the days when that was all I did and buses were not involved, I saw something coming towards me.  My brain goes into identification mode.  First thought the something is flying therefore, BIRD, happy with the initial sort I got for a bit more definition, a hint of red, ROBIN, it gets a bit closer and an element of size penetrates, the next mental statement is more indicative of my tired mind, BIG ROBIN, it lands a short distance off turns sideways on and with a triumphant last filter of facts my brain announces, PHEASANT!

Now early on in the journey experience as I crossed the bridge a lady was coming in the other direction, tired brain automatically goes into its sort, filter and refine mode.  Working a little faster than with the Pheasant it matches general appearance against people I know and gets ready to send instructions for an appropriate reaction to the rest of me.

My brain panicked I think at the speed of the approach decided it was a Lady from Church, similar features and hair colour.  It discarded the fact there was no reason for that retired lady to be in this location at this time of the morning and rushed a beaming smile of delighted greeting to my face.  And as the smile was returned, with overtones of surprised pleasure, my brain finished its checking and announced , you don't know her!

The "Not the Lady from Church" became over the next six years the "Smiling Lady", that one mistake developed into many a mornings friendly greeting, smiles, nods, hellos and mornings.  A last cheering encounter before entering the dark portals of work. Ok the portals are well lit but rarely do I find getting there lights up my day.  Yip I should be glad I have a job to go to and in the main , overall I am, but on a day to day basis...

Almost there

this bus station is all shiny white and chrome, tiled floor, seats to sit on and that piped music and electronic timetables.
new bus station.
There is a choice of stairs escalator or lift to get from road level to the bridge which goes one way to a covered shopping centre and the other to a housing estate and past the building I work in.

The escalators (up and down) are this week sporting new safety signs, you know the ones, advising not to take pushchairs on etc.
The new signs are all pink and shades of purple and rather a slap in the eye compared to the old dim blue and white ones they have replaced.

It was not always this greenhouse of glass and tile, it was previously concrete and metal walls painted blue.  It was dark and cold, old and dingy.  It had the option of stairs or a lift which was rather forbidding.  

It was quite an exciting pleasing though when they announced it was to be improved, of course things would get worse before they would get better.  A temporary bus station was set up held together with scaffolding and that worrying black and yellow striped tape. Which stands the buses arrived and departed from appeared to change daily.  The ladies in the ticket shop were decanted into a port-a-cabin and the scaffolding stairs were scary indeed and a tad slippy during the winter weather.

At the time, as such things do, it seemed to take ages to finish.  The last little bit took extra extra long to be completed, to the outside observer it looked done and why couldn't we use it yet already! But it was worth the wait in the end.  Mind although it is a brighter nicer place it still manages to be very cold in the Winter, sliding doors for access to the buses but open at the top of the stairs and escalators, so drafty.  In the summer, as per my earlier description the sun gets very hot through the glass and tomatoes would do well in it.

The ticket ladies have a spacious new shop, there was a little shop for snacks tucked under the stairs but two different attempts at running it have both failed and it has been closed longer than it was ever open.

I use the escalator (when it is working) the lift when it is not, the stairs are at the other end of the station and I would need to work my way through the shopping centre if I took that route.

So up the escalator...

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Stop a moment

2 sided + bottom perch bus stop
just as I am about be a free sardine I feel the need to fast forward chronologically and rewind geographically for a moment and talk about stops and stations and the two bus journey.

Firstly I define a bus station as a location with stands for more than three buses at a time, shelter from the elements for the passengers and other amenities from bottom rests to seats, lights to shops and amenity or annoyance, piped music.

gab a seat before it vanishes
A stop is at its simplest a place where a bus does exactly that, stops.  The basic version is a pole with a sign for the buses which stop there, the next level up the pole has a timetable sealed in perspex detailing all of the buses which serve the stop and their times. Then we have the stops with shelters, the designs vary between older brick built shelters and newer designs with metal frames and perspex panels.

Brick bus stop

Both can have three walls back and side or have an additional section of wall and openings for entrance /exit.  The brick have the disadvantage (unless you are superman), that you can not see through the walls to tell if the bus is coming and have to step out of the shelter regularly to check.  The perspex is often the victim of vandalism either scratched , written on, melted and occasionally broken, spoiling either the view or the protection from the weather.

Starting bus station

I start at a bus station which I described earlier, although I note that the seats are slowly diminishing in numbers, by the gaps on the floor I can count 24 less seats then when we started.
Not a problem early when so few people are there, all silly of the morning people like me, but later when it gets busy seats are at a premium.

On the two bus journey I have a choice of where to alight from the first bus and catch the next depending on which first bus I am on (there is currently a choice of three at various times).  I tend to pick the sheltered stop at which my second bus starts  its journey as all three 1st buses stop there.  This is a four wall perspex shelter, it once had bottom rests but they were melted and broken and have not been replaced.  Occasionally here I can smell English breakfasts cooking and although I have had my breakfast still the smells make my mouth water. 

The next option, only one bus goes this far, it is a half brick, half perspex bus station with bottom rests and lights, as it is a station it is an option in both directions.  It is a safety net going in case I nap past stop number one (but only on the right bus and the outward journey) and coming home the weather is more of a consideration.
Tunnel bus stop
Black plastic bottom perches

Last chance is a bus top same style as option 1 but with its counter part directly opposite, two buses at each stop fit here OK.  This is the sight of my litter incident, stay on past here and I will be well on my way to a different destination entirely and another hour before a safe turn around. I have not done that yet.

Four walls with two entrance/exit gaps

That brings us back to my destination and stepping out of the tin...