The old saying; ‘You might get run over by a bus tomorrow’ took on a sinister edge recently with Winchester’s busses having one by one been secreted away to a hidden workshop and given their new Turbo charged Formula One racing engines. Or so it would seem.
I’m only just the wrong side of forty, reasonably physically fit and in possession of a certain amount of road sense but none of this readied me for the near death experience I had with the bus coming along Chesil Street the other day. It came from nowhere and let me tell you, it was moving. The thing missed me by just under an inch. Okay, this sort of thing happens to us all once in a blue moon. Then it happened again two days later. That bus was really shifting that time. I don’t know if it was the same bus but not having to my knowledge outraged any bus drivers recently I feel I can safely exclude a personal vendetta from the equation. What was going on?
Ever since those two incidents I have been watching buses and boy, they all seem to be flying around the streets. Too fast! as my old driving instructor was want to say at every juncture when teaching me the delicacies of driving.
After a week of observing the new high speed buses it was time to ask the local bus company to come clean about what they’ve done to warrant this drastic increase in the chances that some, if not all of us will be ‘hit by a bus tomorrow’ after all. I picked up the phone to dial the number and then I paused. Maybe I should have a think about what I was going to say. Well, I’d start with the obvious – do you realize that I have nearly been killed by not one but two of your buses in the same number of days – that would get them going and, apart from the obvious ‘No, we didn’t realize that Mr Winchester-Bloke and we’re extremely sorry to hear that’, which I would never get from them anyway as they would refuse point blank to accept any liability by way of an apology, I wasn’t entirely sure that what they would say. It might, I speculated after a few more moments of thought, not be very pleasing to my ear.
This is because I am sure they would state in a most matter-of-fact way that their drivers never exceed the speed limits and drove in full compliance with any traffic regulations in force on the roads which is probably true. Then, in a roundabout (excuse the pun) sort of way, politely tell me to watch where I’m bloody well crossing the road in future.
But damn it all, I’m not an old fogey, am I? No! I am not. Instead I have another theory, and it’s a disturbing one I'm afraid, and it is this; the new and doubtless improved buses are symptomatic of all of society that got itself in one hell of a rush. The pace of life is unrelenting. Ten years ago busses were the filthy, dirty, smoke belching lumps of the road. Darting across a busy street was a cinch if there was a bus coming – you knew you had a few seconds longer to do it. Running for an old Routemaster (the ones with the open back you can hop on and off) was simplicity itself as the things couldn’t go more than about ten miles an hour. Not so today. With the engines being cleaned up and made environmentally aware and zero-emitting and all that jazz has also meant they’re a hell of a lot faster. These new ‘public conveyances’ are leaner, quicker and nimbler. The brakes are better so the drivers know they can go quicker and brake later and all in all it’s made for a decidedly dicey situation on the Queen’s highway.
See where I’m coming from here? That’s right, I absolutely refuse to acknowledge that it’s my fault in any way. It’s not because my senses aren't quite as sharp as they used to be. It’s not because I’ve usually got about a dozen other things all competing for my mind’s attention in addition to crossing the road and it’s not because I refuse to move with the times and ‘get up to speed’ with the rest of society, like using the pelican crossings provided for instance. So bus drivers beware, I might be crossing the road in front of you one day! I don’t mean beware as a warning, I mean it as a polite request. Pretty Please, the daft idiot in the middle of the road is me and I might not be able to move quite as fast as I used to.