Monday, 13 June 2011

Bumbling Brisbane Buses, Part 3: The Passengers

 “Why is the bus PACKED at 1:30pm? I stood in the rain for nearly an hour waiting for it. Now I have to stand all the way home. Grumble.”

“Hurry hurry push push! Every man, woman and child for themselves onto the overcrowded bus!”

 It’s amazing how many people use the bus. Even on the 5am bus, you’d be surprised how many people get on at that time of morning. Yet strangely, I never see those double buses (they call them banana buses) during peak times. The small buses are always packed like sardine cans during peak times, while the banana buses only ever seem to be on the road at 11am with three passengers on them. Doesn’t make sense. 

 People from all walks of life use the buses. The elderly of course. Watch out for them. If you’re standing, and an old lady leaves her seat to get off, don’t be so eager to sit in it right away. Look first. A lot of old ladies seem to see the bus as a moving portaloo, with a soft toilet seat. I mean, the bus smells like a toilet, so why not use it as one?  I have always checked the seat first before sitting in it... Ever since I fell victim to the “puddle of doom”.

While we’re on that subject, let me refer you to another Facebook moment:
Brett: Oh no! A homeless man just got on the bus with a juice bottle of his own urine! :(
Kelly: Are you sure it wasn't apple juice?
Brett: I'm certain it wasn't. He looked as though he hadn't bathed or shaved in years. He was completely covered in filth and stunk to high hell. It was a dirty, grotty old bottle. It had to be wee.

I hate when people sit next to me on the bus. They never want to move when it's time for me to to get off. Serves me right for leaving the seat empty I guess. I should sit on the aisle seat or dump all my stuff on it like everyone else does when I get on the bus of an afternoon and want a seat. I've always got a bag or two with me, an umbrella if it's raining. So, as a bit of a warning to the person on the aisle seat, I start gathering all my stuff together. Surely me fidgeting around and picking everything up is first sign that I'm about to get out. But no. Then I reach across in front of their face to press the button. Still no clue. Then I attempt to stand up, and say "Excuse me" before they finally turn to me with a completely astonished look on their face as if to say, "What? You're getting off NOW? Why?"

And then, instead of actually getting up out of their seat to let me through, they reluctantly just shuffle their legs across a bit towards the general direction the aisle. This really makes no difference. So I am forced to sidle past, rub up against them, and hit them a few times with my stuff.  Hey! YOU sat next to ME! Sorry to have inconvenienced you by leaving a seat vacant!

Thankfully, I’ve never had to sit next to the psychotic mental case woman who travels home in the early evenings. Once, a young girl was trying to leave her window seat, and this absolute witch sat there with her arms folded, shouting, “No! No! No! You can’t get out! I’m not moving!” And this girl had to resort to calling the driver. “Excuse me, Driver? This lady won’t let me leave my seat!”, she had to call out in desperation. The driver had to stop the bus and walk over there to sort it out. The mental case eventually gave in, but grumbled and swore about it the rest of the way.  I always worry that she, or someone like her will sit next to me someday. It’s bad enough when the majority of people who sit next to me have a problem with letting me leave the seat, but at least they make a reluctant attempt.

 I talked in Part 1 of my Brisbane Bus blog posts about when I get on the bus in my supermarket uniform. When I'm standing on the bus, and I see a vacant seat, people will often place their handbags or belongings onto the seat so I can't sit down, even if I'm carrying several bags of groceries. This is what I should be doing to prevent idiots from sitting next to me. But since I’m a sucker and a doormat, I do unto others as I would have them do unto me. I leave the seat vacant for others, just so they can later be annoyed at me when I want to get off the bus.

There have been some wacky characters on that 5am bus over the last few years. Like the mournful crazy lady who would sit towards the front of the bus and scream about the end of the world, and how humanity is doomed! Always a nice pick-me-up to start the day with. Then there was the old man who always had a giant newspaper opened on the horse racing pages. He’d study those races real hard every morning. I imagine he must’ve spent his days at the TAB or the Doomben racetrack.

There’s “Always Drunk Guy”. He stumbles onto the bus every morning with blood shot eyes, and always gets off at the Normanby Hotel. They don’t open for at least another five hours after he gets off the bus, but I guess he likes to be first in and last to leave. There’s “Really Bad B.O. combined with Vindaloo Curry Guy”. Such a horrible combination of smells. He doesn’t wear deodorant and wears the same clothes every day. I guess he spilt vindaloo curry on that outfit once. 

 The 5am bus has always been popular with the guys who wear fluro yellow and fluro orange. These are the construction workers, road workers, truck drivers, storemen, people who work down in the Roma Street train yard. Good old Aussie larrikins. Always having a laugh and coughing up a storm from all the cigarettes they smoke. 

 Chefs fill the back two rows of the bus. With their black and white checkered pants, they fill the air with the smell of kitchens, dishtowels, and farts. Yes farts. These guys are pumping gas throughout the entire journey. Not deliberately. I think it just must go hand in hand with all of that slaving over hot stoves all day. I know it’s them, because I once found myself surrounded by them when I foolishly decided to choose the seat at the back left corner of the bus.

Boy, do those chefs have stories to tell though! I recently overheard one of them describing a physical fight he got into with two other chefs in a kitchen. Perhaps it was in the restaurant where you had lunch last weekend! I can tell you that there was a lot of slapping involved in this fight. But thankfully, no fry pans or rolling pins. When we dine out, we often forget that there may be a bit of a biff out the back during the preparation of the meals. If you’re ever impressed with your meal, just bare in mind that the extra ingredient could’ve been slaps. 

 There’s a zoot suited 1930’s swingin’ hep cat jazz musician who sometimes boards the 5am bus, and for a while there was a girl with a short hair style much like a Vulcan (Mr. Spock from Star Trek, played by Leonard Nimoy), who would spend the entire trip caking on 200 layers of makeup. 

 There’s a crazy old man who often boards the bus (at all times of day) dressed in an old Army uniform, sometimes a Batman suit, and as Santa Claus at Christmas time. I posted this Facebook status on Christmas Eve, 2010 on my way to work: “5am bus was decorated for Christmas. Driver was nice. Chatted with him throughout the trip. Then the old mental case who dresses up in various costumes the rest of the year hopped on as Santa. Then Powderfinger came on the radio and the driver cranked it.”
When Santa hopped on the bus, I remember the driver making a lighthearted comment about the Christmas spirit, to which Santa responded with an angry look on his face, “BWAAAPH!!”

I guess it’s nice to walk onto a bus that’s decorated for Christmas. I’m not so fussed on the State of Origin bus though.

Brett: I'm on the decorated State of Origin bus this morning. 
Katie: Hahaha! I love the plastic cut outs of the players.

Brett: I enjoyed watching people getting tapped on the head by balloons, swiped across the face by triangular flags, and one guy at the front having to lift a ‘Go Queenslander’ poster to see a map and some bus information. Translink - Because if we put as much effort into our service as we put into pointless decorations about a football game, we'd probably be pretty good.

There are quite a few angry mothers with large prams and strollers who get on the bus in the afternoon. When I’m standing, and can’t move due to being squashed between crowds of other standing people and people on seats, I don’t appreciate being the one who gets screamed at by one of these mothers: “Can you MOVE so I can get through?” A polite “excuse me” would be a much better way to handle the situation. But I had moved as much as I could without sitting on someone’s lap. 

There’s a delightful, well dressed nerdy fellow in his late thirties who wears a feather in his hat, and likes to help the bus driver when it comes to orderly departures from an overcrowded bus in the afternoon. “Ok everyone! Let’s form a straight line to the right of the aisle”, he calls out. “All those wanting to depart the vehicle, please form a line to the left of the aisle! It’s ok, nobody’s going to be left behind!”

 One Saturday afternoon, my wife and I were on the inbound bus from Holland Park, and witnessed three disgusting, trashy, fake tanned Paris Hilton-esqe bimbo skanks getting on the bus, sitting down next to a random guy, and proceeding to chat him up! They were talking and swearing really loudly! Really vulgar. And the guy didn’t seem the least bit interested. He just seemed really uncomfortable with the whole situation. The lead girl was asking, “You’re really cute! Do you think me and my friends are hot?” I think everyone on the bus felt uncomfortable. It was like watching some awful reality TV show playing out live on the bus. Clearly these sorts of shows are all these girls watch.  As we got off the bus in the King George Square Busway, a guy dressed as Superman was walking around! 

It’s not just the other passengers who are the weirdos or horrible people though. Sometimes I’m the jerk. But not physically or vocally to anybody. I'm a jerk in my head. Such thoughts are shared on Facebook:
“A kid got on the bus with his Manual Arts lawn chair made at school. I wish I could see the poor schmuck who falls through that balsa wood disaster!”
“Probably his old man I should think”, commented Lauren.
“The kid is learning”, said Ellen. “Give him a break! Learning is never a disaster”.
Feeling guilty, I commened, “Without a doubt, karma will ensure that I somehow end up on that chair, and then on the ground”. 

And that pretty much sums up life on Brisbane's buses. Never a dull moment. The buses come when they feel like it, and will keep you waiting forever if they can get away with it. The drivers are grouchy and make up their own rules as they go. Once you're on the bus, good luck getting a seat. And once you're on a seat, good luck getting out. It's all part of the fun. Those bumbling Brisbane buses. If only we had a tram system like Melbourne's. And a monorail like in Sydney. We have a long way to go. Better call a cab to ensure we get there on time.


  1. I'd be happy to sit next to you any time Brett. Crazy stroller, over excited children, multiple bags and all.
    I too am the person who sits next to the window and fidgets around to let the aisle sitter know I want to get out. Then I very nicely ask if I could please get out. Or if I'm the aisle sitter and I notice the window sitter fidget, I immediately assume they want to get out and move to let them.
    So there are a few of us out there!

  2. Yes, sometimes if I'm on an aisle seat, I take the fidgeting too literally. I'll gather up my stuff, get up and move aside... Then the window sitter just stays seated. Sometimes it's genuine fidgeting, rather than "I want to get off" fidgeting.

  3. I was disappointed to work out that the skanks in the photo weren't the ones from your bus trip.

    No one sits next to me either, never worked out why. Maybe everyone feels the same.

    As for people not moving a firm, polite, "excuse me" can work wonders.

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