Stepping onto the bus I immediately notice the driver’s expression; a look so saturated with “have a nice day” customer service training that my own face begins to curdle. As the mother in front of me pushes her twin-buggy – more reminiscent of a jeep than a pram – through the narrow aisle, I step up to the plate and our eyes meet.
Shit. It’s like he knows I only have a tenner.
In comparison to their card based, non-migraine inducing European cousins, our buses fall short. There are somethings that shouldn’t change. A moody bus driver is a double-edged blade; yes, he can make you feel miserable, but I also feel the lack of customer service is a uniquely British concept which almost makes me feel fuzzy inside.
Should you get a moody driver, or pick poor timing, you may well receive a small ticket promising you some change. “Some change” can be five pounds or five pence, and as a backup, it’s a good system – in theory. In reality, if you get given a five pence receipt, it devalues the five pence so much its usually discarded. The effort required to pay with it seems so great that the receipt just becomes useless. Or, should you get five pounds on one, you’ll eagerly hold off until the next bus ride. I guarantee you’ll forget it completely, as it sits amongst the infinite variety of receipts in your wallet, staying there long enough to establish a small feudal society.
To the devout ticket-receipt users out there – sorry for picking on you. Buses have got heaps of problems; kids on the top deck playing grim music, massive queues, weird people who sit next to you despite every other seat being free – I could go on.
And to buses everywhere, thanks for your service, but until you get rid of that bloody ticket, I’ll be taking the bike.