Saturday, 26 May 2012

Victor Meldrew, eat yer heart out!

I hardly ever work on my days off (we call them 'rest days' in the bus game). I need the break from work, not the pitiful extra money that comes with it (you never seem to get the full whack, the tax man always slices it in threes, and takes two of those bits, leaving you, if you're lucky, with two and a half pence to rub together, the slimy wotsit); occasionally however, I will do one. Mostly, I'll be doing a 'work/rest' as a favour to someone, or to repay a favour owed.

So, there I was yesterday, doing a very rare rest day, to replay a favour to one of the officers at the depot, who got me out of a slightly sticky spot the other week. "No worries", thought I, signing on that afternoon, "It's only a short job, two rounds, and bugger off home again. No trouble." You'd think, after close to 48 years on this mortal coil, that I'd have at least learned not to tempt sodding fate, wouldn't you?

Well, apparently I haven't. Dozy half-witted sorry excuse for... well, the list goes on if I want to berate myself, so I won't bore the crap out of you. Suffice to say the wall here in the study of Chez Moi is a tad dented right at the moment (where'd I put the polyfiller?!)...

Anyhow, being a Friday, and being how it was the extra bus for the school run, I figured that the first round would be the round from hell (which is why I went to permanent lates a few months back, to avoid the little shits), and the second, after my meal relief, would be a doddle.

...OK, the wall in here just got a bit more dented...

The first round went somewhat better than I'd expected. My leader (the 'Leader' is the bus in front; the bus behind is called the 'Follower'. Clever, eh?) caught pretty much every one of the little buggers, the poor sod. Yeah, OK, I was damn near laughing my backside off, as I was enjoying myself with a practically empty bus. It was utter bliss compared to what I'd been expecting!

My meal relief was relaxed; I decided I'd treat myself, and had fish & chips from the chippy across from the bus stand at the eastern end of the route, and very nice it was too.

Round Two (seconds away, ding ding), and I had a slow bus. OK, no real hassle, it was twenty minutes late into the stand, and I got a light run to the next bus station down the route, thus picking up some time, which I slowly lost down the route as the damn bus was so sodding slow when moving off from the halt. Again, this wasn't a real worry for me, as I'd be knocking off in a couple of hours. Or so I thought, anyhow...

The return leg of the round, I was cut short ("Curtailed"), and told to take my bus to the half-way point bus station, to 'sub' (Substitute, or swap) a 'soiled' bus back to the depot. Hmm. More overtime, thought I. Oh well. On getting to the bus station, I saw no soiled bus, so phoned control.

"It's on it's way and should be with you in a few minutes."

"Oh, OK, cool. What's wrong with it?"

"You'll laugh?"

"I will?"

"Some poor woman had a bit of a personal accident over one of the seats. It's a hell of a mess."

I won't go into the full disgusting details, but ladies, please, pack a spare for those times of the month, OK?

Anyhow, after the "Ewwwwwww YEUCH, that's just... foul!" reaction,  I shrugged, went "OK, fair enough, hope the aircon's working" and left it at that, pending his arrival.

Five minutes later, he arrived, and parked his bus behind mine, fully in the road-paint marked 'bus stop cage', and we swapped buses, his soiled one for mine. I dumped my bag in the cab, sat down, and wasn't even halfway done adjusting the seat position (I've got shorter legs than my colleague), when I heard the sudden and loud unmistakable sound of a vehicle collision, and felt a slight jolt. "What the..?!"

On looking out of the window, another bus was now level with me, and looking in the mirror, there was debris all over the road. The other driver was looking very sorry for himself. I did what most other drivers would do in the circumstances. "I don't belieeeeeeeve this!" (doing a VERY good impression of Victor Meldrew, I was later told by one highly amused bystander). I then got out of the bus, and yelled "What the hell've you done to me bus, you idiot?!"

It turns out that he'd tried to thread a 4-inch hawser through a sewing needle.

The bus stop was on a bend in the road, and while the cage was properly marked, it hadn't been updated to when they put the tram tracks in opposite the bus station. As a result, while cars could get through the gap between a bus servicing the stop on the corner of the road, and the separating kerb stones from the tramway, a larger vehicle could not.

Most PSV and LGV drivers would, of course, realise this on approaching that point, and it appears in most Hazard Awareness Notes on the routes that pass through this bus station. Not this guy, though. Either that, or he hadn't read the HAN. And this was the result.

He'd scraped the nearside of his bus, immediately to the aft of his exit doors, on the offside rear corner of my bus, and ripped off my rear offside lighting cluster, which includes the indicator, sidelights, reversing light, and fog light, all of which were now hanging on by their connecting cabling, the rest of the associated fibreglass bodywork now lying in bits alongside my bus in the roadway.

Then, to compound the problem, he'd carried on going, causing a rent in the bodywork on his bus aft of the doors, and scraping the bodywork down to the bare metal all the way aft to his engine compartment. His Depot Governor wasn't going to be too chuffed with him. Mine either, but at least I hadn't parked my bus, or even taken it over on the paperwork, and I was stationary with the service brake (that's the hand brake, to you!) applied when he hit my bus!

Anyhow, to cut a long story short, I contacted my controller to give him the happy news (he wasn't at all happy, strangely), and having calmed down a bit, talked to the other driver (on loan from another depot for the day, it seemed), and we exchanged details. Then the bus station controller, with the help of a network traffic controller (London Buses traffic supervisors, the guys in the red London Buses Incident Response Vans), both of whom who happened to be on-site at the time, helped me shift my now unserviceable bus off the road, and into a spare waiting bay at the side of the bus station, pending my engineers arriving.

In the wait for the engineers, I got chatting to a few other drivers, some from the firm that operated the bus that hit mine; they were all of the amused variety, of course. Goes with the territory: You have a bump, and everyone's a critic! It was all good-natured ribbing though, mostly of the "Enjoy the overtime, mate" kind - my normal response being "Bugger the overtime, there's things I wanted to do tonight, like have a drink or ten!" - and then, of course, there was the Metropolitan police carrier (a minibus, they call them 'carriers'), cruising though the bus station doing a regular evening safety patrol, the driver of which paused on seeing a group of bus drivers by a bent bus, looked at the damage, looked at me, and pulled a horrified face - my reaction?

A massive theatrical Gallic style shrug, and "IT WASN'T ME! HONEST, GUV!"

Cue all of us damn near wetting ourselves on the floor, coppers included!

Anyhow, the engineer eventually arrived, and we took the bus back to the depot (me driving the engineering van), whereupon the paperwork had to be done.

I eventually knocked off somewhere in the region of an hour and forty minutes later than intended, and never did get that drink, either, dammit!

At least the depot officer I was repaying the favour to had the grace to say sorry to me!

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