More from the real life busmanTOMMY STEELE

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The life and times of busman TOMMY STEELE


This issues article is not a tribute to dining on runner beans but to the unsung band of passengers that are late turning up to catch their bus. You know the one, the passenger that seeing a bus about to breaks into a run to catch it. I was a conductor on a bus with a driver called Neil (he was called a great many other names by his passengers) Those of you who have read my book will know Neil was a man who loved his job apart from the fact that he didnt like passengers or people who hoped to be a passenger by running for his bus.

On a number of occasions I worked with him I was able to watch his technique with runners. He would observe a passenger running for the bus, he would observe the person running, let them get near then shut the doors and pull out with a triumphant grin exclaim "I ate runners" One day he saw a runner making for his bus and just as the intended passenger reached the back of the bus he pulled away. The traffic that day was heavy and Neil could not make fast enough progress and the intending passenger kept running until Neil had to stop at the next bus stop half a mile up the road. To Neils surprise the intending passenger had made it, jumped on, collapsing on the platform gasping "Why didnt you wait for me" Of course the driver replied "Never saw you mate" The triumphant passenger catching his breath got up and said "This bus stop is a fare stage, so I have saved myself sixpence running behind you" Neil looked at him and said you should have run behind a taxi and you would has saved yourself ten shilling.

Neils finest moment came when he spotted his own Mother in Law running for his bus in the pouring rain, pulling a heavy shopping trolley. She missed it! Later that evening he went around to his mother in laws house for dinner. Relating the story to me he said "Ere Tom she didnt know it was me driving the bus and said to me, some rotten bus driver left his stop 3 minutes early so I ended up running to try and catch the bus but he pulled away, Ive a good mind to report him So I said dont do that love, they will only say your watch was fast, besides it was me driving the bus, but of course dear mother in law if I had seen you I would have waited. . As he retold me the story he had a big smug grin on his face saying "I ate my mother in law even more than the passengers."

Another driver I worked with would wait for runners but if they made the mistake of getting on and not thanking him for waiting, he would switch of the engine and turn around and talking to himself loudly say "Thank you Driver for waiting, . Oh thats alright Madam I dont mind making all the passengers wait for you" The poor passenger would go red and mumble a meek thank you. The same driver if running late and his passengers were getting on slowly would shout "Come on, come on at least try to break into a walk!"

You see the fun we used to have as bus driver and conductor in the ON THE BUSES days; no two drivers were the same.

Another driver who we called Hope would let the runners almost make it to the bus doors and then pull away and smiling say " "Well you have to give them hope" hence his nickname.

In Bournemouth we do not bury the dead but prop them up in bus shelters to make the town look busy.

Another driver who had a sense of humour and I started a passenger training school well waiting at a terminus or travelling between stops. We would instruct our passengers in the art of signalling a bus to stop. I would say "Now, ladies and gentlemen Im now going to show you the correct way to signal when you are at the bus stop to let the driver know you want to catch the bus. First clearly signal by extending your right arm out with your palm open and fingers straight. What if you are left handed I hear you ask, well be careful because some buses are right handed only and if you use your left they will not stop" You know some of the passengers even believed me. One driver I worked with used to get really wound up if some of the pensioners at the bus stop would put their arm out with a walking stick in their hand and wave it around. One time he was so fed up with it. He stopped the bus stepped of the bus took the walking stick and broke it and got back on the bus and left the passenger stood at the stop. I said that was not very nice how are they going to get home without the stick. Well it wont be on my bus he replied.

There were times when you would always stop for someone one if they were running for the bus, but they had to be blonde around 18 and wearing a short skirt.

One final story for this issue happened when I was driving the bus. I was waiting to pull out and closed the door and edged my way out into the flow of traffic, a passenger was running to catch my bus and started banging on the side of the bus. But I was already committed to joining the flow of traffic and pulled away.

A passenger said "Why didnt you wait for him, it was clear he was banging on your bus because he wanted to catch it otherwise he wouldnt have been banging so loud.!"

"Madam" I said "If a train was pulling out of Bournemouth station and you banged on the carriages would it stop." The passenger didnt know what to say and remained quite.