I walk from home to the bus stop and like me, everyone else looks grumpy. Our movements are hurried, we’re avoiding eye contact. Annoyingly, there are one or two people who look chirpy as hell, and I want to kick them. Hard.
The daily wait for the bus begins. Thirteen buses pass by, none of them the 428, 412, or 413 that will get me to class. According to my timetable all three are supposed to pass by our stop at intervals during the last 20 minutes.
I squint and spy in the distance the 428 rumbling towards us. It pulls up and there is obviously no room to sit. Uni students are jammed together in the aisle, folders in arms, bags anxiously trying not to hit anyone.
I scramble aboard juggling my folders, my ticket and my iPod. A voice breaks through the song in my headphones, Yazz’s The Only Way Is Up. “Hello! Good Morning!” the voice says brightly. A man about 55 years old is smiling broadly at me from behind the wheel. I throw him a quick hello and push into the crowd.
Around me the other passengers are all grinning. At first I feel self-conscious: is there something on my face? But then someone points at the bus driver. I turn down my iPod. The driver is talking, to no-one and to everyone. I catch bits and pieces of what he’s saying above my music.
|Source: City Lights and Colored Brights|
“Now most of you are students here,” he says. “When you’re in a position of power – when you’re lawyers and politicians – remember to come back and walk among the real people.
“Those lawyers and politicians sit in their offices not doing much but consuming tea, biscuits, and every now and then a warm cream bun,” he says. As he drops passengers off on City Road he yells a cheery goodbye. “This was your captain George,” he announces in an authoritative tone.
This isn’t what I expect from my journey on the 428. I turn off my iPod. The man standing across from me smiles, like we are sharing a joke, and a girl near me makes eye contact and grins as we all turn our ears toward George.
He doesn’t skip a beat after saying goodbye to the alighting passengers. “On your left is the lovely Seymour Centre, where you could catch a great play,” he says. “Unfortunately I am not performing tonight, but I am doing a live performance on the bus, right now!”
“On your right is Sydney University, the most beautiful university in Sydney, the most beautiful university in Australia. Sadly I have not been inside. No, never been in a class room.” He pauses for effect and continues. “Which is probably why I’m driving a bus.”
Everyone laughs, and so does George. He pulls up in front of the university. It seems he’s saved a special goodbye for this stop, because he loudly proclaims to everyone: “This was your captain, George. Have a great day, remember what I tell you, and be happy with your life.” He repeats the words for the stragglers getting off last.
I watch the students go. People who didn’t know each other before this morning walk together and wave goodbye to George. Those of us still on the bus smile to ourselves, and one lady loudly proclaims, “Good to have you on here today, George.” He waves back at her in the rear view mirror.
I look around me. Everyone is happy. Two scary looking young guys jump up to give their seats to an elderly couple. A lady with a pram gets off helped by two men. I no longer want to kick them for being chirpy on a Monday morning. I’m feeling pretty chirpy myself.
George may never have been inside the halls of a university. And as he put it, he may just be driving a bus. But he’d managed the seemingly impossible: he’d made a lot of people feel great, all before 9am on a Monday.
I’d like to see those lawyers and politicians do that.