Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Bus Hijack

‘Hang on, mate. Can you tell me where this bus is supposed to go?’

It’s not a request you expect to receive from your bus driver. I was late for my 7am shift, and had made the all-too-familiar half-dressed dash to catch the bus just as it pulled up. Being the last aboard, the driver had singled me out for his confession. I looked at him with some confusion.

‘The thing is, yeah,’ he said, shifting uncomfortably in his seat, ‘I don’t know where this bus goes.’

A number of possibilities raced through my head; the bus had been hijacked by a mad man who any second would order me to pull down my trousers and dance; there was a bomb on the bus which would explode if the urine content of the back seats dropped below 50%. I considered running for the doors just as they hissed closed behind me.

All I could say is, ‘But you’re the bus driver.’

‘They’ve called me in from Southampton. I’ve never been here before. Can you help me out?’

I looked to the other passengers, none of whom would meet my eye. ‘Um, alright.’

The driver waved away my fare and pulled off the curb. I stood beside the cockpit, navigator of the good bus Confusion, and pointed out the next turning. A frisson of pleasure ran its fingers along my spine. I was in control, at the helm of my very own city bus. I could go wherever I wanted; Europe, Route 66, Scunthorpe; the possibilities were endless.

I hear Scunthorpe is nice this time of year

Only, I was still late for work. And after a few more stops the bus was due to turn into a winding housing estate that always took twenty minutes to clear. I glanced back at the other passengers. I usually sat as far back as possible, following the time one of my testicles dropped through a hole in my work trousers and I didn’t notice until I had disembarked. Now I was at the front of the bus. My testicles were safely contained. I could do as I wished.

The bus approached the turning into the housing estate.

‘Where now?’

I checked my watch, puffed out my chest, and pointed straight down the main road. It took every ounce of my self-control to restrain a maniacal laugh as we glided past the crowded bus stop on the corner.

'Truly, this is our greatest victory.'

Now, with a defiant glare, I turned on the passengers, ready to put down an uprising, to seize any mutineers and hurl them bodily through the doors with the bus still moving. They saw the hardness in my eyes and stayed seated, undoubtedly cowed by my fierce authority.

I guided us the remaining distance into town, until the driver recognised the streets from having earlier collected the bus. We arrived at my stop twenty minutes sooner than usual.

 ‘Thanks for that, mate. You’re a real help.’

‘Please.’ I waved away his praise.’ I’m no hero.’

Relieved of duty, I ran from the stop before anyone could exact revenge on my person for having made them miss their stop.

I arrived at work almost exactly on time. The doors were locked. After twenty minutes wait my manager trudged into sight.

‘Sorry I’m late,’ she said. ‘My car wouldn’t start and the bloody bus didn’t show up.’

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Body Odour in Beijing

The Great Wall of China is pretty big. This understatement is brought to you by the pervading, and entirely erroneous assertion that it is visible from space (I’ve been to space and checked). Despite this cosmic invisibility, some sections of the wall remain large enough that they require the ascent of a great many stairs to reach the top. Here, in a needless illustration of the point, is a badly taken photograph of said stairs.

We chose to forego the option of a cable car under the rapidly dispelled delusion that climbing the stairs would be fun. This was despite the 3 hours it had taken us to reach the Great Wall, during which time we had suffered the most amiable kidnap ever seen in China, and the small matter that it was pouring rain. This necessitated the purchase of overpriced rain macs that made it look as if we had smuggled ourselves to the wall inside distended condoms.

There were a lot of stairs. So many in fact that I had no choice but to stop mid-way and have the most venerable bladder expulsion of my young life.

There's a long history of urine on this wall

The problem with wearing a sheet of cling film, beside the sartorial faux pas, is that it becomes very hot within after climbing several hundred steps. Condensation from the sweat quickly built up inside. By the time I had reached the top of the wall, my clothes were wetter than they would have been from the rain.

Empirical evidence has made a strong case that I am a man. Much of this evidence is based on the aroma of badly cooked meat soaked in stale vinegar that trails from my armpits after a mere few minutes of perspiration. I considered this, by and large, normal. Until I learned that around 90% of Chinese people, thanks to a biological quirk, do not smell when they sweat. The unlucky 10% risk becoming social outcasts if the abnormality is not corrected with surgery. Consequently, we stinky foreigners are seen as just that; unconscionably pungent.

Needless to say, by the time we had descended the wall and returned to Beijing both of my armpits were firing on all cylinders. Even my friends found it troubling to stand too close. So imagine the disgust on the face of the young Chinese lady who found herself cornered in her seat, my arms lifted to grip the handrail.

When smell-o-vision is invented this picture will make you vomit

We watched the various stages of disgust play across her features. Firstly came a mere furrowing of the brow, indignation at being blocked in by these bedraggled foreign types. It was obvious when she caught her first whiff; her nose wrinkled and her mouth turned down. Accusing eyes came up to meet mine. I offered a friendly smile met only with steely derision.

After a stop or two she began shifting in her seat, casting about for some means of escape. Finally, she shoved past me and made a hurried exit, probably several stops from her intended destination.

I like to think that one day there will be a knock upon my door, and there she will stand in belated thrall to my masculine musk. To increase the likelihood, I’ve decided to never wash again.