Rain has been on the lips of virtually anything or anyone moving here in the UK over the past recent weeks. Ironically it has come on a backdrop where a hosepipe ban had just been reinstated for the low water levels in some eastern parts of the British Isles. Even while the ban was being read out over local news channels, the rains appeared to be mocking the forecasters. My one and only concern as always is how much sunshine are we going to have for this summer period. By looks of it, recession hasn’t been limited to the financial world alone. However it is not only recession crippling the Eurozone, nor the never-ending rain causing Britain to become incontinent that captured my interest last week. It was something I’d overheard taking place on a public transport system.
In the haze of dripping rain over the window panes of the bus carrying a mix of night passengers with varying takes on life, the bus driver appeared to exercise something that is slowly diminishing these days. He must have spotted two young ladies running to catch his bus as it prepared to pull away from the stop and decided to stop and wait for them to board. Perhaps it was because the bus driver was moved because of their gender and the time of night or maybe his patience levels had not yet been tested on customer care – I really don’t know. The two passengers proceeded to offer to pay their fare with a £10 note between them. Now, there is a flat fare throughout the bus network of £1.30 with a pre-pay Oyster card and £2.20 if you are paying by cash. I am pretty sure that these two ladies knew this but seemed unhappy to part with their money towards the cost of their travel – more so when the driver told them he didn’t have any change and they’d be short-changed by 10p until such a time when he got some change.
The carry-on of passengers boarding the bus without the correct fare or pre-paid tickets did not stop with these two ladies – it seemed to be norm. Still the bus driver kept repeating the well worn statement “I am not supposed to issue you with tickets – you should get a pre-paid ticket before boarding the bus. But I will accept the exact fare if you have it as I don’t have any change.” I started to think this ought to be a slogan for Transport for London on their publicity campaigns in varying languages if not signs.
We got to our last destination for the bus and all made to get off the bus. The two ladies walked down to the bus driver’s cabin and asked him why he had made them pay for their travel. The driver told them because transport is not free unless a person is carrying the appropriate identification that exempts them. This reasoning didn’t quite seem to connect with the two ladies, so they pressed on asking him why he felt it necessary to collect money which didn’t go in to his personal pocket but instead went to his company bosses. Furthermore, they reasoned, he was of “their kind” – meaning he was a black African like they were and as such, this should be reason enough for the driver not to charge them anything but allow them free travel. Why should he have any affinity towards this company’s collections of travel fares? I left the conversation at the point where the bus driver appeared to have concluded that this was a no-goner of a discussion eating in to his short break before resuming his next run. To the two ladies – the fact that they were black Africans and the bus driver was also a black African, this alone should entail them to cheat the system in solidarity.