June 1: on not buying a ticket on the bus

I had a heavy package so I took the bus from Royal Albert Hall. The driver’s machine wasn’t working so he waved me through. A free journey. A mere grain of pleasure but many grains of pleasure make a whole heap of pleasure. By the time we got to Sloane Square the bus was labouring and the driver called an early terminus, everybody off. The bus had broken down. I cursed under my breath. The one day I have a heavy package. The next bus came. The last bus broke down, I said as I skipped past the driver to grab a good seat by the window, not paying. You see, I had offered to pay on the first bus. My offer was (was it not?) rejected. The second bus is subordinated to the negotiation of the first bus. A fine legal point but, I’m sure you will agree milord, a valid one. In Pimlico a bus inspector got on. My argument about bus subordination withered. I was determined to carry the day by my acting abilities. I rehearsed the moment. The inspector puts my debit card on his little control plaque. You haven’t paid, he says. Yes. My last bus broke down, so I didn’t pay on this one. I dare to look boldly into the inspector’s steel blue eyes. But you didn’t pay on the last one either. His technology is formidable. I post up a puzzled mien for a couple of seconds before feigning a realization. Oh! I exclaim. The machine was broke on the bus that broke down. The driver waved me through. The ticket inspector, convinced by my acting abilities, allows me to pay retrospectively with no fine. The danger is negotiated. As it turned out, it wasn’t a ticket inspector. It was just a man in a high-viz jacket. Or if he was a ticket inspector he was off-duty and on his way home. He got off at Vauxhall, no doubt to take another bus into the far reaches of South East London where, on a ticket inspector’s wage, he could afford accommodation.


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