Driving buses and being an arsehole: when two vocations combine.

Another exhausting travelful day for me today. Went from Liverpool to Hammersmith in London, with a few stops along the way in Birmingham and at Heathrow. Devoid of an alarm clock, my body had to figure out for itself what time to get up to make the 9 o’clock bus from Liverpool, which it did nicely. I walked it to the bus – a bit of a challenge with upwards of 30kg in your bags – and it was especially grueling given the rain.

Made it there no problem, and rode out the day, sleeping a few hours here and there, reading, and just gazing at the uniform brown towns. Surely they were all manufactured in one place and shipped out to be assembled across the landscape.

Leaving Heathrow at 16:25 is where the trouble began. I guess my guard was down. After the kindly gentleman bus driver who took me from Liverpool airport to my hostel when I didn’t have enough for bus fare, and the jolly jesting fat man who took me from Liverpool to Birmingham, I was starting to get used to all the friendliness.

So I approached my bus and showed the guy my ticket. He looks at it in disgust, looks at me and says something like “Hammersmith? You must be joking.” I start thinking maybe I have the wrong bus, but apparently my confusion didn’t show. The guy went on about it being Friday and the traffic would be a nightmare. I shrugged and got on the bus and sat up front, right behind him. As we drove, he starts shaking his head and muttering to himself. When we get to the turn off for Hammersmith I could see why: the traffic was backed up as for ages. The coach driver, frustrated, hits the gear stick, turns around and points in my face and says “See?” I said I did see. Then he starts blaming me, for the fact that the almost full bus will be late for its arrival in Central London.

I’m not angry, or sheepish or embarrassed or anything at all really. It occurs to me that this jerk is asking for it, but I stayed cool. Didn’t want an escalating situation or anything. As we’re sitting in the traffic he asks me if I know my way around Hammersmith. At this point he’s thinking of getting me off the bus now, so he can get back in the main lane and head in. I say no, that I’ve never even been in London before. Apparently with my new attire I’m not so obviously a tourist. The guy is incredulous. He asks me if someone is picking me up or if I know where I’m going. I smile and say I have no idea, even though I do. This enrages him further. He’s mentally swearing and driving like a sooky toddler.

How long did we end up sitting in the traffic? About 5 minutes. Yep. 5 minutes. And when we got to Hammersmith, 3 other people got off the bus with me, whereas he had me thinking I was the only one. What an arsehole.

So I wandered the streets lost. I had directions from Google Maps but they were inaccurate, and I hadn’t written down the hostels address. This always happens to me these days. As I was walking I started thinking about how I’ve come a long way from the scared kid that Chris would have seen at the O’Hare airport. I wandered a strange city without a clue but I wasn’t worried for a second. I ended up walking right past the hostel (St. Christopher’s Inn), kept on going and hit another St. Christopher’s Inn in the next suburb over. The girls told me which bus to get on to get back to Hammersmith but I didn’t use it. I walked straight back and found it easy.

I must have walked over 2kms today with all that heavy gear, in bad weather, tired and hungry, having subsisted only on bus station sandwiches all day. But I had not a worry in the world. I’ve finally done it. I’m not afraid anymore. I don’t worry about anything until it’s right in front of me and I’m a million times happier for it.

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