I love bus journeys. Whether it’s getting from Venice Beach to downtown LA on a city bus with bilingual schizophrenic homeless people, or a 30-hour cramped coach journey down the coast of Chile, I love every second.
I said to my friend I travelled to Israel with this summer, “I’ve never been on a bus journey that was long enough.”
“You’re weird, Chirpy,” he said, not for the first time.
“Sounds strange I know, but there’s something wonderful about being in that inbetween state. You’re not somewhere and you’re not somewhere else, you’re somewhere in the middle.”
“I love you dude, but sometimes I wonder if there’s something wrong with you.”
“Something crazy could happen on that journey – the bus might be diverted or hijacked and we’d all end up in the middle of a Hollywood movie with cool camera angles and a Hans Zimmer soundtrack. Or maybe it’s just the anticipation of what’s waiting for you. Even back in England, on a bus from London to Cambridge where I know what’s waiting for me, I can somehow cling to the belief that something will be different. Something will be better. Something will have changed to make life more interesting. And when you’re out there in Israel, or in Chile, or Los Angeles, you have no idea what’s waiting for you when you arrive. And that’s exciting.”
“I know what you mean, but those journeys are always so uncomfortable. Cramped, painful, boring. And don’t get me started on the types of people you have to sit next to. It’s the scum of society that use buses,” he whined.
“Sure, but for one, the scum of society are usually more interesting than the rich, entitled folk who ride trains and stay in hotels where they carry your luggage for you.”
“I think all hotels do that,” he pointed out, interrupting my important soliloquy.
“Yes. Well. The point stands. And on buses you can watch the world drift past the window; I’ll never get bored of that. It shows you’re doing something with your life; your life is moving, and that’s better than staying in the same place for years, even if you find yourself heading backwards.”
“You get all that out of a 20-minute bus ride across a city?”
“You’re very easily pleased. Anything else you want to add to that great speech?”
“Err, no. I think I’m done.”
We spoke nothing more of the matter until I met my friend again after a few weeks in which we’d gone our separate ways. He went to Greece and Wales (only he knows why), while I went to France. We met up for a celebratory drink in a Cambridge pub.
“You remember telling me you’d never been on a bus journey that was long enough?” He asked. I nodded. “Well, you were right. I took the bus here from Cardiff and I got here way too fast.”
“That pleased to see me, huh?”
He ignored that remark and said, “I realised that this is it. I go home tomorrow. After eight months on this side of the world, it’s over. I never wanted that bus journey to end. I wanted to sit in my window seat, eyes half closed, my backpack containing my entire life on the seat next to me, and I was clinging to the belief that something would happen and I wouldn’t have to go home.”
I nodded sagely. “Yes, young one, you have learnt well. You didn’t have to make it sound so bloody depressing though.”
“Sorry. Let’s have another drink. That’ll cheer me up.”
And we did.
Then we took the bus back to my place.