Before I moved to Southampton, I honestly did not understand why anyone would complain about buses. Where I come from, a bus turning up warrants an article in the local paper, right next to the piece about a lost sheep and a letter from Farmer Outraged about the closure of the local pub (to which I say he was probably half the trade). I think buses are amazing. The ones that did turn up were always driven by a mentalist that drove as if he were Jenson Button and not a slightly chubby, rosy cheeked bloke with a scrumpy accent. You could travel to Taunton and back for three pounds, so for a few hours you could pretend to be somewhere that felt vaguely alive.
I doubt I’m only, nor the first student to revel in the freedoms the city offers them. However, buses, far from like visiting a slightly potty great uncle, after a fortnight it has felt as if I were a hobbit entering Mordor. Out of all the things I have encountered in Southampton so far – drunk roommates creepy men in dark coats outside Clowns, being offered a flour-like substance – buses have taken me so far out of my comfort zone that I feel like I have commuted from Hobbiton to Sauron’s eye himself, waiting for me to fumble for my bus pass.
These bus drivers, they are silent, yet watch you all the time, like the Overlord himself. The CCTV, mirrors and beeping machines…I wish I had taken 1984 more seriously at school.
The fun doesn’t end there. When I have conquered the challenge of the driver, I have to choose a seat within a time limit. A queue of people behind you as you panic trying to choose what Middle Earth race to sit next to. They are ordered by how hungover they appear. The Elves clearly did not go out the previous night, for they look like they have actually slept, with the scale going all the way down to the blood-shot orcs.
Of course, being terrified, I do not notice the Gandalf style “You shall not pass!” leg in the way. And so I trip over it, landing against the post. Recovery is impossible as people press you against the post, making you accidentally press the stop button like you’re some humourous punk, earning a glare from the driver. I thought you were invisible when you were foolhardy or just fell over in an awkward place and get out the “ring”? I guess not with Sauron and his CCTV 1984 gizmo. This is Hobbiton Big Brother live from Mordor! Our next stop is Room 101 if you don’t stop making a tit of yourself!
Returning to the Races on the bus, there are some characters on there, aren’t there? Some people clearly get on because they like watching students. One chap I saw got on the bus in the morning, and when I returned in the evening, he was still sitting there, in the same seat as this morning, trying to casually read the paper as he eyed the Fresh Meat. Let’s not beat about the bush (so to speak), the women deliberately kept as far away as possible from him.
Yet what is Mordor’s true downfall? The ring that was thrown in the volcano? The “I am no man” moment? They stop at 11.30pm. A student service, that stops before midnight? Ludicrous! The night only just begins at that time! When we all pile out the club at a number hour we can’t count on our fingers as we simply chunder on them, we want Sauron to take us home, even if begrudgingly.
Yet, if you can feel empathy for the Dark Side (hey, I believe it still has cookies!), I can imagine the buses becoming a bloodbath that never gets cleaned, not even with ciff. We would turn it into a cesspool of vomit, abandoned pints and lost phones. We are only just permissible when we’re sober. How will Mordor cope with our Free Love ideas of cheap alcohol and experimental sex? Even hell will squeak at our adventurousness.
But if that’s not the sound of an empire doomed to failure, I will rustle a sheep and ride that to university.