This Banana Has Gone Bad

Transports of Delight

I always feel safer on a bus, don’t you?

I mean, when I’m driving, I feel the burdensome weight of responsibility. It’s just me, my frail body locked inside a thin metal shell, hurtling at unnatural speeds through chaos. If I lose concentration for even a second, I could cause immeasurable damage – to myself, to my passengers, to unwitting strangers. Car accidents are horrible, life-altering, and everywhere.

But riding the bus is fun!

I mean, buses just feel safer. They’re bigger, for one thing. There’s something comforting about riding in the biggest thing on the road. And they have have their own lanes. Everything about the bus has this “get outta my way” attitude. They cruise along at their own pace and don’t make room for anyone else on the road. Being on the bus is like being friends with your school’s biggest bully: you’re untouchable.

I used to tell myself that bus drivers are trained and therefore better drivers, but I can no longer follow that particular rainbow. If you’re still holding onto that misty-eyed illusion, just look at this photo again:

(I think they left “don’t read the paper while driving” out of the bus driver exam, because it should be bleeding obvious.) Nonetheless, I love riding the bus. Sitting high up in the back seats, I feel a little detached from everything that’s whizzing by my window. It’s as if all that traffic out on the road is happening to someone else. If I sped around corners and swung dangerously close to traffic light poles in my own car, my passengers would be justifiably anxious. When my bus driver does the same thing, I just think, “WHEEEEE!” Like it’s a fairground ride.

And when I was a kid, the best public fairground ride of all was THE BANANA BUS. Oh, the times we had! I used to love riding on the bendy buses, with the turntable in the middle that would creak and rotate when the bus went around a corner. I remember class excursions on the banana bus, when only the coolest kids would stand in the bendy bit. It was a crazy feeling, like being inside the accordion of an insane accordionist.

But my rosy memory of banana buses has been compromised. While perusing brisbanetimes.com.au this week, I found this:

BANANA BUSES TAKEN OFF THE ROAD

A safety check has ruled 300 articulated buses off Australian roads after a Queensland Transport and Main Roads-ordered audit.

… The bus order followed a dramatic crash on the Pacific Motorway on March 30, when an articulated bus abruptly turned and ended up facing oncoming traffic.

What? Crash? No! This is no good. Another layer of my childhood memories, peeled away like so much banana peel.

It’s as if catching the bus was a large, delicious-looking banana, its perfect yellow skin assuring me of the sweet fruit within. But when I went to peel it, I discovered that this banana was rotten. (Yes, the banana peel was my childhood memories in the last paragraph, but now it represents the act of catching the bus – it’s as if this change in metaphors is a metaphor for the dramatic change in my feelings when I realised that buses are not as safe as I thought.)

If banana buses (the funnest buses!) aren’t safe, then I might have to rethink my entire attitude towards bus travel. Gone are my comfortable illusions of safety. I will now ride the bus with an appropriate sense of barely-contained terror, ready to wedge myself under my seat at the first sign of danger. It’s a mad world we live in. A mad, mad world.

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The Bus Driver Who Sideswiped A Fire Truck

Transports of Delight

I’m sitting on a city bus in Brisbane, wondering if I’ve made a huge mistake. Should I have moved to Brisbane? I’ve been catching Translink buses for weeks now, and my experiences have been nondescript. This worries me. Will there be no more Transports of Delight? Do my crazy bus stories end here? I miss Fremantle!

These thoughts are interrupted as my bus runs into a fire truck.

It is such a beautiful moment.

The other passengers are looking around in concern, muttering darkly. The bus driver sags in his seat; the mood is sombre. I am grinning like someone who just saw snow for the first time. Transports of Delight lives on! Oh ye of too much faith in the competence of bus drivers! Huzzah!

The driver’s door swings open, and he climbs out of the bus, careful not to make eye contact with any passengers. I’m craning my neck, willing light to bend so that I can see the damage on the back of the bus. Onlookers are crowding the busy street outside. We’ve sideswiped a big, red, parked fire truck.

It seems the fire truck was chock full of firefighters, all of whom are now standing around the pavement and looking stern. They seem annoyed that this has happened – annoyed, but not surprised. The bus driver, looking very small in his Translink uniform, is slowly approaching them. It looks like he’s going to try to suggest that it was their fault.

Our bus driver walks up to the main firefighter, a man who looks like he will always be called “Captain” regardless of his actual rank. Captain is standing with square shoulders and perfect posture, gazing down at him like a disappointed Phys. Ed. teacher. All that’s missing is a lanyard with a whistle around his neck. Bus Driver doesn’t stand a chance.

I can’t hear anything the two men are saying to each other, but it looks like Captain is winning. He calmly listens to Bus Driver’s hand-gesturing insistence, then razors across that with a few firm words and some clipboard-pointing. Bus Driver weakens. Other firefighters are stalking behind Captain, casually circling the two men. I’m strongly reminded of the scene from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire where Harry and Voldemort face off within a circle of Death Eaters. (Not that I’m comparing our Bus Driver to Harry Potter … No. Harry would have seen the fire truck.)

Meanwhile, although the bus driver is clearly absent and the bus is splayed across the road with a fire truck sticking out of its bum, people are still getting on the bus. And more than one person is looking privately pleased that they didn’t have to buy a ticket. Free bus ride! Just watch out for parked rescue service vehicles!

After the incident has been thoroughly documented with everyone’s iPhone cameras, Captain dismisses Bus Driver and Bus Driver slinks back to his seat. We unstick ourselves from the fire truck and rejoin the Brisbane traffic.

When we get to my stop, I’m strangely reluctant to get out. I don’t want to leave this bus – I’m invested now. I kind of want to see what else this bus driver will do. But hey, there are plenty more reckless bus drivers where he came from. And, luckily for me, heaps of them work in Brisbane.