The Questionable Thank You

Public transport can often times be horrible, you sit in a seat that smells like cigarette smoke and every time you slap the cushion a swarm of dust particles jump free of the surface almost as if they have had enough of countless arses smothering them with body odor and hot sweaty cheeks. Not to the mention the skittles of personalities whom you meet, and HAVE to sit next to. Whether they are of the same mind as you and can’t wait to get off the bus, train, tube, boat service and or taxicab is one of many capable but questionable similarities. To me public transport is purely a vessel I use because I don’t have a car. Whether or not its standard of cleanliness, comfort and durable environment is more important than the efficient speed of its delivery is a matter of opinion. But what I want to bring to your attention is, the inadvertently awkward relationship between the transport worker and the customer.

I like most of us, don’t even bother to daydream myself to a land far far away via meaningless fidgeting. No earphones plugged in, no sunglasses, no music blaring to drown out the dreary noises. The nasal voice over the train tannoy, ringing bells, ringing phones, crying babies, chattering hens, rap music, rustling newspapers, footsteps, finger rings clinking on metal bars, whispering groceries bags, and the oh so spirit killing “is anyone sitting there?”. Not that every voyage is the same, sometimes you meet some like minded people and one contemplates an attempt to strike a deceptively meaningless conversation. Attempting to drag them into yet another stupid political argument bordered by a weather anecdote. Enough of the sour contempt, I assure you these feelings are simply a shade of personality that we all adjourn ourselves to every now and then. A plethora of diversity, so many variations of humankind, which instigates one’s wondering about the most unavailing things in the most philosophically scrutinising manor.

For example, why do we say at the end of our journey, “thank you” or “cheers pal” to the bus driver, boat skip, or taxi driver? I paid for my trip employing the pound sterling for where I would like to go. They are getting a pay whilst I’m decreasing my bank roll (however decimate it may be). It is a trade, a basic yet necessary exchange, besides they’re earning their pay but even that opinion sometimes comes into disrepute. What with all the recent tube strike action. Essentially the system is a partnership between the worker and customer, so why do we feel as if we need to say “thanks mate” after we are brought to the place we wanted to go. I see it all the time, old ladies graciously waiting to give a verbal pat on the back to the bus driver, whilst I think to myself “oh just move on, some people make a conversation out of anything.” He/she does not say “oh thanks for the money mate” when we give our fee for travel into the jaws of the toll collector; therefore we are owed nothing nor do we owe anything to the fellow who is merely at the helm. You could say “well, words don’t cost anything, and quite frankly a few words of kindness to help spur on the day does more good than harm.” Well that may be valid, but I say to someone who thinks like that to lighten up and grow up. Why do we feel morally obligated to bestow upon them great big thank you for doing the job they’re being paid to do?

And yet, I find myself waiting. Every time I get up after pressing the stop button I wait intently, by the side of the driver holding the stable horizontal bar, the only thing separating? A thin shield of see-through plastic. I wait, I wait until the bus stops and the grumble of the engine grinds to a slow and steady tick-over. I wait until the air compressor decreases the buses height. I wait until the whack of the doors splitting open has sounded. As I get off, I turn to the driver and give them a “thanks mate”. As if I know, I have escaped from the dreaded tomb of strangers rubbing elbows and shoulders. where personal space is invaded yet tolerated. The awkward silence only interrupted by the horrible groaning of a colossal smokey diesel engine, whining and shouting climbing a marginally steep hill. Somewhere in my mind, I expect them to give me a jolly response, but it doesn’t materialise. I think I have the same approach to all public transport. An enjoyable journey is frugal. But what is a good journey? I keep myself to myself, however I used to put my bookbag I had during my recent university studies on the seat next to me. For that would send a clear and yet subtly aggressive message to anyone looking for a seat to keep looking. I want my personal space, my legs are already being bloody crushed against the seat in-front and I’m only 6ft; who on earth designed this leg room?! I reconsidered my attitude, now I leave my bag in my lap and gaze outside the window, with pale eyes not really focusing on any of the world that flashes by me; not even caring to look at the traffic of people getting on and off the particular mode of transport. Thus eliminating the sobering reality that I am surrounded by people who I don’t know and for the majority of them don’t want to know. I don’t really mind anyone sitting next to me for a duration, because hey, the only one who we should be feeling melancholy for about the whole affair is the silent person at the front of the carriage, that poor entrapped soul.I have shared a piece of myself at the risk of sounding insolently cynical. Although I reserve the right to be called charmingly cynical.

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