Situation on a bus. My bad.
Yesterday I got on to bus in my local town to get to the train station. Nothing spectacular about that you may think – and rightly so. After all people are doing this a zillion times a day – innit? I do this short journey of about ten minutes, on average once every month or two, especially if I’m heading into London – as I was yesterday. A bus pulls up. I wave my pre-paid ticket which is checked as correct in 0.25 of a second. I ask the driver, “Is this bus going in to the train station?” Well that’s a bad question I was to discover.. read on. Oh – there are four people behind me in a queue. [BTW this is a long story based on 10 seconds of ‘life’, so watch out].
He goes, “No. We can’t drive it into the train station (smirk on face).“
Me: “No I wasn’t thinking that you would be able to do that. I need to know if the bus is getting close to roundabout at the top of Station road, the bus stop on the left“
Smart ass: “Yes…but we can’t drive into the station“
Me [Holding back expletives]: “Ok.. thanks.”
[The words above did not flow as quickly as it is reads – obviously, I’m concentrating this for ease of reading. ]
So – I’ll have to be extremely more careful in how I phrase my questions, especially to bus drivers in my home town. If I ever get my ‘in’ and ‘to’ too close together they may sound like ‘into’. I honestly thought this driver would understand my context, because I could expect him to know that there are some buses that do not go ‘in’ on Station Road, but stay on the main road.
In any event, I must have appeared pretty stupid to this driver, for him to be thinking that I would be thinking that the bus could actually set me down directly in the Station (probably on a platform – if he had that in mind). I mean would an average reasonable person think of asking a Taxi to set them down in the middle of a Station? I don’t think so. So why this driver could possibly have thought I meant directly in the Station, is puzzling.
Well, I too can be cut and dried too about it. Look. If you ask a dumb question you get a dumb response. Hey I’m cool with that too you know. But what was the smirk about? That suggested that something was ‘on’ in his mind. Perhaps he was joking, or trying to be a smart ass. Notice I’ve not come to any conclusions just yet.
Or it could be that my choice of words were entirely wrong. But even so, it would have been simpler, it seems on reflection, for the driver to simply say, “It goes to the top of Station Road. Is that okay for you?” But no – I needed to get the ‘concrete’ answer i.e. that the bus does not go directly into the Station. That might suggest that the driver had any range of mental disorders ranging perhaps from Asperger’s Syndrome to schizophrenia – where concretised thinking occurs. Did I diagnose anyone? No! Calm down. He may have had no mental condition at all because normal people are also prone to making concrete interpretations of words.
Well what’s the most probable explanation in my mind, you must be wondering. I alone was in the situation that lasted probably 10 seconds. You were not there – yes you who reads this. I alone therefore have all the rich context of words and non-verbal cues, which you do not see and it’ll take a whole day to explain. Really! That’s how intensely I observe the world. A whole lot more information is recorded in my head than just the ‘words’. So – to me the most obvious thing that possibly triggered his response was my appearance. Yes – I was smartly dressed i.e. not looking like some demented bum. So what was it about my appearance. Well I think the smirk had something to do with it. Probably he was taking the mick – as they say in England. But it’s hardly the time and the place – with four people behind me and in his view. Holding up a bus for 10 seconds is actually a long time if you have a prepaid ticket in hand that has been checked as valid in 0.25 seconds.
Now here’s the thing, where the majority of people will disagree with me. I think it was something to do with my obvious presentation, as not-likely-to-be-grown-up-in-Britain, derived from the colour of my skin and foreign accent. Oooo…now I’m paranoid and oversensitive!!! Label me away! Yes – I know there could be ‘a thousand other explanations’. However, I alone was in the situation and drawing on all the cues, I come to conclude that it was something about my presentation that triggered the concrete response. I am therefore to accept that this driver, or a proportion of drivers in my home town, have been requested by people who appear to be immigrants/non-locals/tourists (or wha’everrr the devil you want to call um) to set down local buses in the middle of the station. Nothing personal! And therefore, the bus driver on this occasion is entirely correct in being so specific in his answer in response to my poorly phrased question. My bad!