The 55

55 is the number of the bus I take to work every day. And it is, in many ways, the absolute bain of my life.

London buses are, I’m sure you know, a nightmare. ‘Why then Rosie, do you get a bus to work?’ I hear you ask. Two reasons, my dear blog readers. Firstly, Hackney seems to be the bemuda triangle of the underground. If you look at a tube map, you’ll see on the right of it, a considerably large gap just north of Old Street. That’s where Hackney is. So the bus, really, is my only option. Secondly, I am tight. The bus is half the cost of the tube, so to be quite honest, even if there was a tube station nearby I’d probably get the bus anyway.

I have found, in my 5 months of a daily commute via the number 55, that travelling on buses often poses a lot of problems. That is once you’ve tackled the first obstacle, which is actually getting on a bus. But that’s a whole other annoyance that I may just rant about another time.

Lets assume you’ve made it onto a bus. (Hurrah!) I have found that there are a number of social taboos and etiquettes that one must deal with. Silly things, but things I guarantee you have all experienced.

For example, how old should someone be before you give up your seat for them? Essentially, you are judging people by their looks and standing up capabilities, which I believe will only inevitably lead to your insulting someone.

Then there’s the unspoken ‘queue’ system when standing on a  busy bus, which is probably the problem I face most with the number 55. When standing, I think there is an unspoken rule that when a seat becomes available the person nearest the seat should get it. But what about those devilish people who get on the bus at a later stop, weedle their way through the crammed masses, in effect jumping the unspoken queue, and eventually getting a seat before any of us. Frustrating right? Naturally nothing is said, in line with the typical British way, and instead unimpressed glances are given, when in fact we’re all jealous that we didn’t have the guts to it.

Another problem I regularly face is the ‘should I move to an empty seat when one becomes free.’ Often I have to sit next to someone when I get on the bus. But, when someone in front of me or next to me gets off I am faced with a dilemma. Continue where I’m sat or move to the empty seat. It means more room and a window to lean on, but will the person I’m sat next to get offended? Maybe they will think that I think they smell? I know this because when the situation is the other way round, whilst I’m a little relieved the person has moved I cannot help but feel a little offended and a bit paranoid that I smell.

Even worse than that though, and what I think everyone will agree is the ultimate in bus faux pas. Sitting next to someone, when there are plenty of empty seats available! Who are these people!? If anything this has the opposite effect on me and I start to panic that perhaps I smell too good.

I was once sat on a bus, not the 55 this time, but the 30 from Euston to Hackney Central. I had come from my parents house and therefore had an awful lot of luggage with me, having brought home the entire contents of my bedroom that my mum threatened to throw out if I didn’t. I was therefore, taking up one and a half seats. (A faux-pas in itself, I know) It was a reasonably empty bus. Then a very drunk man got on, with the mandatory white plastic bag containing cans of Fosters. I didn’t like the look of him and was a little relieved that the bus was empty. But no, ooooh no, this man then proceeded to sit on me! There were other seats available, but no, he come right on over, sat on top of me and then looked at me in surprise and said ‘what the fucks going on here then?!’ to which I could think of nothing else to say other than ‘…well, um, you appear to be sitting on me’ . Lets just say the rest of that journey was very uncomfortable.

These daily dilemmas that I am faced with on my commute into work have led to me to ponder the social correctness of what one should do in these situations. Luckey for me I have a friend who happens to be an etiquette expert, and goes by the name of William Hanson.  I have put my questions forward to him and this is what he has said:

Q: How can you judge if a person is old enough that you should give up your seat for them? What if you offer your seat and they get offended?

WH: I normally say that you should do so for anyone who looks above 60, or in dire need of a seat (I once saw someone who was probably my age but looked like they’d had a rough time).  They shouldn’t get offended or be narky with you – you were being polite. They should just kindly refuse and not take umbridge. 

Q: Is it polite to sit next to someone on a busy bus, but move to an empty seat when one becomes free? 

WH: Good question! I have had this done to me and it has caused me to wonder what was wrong, so I would probably advise against it!
Q: How about the more obvious taboos; having music loudly on your headphones? Putting your bags on the empty seat next to you? Talking on the phone?
WH: Music on transport should be audible only to you. 
Bags on seats is fine so long as the bus is reasonably empty or if it is a very heavy/big bag.
You may talk on the phone but if you are on the top deck at the back and the driver can hear you, you’re probably being inconsiderate. Only those right next to you should be able to hear your part of the conversation – do remember that phones have microphones built into them and amplifiers in the receivers and so you can get away with whispering if needs be! 

So there – maybe that helps for some? Hopefully!

If anyone has any funny bus stories, I would very much like to here them so comment below if you do!

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