Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The omnibus analogy (theme & variation)

I thought I'd written about this on here before, but it seems not (my archive has become so vast that I'm now finding it difficult to search through - and impossible to remember - all of my previous posts).

There is a well-worn humorous observation on the phenomenon of love droughts (something on which I am a world expert) which goes:
"Women are like buses. You wait around for one for ages, and then three turn up all at once."

The dejected and cynical often add corollaries such as:
"But then they don't stop for you!"

"But they're not going where you want to go."

My unhappy experience on Sunday night prompts me to suggest another such variant (one which seems particularly appropriate to my own romantic experience, alas):
"Suddenly you're spoiled for choice. But they're all strangely dysfunctional."

Trying to get back from Oxford to London for a mid-evening pub rendezvous, I was confused and distressed to find that the (normally very reliable - I've been using it ever since it was first launched some 20-odd years ago) 'Oxford Tube' express coach service was encountering some difficulties. The bus waiting at the stand was mysteriously 'not in service'. The service is so frequent that there's usually a second one on hand waiting to go as well, but not on this occasion. When another bus did finally show up, it was also displaying the dreaded 'not in service' sign. Although departures are advertised as being "every 12-15 minutes", it was nearly 20 minutes before we were able to board (the second bus - which had finally removed its 'not in service' notice; although the driver didn't seem any too confident about this). There had already been quite a gaggle of people waiting when I arrived at around 6pm, so I deduced that it had probably been at least half an hour since the last bus left. Not a good start to the trip.

But it got worse. The bus crawled through Oxford (road works, one-way systems, and the addition of several new stops on this route have stretched what used to be a matter of a 10 or 15-minute run from the city centre to the outskirts of Headington into more like 30 or 40 minutes). Then it broke down at the Park & Ride on the edge of the city. Another bus came along 15 or 20 minutes later, so we all got on that. Unfortunately, a woman with a perpetually screaming baby also got on and chose a seat directly behind me.

That might have driven me quite mad - except that 10 minutes or so later, the second bus stopped in a layby just outside Oxford. And remained stopped. Several minutes passed. We thought the driver had just got out to open the luggage bay doors for some new passengers. But the new passengers disappeared somewhere and so did the driver. No announcement was made about the reason for the delay. Nearly 20 minutes passed. I got out to see what the hell was going on. The driver was preoccupied with trying to close the door to one of the rear luggage compartments (which had developed a faulty latch, and pretty clearly wasn't going to close). So preoccupied that I couldn't get a word out of him! To my horror, I discovered that there was another bus parked just ahead of us which had also developed some kind of problem (I don't think this layby was a regular stop: the new passengers who'd initially been trying to get on our bus were people who'd been stranded by this breakdown)! Luckily a third bus had just pulled up behind us, so I quickly hopped on that before the rest of the passengers from the two stranded (and nearly full) buses realised that rescue was at hand - most of them, I imagine, would have to wait quite some time more before another (fully functional bus) came along.

So, here we had, in quick succession, at least 3, possibly 4 or 5 or more buses on this particular service, all breaking down. That's a bit much to be just a coincidence, isn't it? I wonder if there's some sort of crisis of undermanning in the maintenance department of this bus company over the weekends? Perhaps strike action or sabotage by disgruntled engineers? Or foul play by a commercial rival??

It can't be just my bad karma, surely??

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