Getting on a bus felt like freedom. I wasn’t even sure if I knew how to do it anymore, but one minute at the bus stop and it all flooded back, like the muscle memory of an old warrior called into action.
It never leaves you, bus stop etiquette. Check time of bus. Nod with approval if arrival time under five minutes, sigh with exasperation if over six. Side-eye other people at the bus stop. If eye contact is made, smiling is acceptable, although inclining the head will do if masks are being worn.
Remark on the weather/traffic/tram-works or politely answer remark about weather/traffic/tram-works. It’s possible that the comments directed at you are barely intelligible.
These are Buckfast Moments. Usually your new chatty pal tends not to speak directly at you, but roughly in the area you happen to be standing in. I once had a conversation with one of Leith’s more pungent sons until I realised he was talking to his own reflection in the Diet Coke advert behind me.
Scan horizon for bus, sigh with satisfaction when it glides into view. Check with others waiting if they are ahead of you, either by gesturing vaguely in the direction of the bus, or shouting the number as a question, as ‘Number 22?’
Stop your bus. Now, I’ve always been a ‘signal clearly’ sort of a gal, striking my arm out like I expect a bird of prey to flutter down. Mind you, this is Leith, so nothing short of a pterodactyl landing on my forearm would surprise me.
One bitter cold morning, I was standing stock still at the end of a long queue for the Number 25. A pigeon landed on my head. I screamed and shot about five feet in the air. Bird vanished.
No-one else waiting had seen the bird on my head. They all glanced, then burrowed even deeper into their newspapers, ignoring the screaming leaping bammer. I tried to pretend it was a sort of Scottish Tai Chi.
Stopping the bus this way does look a tad authoritarian, arm raised, eyeballing the Number 22, body language screaming "None shall pass”, like a short fat Gandalf. I used to smile, but masks have kiboshed that, so I made do with a sort of wave.
I saw my reflection in the shop window opposite. I looked like a scarecrow disturbed by the wind.
At least there’s no mistaking that I want to stop this bus and get on board. The alternative seems to be lounging about the bus stop, then, at the very last minute casually strolling forward like a billionaire sashaying up to their parked limo on the prom at Cannes, and just assuming the bus driver has clocked his potential passenger.
And let's not forget, when you get off that bus, say thank you, and let’s say it like we mean it. There were no rounds of applause for the drivers of Lothian Buses, but whilst we were all cooped up and staying safe from the virus, they were out there day after day keeping this city moving.
Thank you, drivers.