Susan Morrison: I was promised the moon, but I got a bus pass
The Yorkshire husband breenged into the kitchen triumphantly waving a paper in his hand. He wasn’t promising peace in our time. He was promising me a bus pass. This from the man who once promised me the moon. I’m still waiting for that.
Yes, in a mere three weeks, the days of frantically gouging every pocket and mining the bottom of every shoulder bag for the exact change only will be gone forever.
Who among us has not ripped that kitchen drawer apart to find a 50p you definitely saw the day before? How many packets of Polo mints or random copies of the Evening News have been bought with £10 notes to get change? Who has not carefully counted pennies to create that half ton of smash to be hammered into the hopper whilst avoiding the disapproving eye of the driver?
C’mon. Who hasn’t furtively dropped a pound coin and some random silver in and hoped the driver doesn’t do a random spot check on what you know is only £1.65? Although, in my defence, Lothian Buses, I am one of those people who get impatient and have been known to drop two quid in, well knowing no change was forthcoming, so I figure we are even stevens over the years.
Things got easier when it all switched to flat fares, but it didn’t stop the change hunt. Yes, I know there are ridacards, but if you don’t use the bus every day, they really don’t work out.
And yes, I know there is technology. There’s a highly temperamental app on your smartphone that has a nasty habit of making itself absent just before the bus arrives.
Now, you try standing in front of a Lothian bus driver running late during rush hour, with Leith Street closed again, and a badly-parked car building up a traffic jam you can see from space. Fourteen students from Spain boarded the bus before you and insisted on paying single fares individually by redistributing 20p coins amongst themselves. Then you tell him you just have to wait for your phone to reboot.
Yesterday I realised that I had started to carry cash with me as a back-up for the app. I installed the app to be a back-up for cash. I uninstalled the app.
My first regular fare was 20p, to Shandwick Place. Back then the fare system was pretty complex. You had to know the number of bus stops you passed in order to work out exactly how much the fare was. In theory, it’s a crackerjack idea. Pay for what you use. In practice, fraught with danger. If you didn’t know the route, strong chance you might misjudge.
Me, first office Christmas party, 1987. Still a bit vague about the city. Where is Corstorphine, anyway? Leith to the Toby Carvery on St John’s Road was not 20p. I know this because the bus driver told me. Loudly.