This morning has been thus far quite unsettling. It started as it always does with my sleepwalking to the bus-stop, daydreaming about running away to a mythical, mystical land. A land without alarm clocks.
I boarded the bus and avoided eye contact with all my fellow passengers, many of whom I see daily, yet always studiously ignore. I’m fairly certain that some of them are kind and decent people. But the problem is that at that grotesque hour I am not in the mood for socialising and I can’t be running the risk of befriending someone who may enjoy early morning chats, on a regular basis, while in transit to industrial wasteland.
A colleague boarded a couple of stops after departure. Oh crap. The seat next to me is free. Please don’t let him sit down there – I am not in the mood for meaningless natter at this unholy hour. I gazed at my knees. Phew. He passed me without seeing me (or perhaps he was ignoring me as well.)
And we continued. The thing about taking the same route at the same time every morning is that you can predict who is going to board and who is going to alight at each stop.
Beyoncé and Hatchet-Face (the affectionate inner nickname I have given her mother with the tattooed knuckles) were present and correct. We pulled into the stop where the grumpy teenager with the acne and his mother usually get on board. Only today the mother was not with him.
And he was extremely upset. He boarded the bus, clearly distressed, shouting that he needed his three euros for his fare and that he didn’t have his phone and started jumping up and down.
I had always assumed that his mother worked close to where he was at school as they always got off at the same stop. I mean he’s about fifteen so of an age that he could navigate his journey independently. But watching him I guess that maybe she was in fact bringing him to school.
I am not a doctor so I have no idea what his condition (or if in fact he has one) but if I were pressed I would guess that he’s on the autistic spectrum. And that the three euro he needed for his bus fare had been forgotten that day which was causing his upset.
The driver clearly understood that something was amiss and told him that he didn’t need to pay. Laddo was having none of it however, and started demanding that he speak to his mother. So the driver took her number and called her. The kid started shouting down the phone. And then jumping again.
By this point the whole bus was wide awake and all eyes were on the unfolding drama at the entrance.
The driver was looking nervously at his cleverphone in the boy’s hand, possibly thinking ‘Don’t even think of slamming that off the ground.’
At this point the hot French guy who listens to godawful techno music at an unreasonable volume approached the boy and offered him three euros.
Perhaps, like me, he was feeling sorry for the kid, while at the same time thinking ‘I am on the prison bus to work, if I am late, then I have to stay late, and it’s Friday. Chop, chop. Let’s keep moving.’
The driver told him it was sorted. He’d been speaking to the mother who was on her way to the bus-stop. The boy got off, looking utterly distraught.
We continued on our way.
As I got off at my regular stop, I feigned surprise upon seeing my colleague, exclaiming ‘Oh I didn’t see you on the bus.’
We approached our building and mentioned the incident with the teenager. My colleague had clearly been paying attention to the melodrama on big bus, before I had. He told me that in the boy had in fact told the driver that his busfare and telephone had been stolen by other boys before he got on the bus. And I suppose his quite extreme reaction to such a horrible event might be the result of his condition.
I felt a touch ashamed of my earlier impatience. What an awful start to the day for that kid.