PART 22 of My PC Adventure: full story HERE>
I now catch the bus.
So! A lot of people do, every day, no big deal. Wellington is a commuter city, with an excellent public transport system (although the trains aren’t so good, I hear).
So what’s with the bus? And what’s this got to do with prostate cancer?
Bear with me. First, a little background on my family: the Tuckers are car people.
My father boasted he owned 59 cars in his life (not all at once, thank goodness). He had every post-War Citroen up to the DS19, an exotic spaceship that turned heads when he got the first one in our town in 1958.
I suspect he compensated for short physical stature with his cars. The sight of him in his 1965 Chev Impala! It was a Yank tank with an underpowered V8, but oh the size of the thing.
My brother drives a Range Rover and a BMW, and happily pays $700 for one new tyre (well, not quite so ecstatically while there’s a recession).
My life’s ambition at 19 was to own an MG sports car. I had it by 20, fire engine red with white-wall tyres.
But after a year I couldn’t tell if the young women who rode in it were loving the vehicle or me. The car, I suspect. An astute female friend called it my “big red penis” car. If only…
Life did not take on new meaning because of the MG, so over time I downgraded. I discovered that women, oddly, aren’t that impressed by cars.
Now it’s a Nissan Micra, whose only downside is causing offence to men in grown-up SUVs if I pass them on the motorway or drive in the fast lane.
Even so, we male Tuckers don’t bus. Ever. It’s not, well, manly.
I trammed to school as a little kid, but biked as soon as my legs could reach the pedals of a two-wheeler. It had a speedo, saddlebags and a whippy aerial (no wonder I was bullied).
I had my driver’s licence at 15, to drive mum’s humiliating Morris Minor, admittedly, but then it was quickly on to a hot Mini with fat feet, twin carbs and overhead sliding sumps.
After that, never the bus. Buses were for other people, ones who make up the numbers. There’s no freedom in a bus. Standing on the side of the street in the rain, looking resentfully at single-occupant cars going to work. What is it with that, the resentment?
So, now, the bus.
Where have I been all these years?
On Mars, perhaps, as was suggested none-too-politely by a grumpy bus driver when I first tried a bus and didn’t grasp that there are sections and zones and you have to know where you’re going, and putting money in the dish thingie and walking off to find a seat is not completing the full transaction.
“So, where are you going?” this first occasion elicited from the driver.
Me: “Um, doesn’t this bus go into town?”
“Yes, and then on as far as Wilton. How far are you going? How many sections?”
“Sections…well, town, of course. Why?”
“I have to issue a ticket.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“Which planet are you from – Mars?”
“I don’t appreciate the sarcasm.”
“Huh. You should try doing this job. You wouldn’t last a day. We’re short of drivers, about 30 short. Why don’t you apply, see how long you last.” And more.
He then drove like a maniac around our precipitous and narrow streets, just missing a couple of cars, muttering about how the country had gone to the dogs.
This was another reason why I should never bus, I decided. We were, after all, just following city council advice to leave cars at home because half the central city was closed off for a street carnival and a Harley Davidson rally.
But, yes, again.
And I’ve got to tell you – I was wrong, wrong, wrong about the bus.
The bus, I’ve discovered late in life, is a plush, comfortable, insulated, calm place where you can sit back, catch up on the day’s missed phone messages and texts, read, daydream, look at people, watch the view, think about nothing.
And avoid stress.
The bus is a far less stressful mode of getting home from work in the 5 o’clock rush.
No more barely contained road rage, exasperation at the stupidly of every other driver.
Or blasting wayward cyclists and pedestrians with the Italian air horn I was forced to install in the toy car because of the SUV bullies.
Or dodging protruding cars badly parked in narrow streets.
Or death-defying lane changes enforced by traffic engineers whose idea of traffic light design is as chaotic as an English roundabout.
And you can listen to the bus driver’s radio communications with base as other drivers describe their crashes and coming forward as witnesses for one another because “that guy cut right in front of you, Dennis. Saw it plain as day.”
And you’re dropped off right at your door. Like a massive taxi.
And if you buy one of the electronic tickets (mysteriously called a Snapper Card), you avoid the interrogation that seems to come with a cash transaction.
The machine growls at you (“don’t forget to log off”), but after a couple of trips you know what it’s going to say, and that it will say this to everybody. Nothing personal.
There are a few downsides, admittedly.
Buses don’t keep to the timetable. Or, presumably in an effort to do just that, they pull up a street short of your stop and the driver announces that he will be resting there for six minutes.
The bus you’re after will often be pulling away from the stop while you watch from the other side of the street, trapped by a pedestrian light that’s red so your bus can leave without you.
The numbers are hard to read on some buses. The one I catch is one of them.
While every other route has a bus with a giant illuminated number that can be read a kilometre away, my Number 14 is indiscernible until its upon you. Which is a problem when it pulls up at the far end of a big line of other buses at the city bus stop where I catch it.
And there is a kind of subtle community living in buses. They are people in the know. They know the bus driver and address him/her by first name. They spread themselves out on a double seat to ensure nobody else can sit beside them.
They nod to their fellow community members, talk little and in code, look vacant but grim, and resent a newbie who is, so far, as open to this new life experience as a first day student on a gnome-painting course. I will learn from them, I know.
But to the point: this is all part of my new, post-cancer surgery existence, an adjusted life that involves less stress (no more road rage), more vegetables and fruit (no more ham sandwiches from Mr Bun eaten over the keyboard), less red meat (more hormone-crammed chicken and mercury-laden fish), more exercise.
Going back to work has, of course, been stressful (no more cat naps in the afternoon), but things have started to settle back into a manageable routine.
It helps that in order to catch a bus before they’re crammed in the rush hour, I try to leave work just before 5pm, as opposed to the old 6pm.
I’m also being cosseted at home. Lin has lost her government job, but is enjoying some time off, which means I’m temporarily off the chef roster (and the washing, and toilet cleaning roster, as well).
I’ve also learned not to rush rehab. It’s taken all of the nearly three months since the prostatectomy to rid the lower abdomen of sensitivity to tighter clothing, to fully adopt the Billy Connelly advice “if you get a chance to have a pee, take it”, and to let nature take its course when it comes to the intimate stuff.
Soreness after that was also a problem for a while. The medics urge almost instant rehab, within three weeks of the op, but although I’m sure that’s based on sound research, it seems to me that rushing to try out equipment that’s had a helluva rough ride can be less than productive.
Meantime, it’s life in the bus lane for me.
I’ll never again swear at a bus stopped with its rear end sticking out into the traffic and holding up us, sorry you, motorists.