First, there was no Friday’s Feast this week so I don’t feel badly about not having it done. Also, I’ve been doing some writing offline so I’m not blogging as much. Nothing interesting, just the weird little thoughts that come to me when I’m trapped on the tube. I also write haikus while I’m on the train, mostly because I think that is funny. I might type out a month’s worth at a time when the end of the month comes. I might not. Any way, none of this is about a bus on fire, which is what I want to talk about.
Friday was a pretty good day. I really appreciate the work culture here in Britain, especially when it allows me to start drinking beer at 1:00 in the afternoon. I didn’t go crazy, it was just nice to know that I could. I had a few beers with work (HA!) and then went out for a few drinks and dinner. I was knackered, so I headed home early – around 8:00pm, I suppose. Normally, I get off the tube at London Bridge and take the overland train, but Friday night I just couldn’t be arsed. I had a seat and so I stayed on the Jubilee. Got off at North Greenwich and waited at the station for the 108, which I hate. I hate it because occasionally one blows by the stop without even a glance in my direction, and I don’t understand why.
The bus was very crowded, but again I had a seat so I wasn’t too fussed. About twenty minutes or so into the bus ride home people started to make panic-noises and looking out the left side of the bus (I was on the right, about mid-bus). Then the panic-noises turned to screams with cries of "Stop the bus! Stop the bus!" I initially thought that there had been an accident (maybe someone was run over) or a fight… or something… but whatever the "something" was, that it was happening outside of the bus.
Of course this all happened in a matter of seconds, but quickly people realised that the panic was due to large amounts of smoke filling the back of the bus. People started standing up, not quite pushing, not quite waiting around to see if the smoke meant fire or….
Finally (it seemed like ages) the bus was stopped and the doors opened. Which almost lead to a greater tragedy as people were pushing their way off the bus, the cars passing the smoking bus on the outside lane where not stopping to let people off the bus. I didn’t really think about it then (I was thinking about other things at the time), but now when I think about it I just think… well, that people are terrible. There were people trying to escape a bus that was obviously not functioning safely, and they wouldn’t even slow down to let people exit safely. People are such jerks.
Once we were off the bus and turned to look at it, it became readily apparent that it was just a mechanical issue, not something sinister. There was a long puddle of engine saliva (I don’t know what kind of fluid… just fluid) and the smoke was pure white. I’m pretty sure that a hose or something went and then the motor overheated. End of story. Nothing to panic about. Nothing to fear.
Except I was scared at the time. I’m not going to lie. Because in that few seconds between when the screaming started and when people started pouring out of the bus, in that time that seemed to go on forever when I didn’t know if the smoke meant fire, in that time I had time to consider what could happen if we didn’t get out of the bus on time and the petrol was on fire. Or if there was a bomb. Or…. I don’t know. I think I was thinking fire. And being cooked alive in the 108 bus. They weren’t good thoughts to have. And they were scary thoughts. So I was more afraid in those few eternal seconds than I have been in a long time.
But it all worked out fine. I decided to walk to at least the next stop instead of waiting for a replacement bus, and a very nice girl from Belfast opted to walk with me. I ended up walking all the way home and it was quite lovely. The Belfast girl and I joked about bombs on buses (she claimed that she didn’t even panic – par for the course really seeing as how she was from Belfast and nothing she hadn’t seen before – she said she sat calmly and waited for others to exit the bus…) and about the severe irony of dashing off a smoking bus just to get hit by a passing car. So it all worked out fine.
As a footnote I would just like to add that this incident affirms my deep-seated hatred of public transit.