If There’s A Bus In Heaven I Hope Larry’s Driving It (BMA – 2002)
The ACTION bus driver is being extra cheerful, and I can tell he’s from the old school, (if there is an old school of bus drivers, or even an underground urban scene) he has clearly not read sections 3.1.1 through to 3.1.9 of the ACTION guide to being a better bus driver.
“It is not your responsibility to engage with the customer in any way. Techniques such as smiling and especially conversing, are now seen as being out dated and only act to take up more time for you and the customer and ultimately endanger the promptness of your service.”
It goes on: “If you do feel an overwhelming desire to engage with the customer, you can do this by simply looking in their direction, (but never directly at them) and perhaps smirking slightly beneath your sunglasses. It is best to avoid a fully-fledged smile, however, or the customer may see this as an invitation to talk. If a customer asks you an open question such as ‘how are you today?’ simply answer them in a curt manner. Here are some suggestions: ‘Yeah.’ Good.’ Alright.’ Or sometimes even a small grunt will suffice.’
I am secretly blessing the man with shaved, balding hair and a wily grin.
‘How are you today mate?’ he asks with the gusto of a hundred Tiggers.
The way he frames the question makes me wonder whether he already knows me. Have I ever served him at the Canberra Labor Club?
‘I’m good mate.’ I say.
‘Anything exciting happening?’
He’s thrown me off guard. What a good question to ask. He’s been sitting in his den all day driving around the public servant pinball circuit, and now he wants to hear something exciting damnit.
‘I’m going home’ I say. How terribly disappointing.
‘What are you going to do when you get home?’ he probes. This is great, I am suddenly a contestant on his game show.
‘I’m having the day off.’
Later, in Belconnen, an Asian girl is telling her friend how to make sure you get off at the next stop.
‘Or you just take your shoe off and throw it at me’ says Larry (he needs a name)
Then, another Asian girl gets on the bus. In any standard reality, she would bypass the driver, sit down, and we would all erase it from our memories. But not today.
‘Where are you from? said loudly.
‘Malaysia,’ said quietly.
‘Yeah, do you reckon if I came over to Malaysia with you, you could show me around?’
And she sits down, and I still haven’t forgotten it, because Larry spun gold out of the stale air of that warm Sunday morning in July.
If there’s a bus in heaven I hope Larry’s driving it.