Many years ago when I was a bus conductor it was pretty easy to spot the fare fiddlers. They would never look directly at you. As I strolled down the bus asking for ‘any more fares please’ I knew who had paid and who hadn’t, after all, I had usually just watched them get on the bus. One scruffy guy got on one day and went straight down the bus, sat down and set a fixed gaze out of the window. Ok, I was chatting to other passengers at the time but I still knew he was new to the bus and I wanted his money.
“Fares please”, I called. Nothing. So then I turned directly to him and asked “I don’t think I’ve had your fare mate?” He finally turned away from the window.
“Where are you going to?”
“Levenshulme” he said.
“Thirty five pence please.” The guy thought for a minute, reached into his pocket and pulled out a can of soup.
“Can I pay with this?” He asked. The answer was no. He was asked to leave. After all it was pea and ham soup, tomato might have been another matter.
Here’s an extract from my book ‘Floating In Space’ that deals with another odd ball passenger;
A harassed looking girl boarded in Stockport. There was something about her that I couldn’t put my finger on. She asked for a single to Manchester and did I require identification?
“Identification?” I asked.
“Only I don’t have my credentials on me at the moment. I’ve got to be careful.”
“Careful of what?”
“Well my boyfriend’s a nuclear arms salesman. I’m being watched by the CIA and God knows who else. MI5 have probably got the scent by now.”
“Right, we’ll keep a low profile then.”
“Probably best if you know what I mean.”
She was a Nutter.
“What was that all about?” asked Milligan, my driver, when I went back up to the front of the bus.
“Nutter” was all I had to say.
“That’s the 189 you see Stu. Used to be a hell of a lot of them on this route. Quietened down a lot lately, oh yes.”
The rest of the trip was pretty unremarkable. When we finally reached Albert Square in the city centre the nutter came storming towards me down the centre aisle and yelled at the top of her voice “If my boyfriend’s not a nuclear arms salesman then how did I get CIA Clearance?”
She charged through the open door and on into Manchester. An old chap behind her departing at a much slower and more sensible pace said, “Answer that one then!”
You can read more about life on the buses in Manchester in my book Floating In Space.
One final nutter to finish with; There used to be a guy who never boarded our bus but spent his time hurtling through the traffic on his bike cutting up cars and buses alike. How he was never ran over I do not know. My colleagues had dubbed him simply ‘the Levenshulme Nutter.’
One day, years later when I made been promoted from bus conducting to the lofty heights of bus driver, I was driving through Levenshulme on the 192 service when the Levenshulme nutter cut across me and I nearly ran him over. I stopped next to him at the traffic lights, opened my window to give him some abuse then, noticing his outsize spectacles with their purple lenses said, instead “I like your glasses!”
He popped the glasses up on his head and said “Yes, but it’s the man behind that counts!” And cycled away. I never saw him again.
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