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Off the Busses
by Dermot Glennon

A: Stockton Heath please.

B: What about Stockton Heath?

A (surprised): I’d like you to take me there.

B: I’m sorry, you’re too heavy.

A (offended): What? I’m only twelve stone.

B: Ah yes, but if you look carefully, this isn’t a real bus. You see if you look down there, there’s a hole in the floor and I’m walking along on foot.

A: Oh yes, so you are.

B: And, furthermore, this whole bus is made entirely out of cardboard and the wheels are just painted on. They don’t go round and round.

A: I see. So why would anyone want to do that, I wonder?

B (briskly): Ah now. Now there is a question. You see: I’m, very much, of the avant-garde school of bus driving.

A: The avant-garde school of bus driving? There’s no such thing.

B: Granted we’re a small, underground movement at the present time but we are growing in number. Take the work of Schönheimer in the sixties, for instance. He served his time with the traditionalist in the establishment and showed that he was capable of making great advances in conventional bus driving. Then, one day, he walked up to a queue of people at a bus stop and started taking fares.

A: Oh really? Why?

B: He felt that bus driving was stagnating- becoming stale. He wanted people to think about bus driving. He wanted to challenge people’s ideas about what is and what isn’t bus driving.

A: And presumably they all agreed that what what he was doing wasn’t bus driving. Would I be right in saying that?

B: What makes you say that?

A (hesitantly): Because he wasn’t driving a bus.

B: That’s a valid point, of course. Certainly that was one school of thought.

A (confused): There was another?

B: Indeed there most certainly was. The second school of thought was that part of the function of bus driving is to make people think. Schönheimer certainly made people think that day.

A: I doubt that they thought hard or for very long.

B (enthusiastically):

Aha! Yes. Indeed yes. That is exactly what happened. No-one thought very hard about it or for very long. That was his genius you see.

A: No, I don’t see.

B: Well, it proved his point: conventional bus driving had stagnated. No-one was thinking about it anymore. Very sad. He committed suicide in the end. He was very misunderstood.

A (tersely): He was a bleeding nutcase you mean.

B: Yes, that’s the tragedy of his death. No-one really understood that he was a bleeding nutcase. That idea was only floated after his death.

A: Have you always been an avant-garde bus driver?

B: No, no, only took it up after I was sacked. Used to push trolleys at Sainsbury’s.

A: Really? Why did they sack you?

B: They saw me leaning against the wall of the shop all day and accused me of malingering. It was most unfair.

A: I’m terribly sorry but if you were employed to push trolleys at Sainsbury’s and you spent your time leaning against the wall, you only have yourself to blame.

B (testily): Yes, well as I explained to them at the time, I was experimenting with pushing Sainsbury’s at the trolleys. I was, very much, of the avant-garde school of customer services vehicle collection. Even after I explained it to them they didn’t understand. Philistines! I think that was what led me to commit suicide.

A: You commited suicide?

B: Yes.

A: You’re not dead.

B: That’s a valid criticism, certainly.

A (in disbelief): A valid criticism? It’s a matter of absolute fact, mate.

B: Indeed. But you have to realise that I’m, very much…

A (cutting in): …Of the avant-garde school of suicide?

B: Precisely.

A: So is there a lot of money to be made as an avant-garde bus driver?

B (confidently):Ah, now. I’m glad you mentioned that. There is, indeed, an awful lot of…Hmmm. Well…Now you mention it…Come to think of it: no. No there is no money whatsoever to be made in avant-garde bus driving.

A: So how do you make a living then?

B (sadly): I’ve wasted my life, haven’t I?

A: Well…I don’t know you very well. I mean to say: we’ve only just met. However, I would have to say that…probably yes. Yes, you have, indeed, probably wasted your life.

B (dejected): Oh. (brightening up): Oh well. Chin up. Never too late to turn things around.

A: That’s the spirit!

B: Stockton Heath, you say? Eighty-five pence, please.

A: Certainly. Here you are.

B: Marvellous. Thank you. Hey! Where are you going?

A: Stockton Heath.

B: But…? But why are you getting off the bus?

A: Chase me.

B: Chase you? All the way to Stockton Heath?

A: Yes.

B: In a big, red, cardboard bus?

A: Yes.

B: Are you mad?

A: No, I’m just, very much, influenced by the surrealist movement of public transport customers.