Surviving Scottish Public Transport

A trip on public transport, by Nick MacIneskar!

I don’t often travel by public transport and after just a few hours of sitting in a coach I suddenly remembered why...

I don’t know why it should be, but just getting aboard one’s chosen transport method is always tinged with uncertainty. It is a fact of life that no matter whether you are travelling by coach, train, tram, ferry of by air it seems virtually impossible to arrive in a stately fashion. This morning was no exception.

I had been due to get a coach into Glasgow. I knew the time; I had pre-paid tickets; I was packed. Then the cat decided to injure itself which meant a mad rush to the vet who, after providing the smallest of medicines, relieved me of nearly £50. It was then another mad rush to take my expensive feline home, grab my case and my son, who was travelling with me, and dash the 12 miles back to town.

In the far distance the coach was just pulling into its bay as I searched frantically for a parking space and having done so grabbed my case and almost ran to the coach. We were practically the last to board, bar one; by this time I was tired and almost out of breath so I was looking forward to the chance to sit quietly and perhaps read a book during the several hours I would be on board. However, the coach was busy, I assumed for the pre-Christmas week, and there was only one seat left which happened to be next to a small boy of about 5. His mother appeared to be sat in the row behind and I was soon to find out why.

I sat down gratefully and froze as something oozed into my trousers. My little companion had just removed a small bottle of juice before I sat down but not, it appeared, its contents; sticky, sweet and smelling of raspberries which had been carelessly leaking out. I decided to deal with the problem by pretending it wasn’t happening and removed my book from the rucksack I carried.

The coach seemed to me to be quite badly designed. I mean, I am no seasoned coach traveller, but it would seem obvious to me that people need places to put things. But it was as if the designer had got up one morning and decided to put all the streamlining on the inside. There were no cup holders, no handy fold-down tiny tables, no hooks and no little net bags. In short, they had ensured that if you had the temerity to bring anything aboard, like a coffee or a book, you had to actually hold onto it for the next three hours.

There was, however, one flaw in the designer’s attempt to remove every last vestige of comfort and this was a quite wide windowsill. It would have been quite handy too if I had had the window seat, but unfortunately my small companion had it instead and had thickly layered it with bits of his sandwiches that he didn’t like – which seemed to be most of it. Anyway, he wasn’t interested in the view from the window and all his attention was focused upon a small, portable DVD player. He had donned a pair of headphones and I envisaged at least an undisturbed journey.

Alas it was not to be.

The player, it seemed, was not working properly and the boy was trying dutifully to fix the delicate instrumentation by the simple expedient of hitting it as hard as he could. It is a method employed by many and as many have found out, it seldom works. Mum tried to help by shouting the little boy’s name in the vain hope that it would somehow calm him or perhaps stir the device into working properly. After a prolonged period of bashing and repeatedly opening it, taking out the disc, wiping it and slamming the door closed again, the device suddenly and miraculously started working again. I sighed, moved aside an errant sandwich that was adhering to my shoe and opened my book.

Bang! Bang! Tap-tap-tap- rustlerustlerustle...

I looked up in trepidation, anticipating a fresh horror.

Whilst the child’s DVD player had responded well to physical abuse, it now seemed the boy’s headphones had stopped working. It was plugged in, unplugged, fiddled with and knocked against any hard surface the boy could find. Fortunately, the coach was full of these but I am sad to report that no amount tortuous tweaking helped, and the headphones remained stubbornly inoperable. Children being naturally spontaneous, the boy decided he would just listen to his film without the encumbering headphones and I, along with 55 other people, were treated to a raucous cacophony of what seemed to be animal noises for some minutes (or possibly Prime Minister’s question time in the House of Commons) before Mum decided that shouting the boy’s name was not going to help and removed the player, or tried to.

There was a brief tussle during which the child, who had a grip like a limpet, was hoisted from his seat as he remained grimly attached to the DVD player before gravity took hold and he crashed back. There didn’t seem to be anything else for him to do, entertainment-wise, so Mum kept him busy by feeding various foods through the gap in the seats to the boy who busily mangled everything with glee.

I sighed and looked unobtrusively at my watch, realising with horror that I still had another 2 hours and 15 minutes before I could escape. I seriously considered alighting far from my destination, but that would mean a wait of over 3 hours in a remote glen, and quite honestly I didn’t fancy it.

In part two, my journey South continues, along with drunk clowns, noisy drunk clowns, nasty drunk clowns and very expensive beers.

Nick MacIneskar 2020